Wednesday Reads: In the dark…

It is always in the dark lately, whether it is dealing with Russia or North Korea…or Puerto Rico..

Puerto Rico, Still Reeling from Hurricane Maria, Is Hit by an Island-Wide Blackout – Mother Jones

Puerto Rico’s power grid collapsed again on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

The grid has been unstable since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September. In the town where the storm made landfall, just 35 percent of residents had power when Mother Jones reporter AJ Vicens visited last month.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted about the collapse on Wednesday morning, calling it a return to the day Maria first struck Puerto Rico.

Officials say it could take 24 to 36 hours to restore power to the island, home to more than three million American citizens.

And then there is this shit:

And Now A Word From The Home Office: Russia Announces The US Position On Future US Sanctions Against Russia – Balloon Juice

The defenestration of Ambassador Haley continues…

From Tass:

MOSCOW, April 18. /TASS/. The United States has notified Russia through its Embassy in Washington that it will not impose fresh sanctions against Russia for the time being, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry informed TASS on Wednesday.

“I can confirm that the US has notified the Russian embassy that there will be no new sanctions for some time,” he said.

The Washington Post’s Carole Leonnig confirmed this last night:

But it leaves an important question: who was informed first the Russian ambassador in DC or Ambassador Haley?

The US’s position on Russian sanctions has now been officially announced and confirmed by Russia through a Russian state news media outlet.

So once again we are in the dark…until Russia media, “sets us straight.”

As that interview with Carole Leonnig from Maddow stated, more information was coming forward. Here is Leonnig’s article:

More darkness….

 

All this going on meanwhile:

Mike Pompeo’s secretary of state position uncertain amid opposition | US news | The Guardian

Donald Trump’s nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state encountered significant headwinds on Wednesday, as the Senate foreign relations committee looked short of the votes to deliver him a positive recommendation.

A majority of Democrats on the Senate panel announced their opposition to Pompeo, who has served as Trump’s CIA director and was chosen by the president last month to replace Rex Tillerson at the helm of the state department. Concerns over Pompeo’s nomination were amplified among some Democrats after it was revealed late Tuesday that he secretly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang earlier this month.

Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee, criticized the CIA director for failing to disclose the North Korea meeting even as they discussed the topic privately.

“I don’t expect diplomacy to be negotiated out in the open, but I do expect for someone who is the nominee to be secretary of state, when he speaks with committee leadership and is asked specific questions about North Korea, to share some insights about such a visit,” Menendez said on Wednesday.

The uncertainty over Pompeo’s fate with the committee could force Republicans to take the unusual step of sending his nomination to the Senate floor without a favorable recommendation.

Last night the White House issued a statement about Barbara Bush, of course they fucked it up.

White House blasted as ‘sewage plant of ineptitude’ for writing the wrong year in statement on Barbara Bush’s death

You can go to the link to read the funny tweets.

One last link before the funnies, I have just a couple of weeks until my daughter gets married…so here is some new wedding dresses for 2019 from…hope you enjoy them: Spring 2019 Bridal Collections Archives | Tom + Lorenzo

04/18 Mike Luckovich: Vast emptiness. | Mike Luckovich

04/18/2018 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

Sean Hannity: 04/18/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Sean Hannity

04/18/2018 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

04/18/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

04/16/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

04/14/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

04/18/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

Nick Anderson cartoon: 04/17/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Nick Anderson cartoon: 04/13/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

04/11/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 04/18/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 04/17/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 04/12/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

 

Buying Coffee: 04/18/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Buying Coffee

Tax Day: 04/17/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Tax Day

Scooter Pardon: 04/15/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Scooter Pardon

Ryan’s Resignation: 04/13/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Ryan's Resignation

04/18/2018 Cartoon by Scott Stantis

Cartoon by Scott Stantis -

04/17/2018 Cartoon by Lisa Benson

Cartoon by Lisa Benson -

 

In Trump They Trust: 04/18/2018 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - In Trump They Trust

 

04/18/2018 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

So far that is the only Barbara Bush cartoon I could find…except one that I really didn’t like.

Not that that one is spectacular.

Anyway, would you believe I started to write this post at 12:30?

This is an open thread. A distracted open thread.

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Sunday Reads: April Fools Easter

The painting above is by artist Jennifer Guidi.

Hopefully y’all have a sense of humor today…

Because am just posting pictures and links today that seem amusing.

#happyeaster #vintagecheese

A post shared by Vintage Cheese (@vintage.cheese) on

Happy Easter from me and this rather grumpy looking marginal bunny! 🐰🐣🥚🐇[@uofglasgowasc’s MS Hunter 251 (U.4.9), John of Arderne’s Medical Treatises (1419-1550). To learn more about this amazing manuscript C+P this catalogue link: http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/manuscripts/search/detail_c.cfm?ID=35018] #Easter #EasterBunny #medievalbunnies #medievalmarginalia #uofglasgow #uofglibrary #iglibraries #specialcollections #specialcollectionsofinstagram #archives #archivesofinstagram #libraries #librariesofinstagram #bookstagram #manuscriptsofinstagram #rarebooksofinstagram #manuscripts #books #bookhistory #bookart #medieval #medievalmanuscripts #rarebooks #explorearchives #archivesunlocked

A post shared by Dr Johanna Green (@uofgcodicologist) on

I’ve been out of it the last few days, is this for real? Or like is an April Fool’s joke?

happy #easter 'The Smithfield Decretals' (Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria), Toulouse ca. 1300, illuminations added in London ca. 1340 (BL, Royal 10 E IV, fol. 61v) #hare #bunny #rabbit #easterbunny #happyeaster #🐰#medieval #marginalia #art #illustration #illumination #painting #book #manuscript #sword #animals #middleages #history #medievalart

A post shared by Discarding Images (@discardingimages) on

Happy Easter from The Fitzwilliam Museum. This rabbit is by an unknown potter from Valencia, Spain, c. 1450 – 1500. This broken piece is every bit as intriguing and thought-provoking as our current show of British studio pottery, ‘Things of Beauty Growing’ open tomorrow and this Bank Holiday Monday 12 – 5pm. #ceramics #ceramic #ceramicsculpture #studiopottery #studiopotter #bankholiday #rabbitsofinstagram

A post shared by Fitzwilliam Museum (@fitzmuseum_uk) on

I guess this is tRump’s Easter twit:

I love this response:

Simple…yes?

In yet another, no it’s not a fucking joke…it’s real life moment:

Well, Happy Easter to all who celebrate it…

This is an open thread.


Wednesday Afternoon Reads: Late Afternoon

Ed Hall, Artizans.com

 

Sorry so late, my mom had her endoscopy today…he stomach looks the same so I guess this is good?

At any rate, the thread is late…and it will be short. As you know now, the Austin bomber blew himself up to pieces.

Austin bomber: Mark Anthony Conditt identified as suspect, killed in blast as police closed in – The Washington Post

The suspected serial bomber who terrorized Austin with a string of exploding packages died early Wednesday after detonating an explosive device in his vehicle as police closed in on him, authorities said.

Austin police and the FBI tracked him to a hotel parking lot in Round Rock, Tex., about 18 miles north of the Texas capital, and found his vehicle there, Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. Officers wanted to wait for tactical units to arrive before trying to take him into custody, but he started to drive away.

The man stopped on the side of the Interstate 35 frontage road, and as Austin SWAT officers approached, he detonated a bomb, knocking one of the officers backward and injuring him, Manley said.

More at the link of course…

I just want to share two more links with you before we get to some cartoons:

 

Zuckerberg saved tens of millions of dollars by selling Facebook stock ahead of Monday’s decline – MarketWatch

Ahead of Facebook’s worst one-day decline since 2012, prompted by news that data affecting 51.3 million members was improperly shared with a political consulting firm, Zuckerberg had been busy selling stock. So far this year, he has sold more than 5 million shares.

Disposing of those Facebook shares FB, +0.04% before Tuesday ended up saving about $70 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings and some arithmetic by MarketWatch. At Tuesday’s close, the 5.4 million shares Zuckerberg has sold this year under a predetermined plan would be worth $910 million. Zuckerberg made about $980 million selling those shares, according to calculations using average weighted prices reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Zuckerberg is a real mutthafukker.

I hope you can see this video:

This special village plants 111 trees whenever a girl is born.

 

Now the funnies:

Hey, this cartoon reminds me of the paintings in those Hammer films…starring Vincent Price:

 

Every damn day there is a smoking gun…when the hell is Mueller going to do something?

Mark Zuckerberg: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Mark Zuckerberg

Mark fuckerberg: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Mark fuckerberg

DIG!!: 03/16/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - DIG!!

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Putin in a landslide: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Putin in a landslide

Bruce Plante Cartoon: #adults nowadays: 03/20/2018 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: #adults nowadays

Gerrymander Basket: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Gerrymander Basket

Assault on reason: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Assault on reason

 

This is an open thread…stay warm.


Monday Reads: Justice on the Ropes

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

There were many things to admire about Muhammed Ali. He was tenacious, strategic, clever, and principled.  His invention of the ‘Rope a Dope ‘was tactical brilliance.  A boxer will pretend to be trapped against the ropes but what said boxer is actually doing is  “goading the opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches”.

Can the Democratic members of Congress and the Mueller investigation ‘Rope a Dope’ KKKremlin Caligula?  He appears to be in endless pursuit of ridding himself of the meddlesome G-Man.  This is not in the best interest of our democracy or global stability.  The Republican members of Congress–from top to bottom–have refused to do their constitutional duties sending hopes for timely justice to the ropes. It’s time to ‘Rope a Dope’ the lot of them.  They need to protect the Mueller Investigation.  Bills to do so have stalled in the Senate.

Back in January (when news broke that the president had—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller last summer), Republicans asked about the legislation suggested that McGahn’s refusal . That was baloney then, and it’s an even more alarming abdication now, with the president seemingly poised to go after Mueller directly. And yet, for all of the talk about Mueller over the past few days, nary a Republican has come out in support of passing these bills—including their Republican co-sponsors.

If the hitherto-silent Republicans really have constitutional objections to these bills, let’s hear them (per the above, I’m skeptical). If they have policy objections, let’s hear those, too. But for those who actually want to ensure that the special counsel’s  investigation continues unimpeded and don’t just want to look good to their constituents, there’s an easy way to do more than just threatening the president in tweets and talk-show interviews:

Pass this legislation.

The weekend Twitler meltdown is rattling nerves as are the comments from Trump’s legal team.

Within hours of McCabe’s firing, Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to kill the Justice Department’s Russia probe. (Rosenstein has direct authority over the Mueller probe.)

Dowd, in an email to reporters, linked McCabe to the Russia investigation and blamed Comey for making up a case:

I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.

Dowd had initially told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of Trump as his “counsel,” only to backtrack after his statement was published and say he was actually speaking for himself. That matters because Trump has repeatedly denied that he’s trying to get rid of Mueller, largely relying on Republican allies to make the case for him.

Dowd is a longtime Washington lawyer, having helped Sen. John McCain confront the Keating Five banking scandal as far back as 1990. He joined Trump’s team to combat the Mueller probe in June, taking the lead as Trump’s chief outside lawyer (Trump is also represented by White House counsel Don McGahn and Ty Cobb, who handles the White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation).

It’s not the first time Dowd’s comments about Mueller have sparked a political controversy. In December, Trump tweeted that he “had to fire” Flynn, the former national security adviser, because Flynn had lied to the FBI.

Mike Allen of Axios writes on Mueller’s endgame.   Does Trump fear the interview or the targeting of the targeting of the Trump org?

The Mueller and Trump teams are hoping to work out the specifics of a presidential interview within the next few weeks.

The big question they’re debating is whether it’ll be in person, in writing, or some combination of the two.

After a weekend of increasingly personal and vocal battles with Mueller, the White House extended an awkward olive branch on Sunday night, with White House lawyer Ty Cobb issuing this statement:

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

But that’s too late. Veering from the White House legal strategy of cooperating with Mueller, Trump attacked him by name on Twitter, seeking to discredit the eventual findings with Republican supporters.

Someone familiar with the process said that was presidential frustration, and that the Trump team continues its ongoing dialogue with Mueller.

27th May 1963: Supremely confident American boxer Cassius Clay holds up five fingers in a prediction of how many rounds it will take him to knock out British boxer Henry Cooper. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

Trump’s team has more than signaled a new willingness to attack Mueller directly.

The president, those close to him say, is determined to more directly confront the federal probe into his campaign’s potential role in alleged Russian election interference, even if it means exacerbating his legal standing amid an investigation that has already ensnared some of his most senior campaign and White House aides.

Two sources who speak regularly with Trump said they had noticed an uptick in recent months in the frequency of the annoyance the president would express regarding Mueller and his team, and the irritation at the deluge of negative news stories regarding the probe.

Last week, for instance, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, some pertaining to Russia—a demand for personal financial details that the president famously said would be crossing a “red line” in an interview with the Times last year.

Still, on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blasted out a statement to reporters that simply assured, “in response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

Folks are calling this weekend the “pre-Saturday Night Massacre.”

By laying the foundation for this fresh, orchestrated case for the end of the Russian investigation, Sessions appears to have abrogated a commitment, in June 2017, that he would take no step toward firing Mueller.

Sen. Mark Warner: Will you commit to the committee not to take personal actions that might not result in director Mueller’s firing or dismissal?

Sessions: I can say that with confidence…

Warner: You would not take any actions to have the special investigator removed.

Sessions: I don’t think that’s appropriate for me to do.

Did Sessions’s rush to fire McCabe fall under the umbrella of any “action to have [Mueller] removed?” If Sessions had any knowledge that the president and his counsel were prepared to seize on the dismissal to call for Mueller’s firing, then he would have lent support to the plan in a manner inconsistent with his pledge to Warner. Certainly Sessions knew weeks ago that the president was singling out McCabe in his denigration of the “corrupt” FBI leadership. He also must know that McCabe is a witness in the special counsel’s obstruction investigation. These considerations alone should have been sufficient to alert the attorney general to the risks of taking an active part in firing McCabe—especially hurriedly, to beat his retirement date, under public pressure from the president.

But even if Sessions missed all of this, he now understands how the president and his counsel used the firing of McCabe. This may not have been another Saturday Night Massacre, but it may turn out to have been the prelude. And Sessions is—or he has been made—a party to it.

In the massacre of Watergate fame, the attorney general at the time, Elliot Richardson, discovered that the president and White House advisers were maneuvering to force out the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox and “induce [Richardson] to go along.” As Richardson wrote in an Atlantic piece in March of 1976 (titled “The Saturday Night Massacre”), Nixon’s plan was to have him help unwittingly with the ouster of Cox and yet not feel he had to resign.

This new belligerence comes from you-know-who according reports from inside sources.

new report on Trump’s state of mind from the New York Times underscores why this should worry us a great deal. Relying on numerous people close to Trump, it says he decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.”

“For months, aides were mostly able to redirect a neophyte president with warnings about the consequences of his actions, and mostly control his public behavior,” the Times says. But some of his recent actions — his decisions to go ahead with tariffs and a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — have persuaded him that such warnings are overblown. Make sure not to miss this sentence:

Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.

This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).

This is the problem.  Republican members of Congress are not fighters like Ali. They will not fight for their supposed convictions, country, or even the future of their own party.  There are repercussions for this blatant attack on our rule of law and Constitution. Republican silence is damning.

President Donald Trump’s direct assault on Robert Mueller over the weekend renewed fears he’s preparing to fire the special counsel as Republicans mostly remained silent on the threat.

Just a few Republicans strongly warned Trump against firing Mueller — Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it could lead to the end of Trump’s presidency. Most avoided taking a stand.

The lack of clarity from the majority party in Congress about potential repercussions may embolden Trump, who last week fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and is said to be contemplating a bigger shakeup of his Cabinet and inner circle. The president’s attacks on the FBI, the Justice Department and Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling — and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it — channeled a long-running narrative on conservative news outlets.

On Sunday evening, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement saying Trump “is not considering or discussing the firing” of Mueller. But Trump already had made clear his growing impatience at the special counsel and his probe. He continued to do that on Monday morning, saying in a tweet: “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

Here are the few Republicans speaking out. The term milquetoast comes to mind.  Yup Milquetoast Republicans.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he expects his colleagues in Congress, including GOP leadership, to push back on the President’s comments and any potential move to force the end of the probe.

“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” Flake said.

I’m not holding my breath on that action part.  We’re no longer hearing about the roaring markets from them either because this:

U.S. stocks pulled back on Monday as a decline in Facebook pressured the technology sector. Wall Street also paid attention to Washington after a Twitter meltdown from President Donald Trump.

Oh, and what’s plaguing Facebook?

Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information.

Everything Trump touches dies.  

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Good Morning…

I don’t know about you, but every day I spend some time looking like the cartoon above.

Like earlier, when signs on Twitter pointed to this shit:

He is tweeting again this morning…

 

 

I am so disgust and tired of all this, when will it stop?

Some links today:

This thread is interesting….considering the date it was tweeted:

Put into perspective:

This is all I can bring you today….it is an open thread.


Friday Reads: All Chaos all the Time!

GET SMART — ‘Hoo Done It’ Episode 8 — Aired 11/05/66 — Pictured: (l-r) Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, Joey Forman as Harry Hoo, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I wake up these mornings to thinking this reminds me of 1968. There are students protesting in streets for one. But, the news these days reminds me more of those classic 60s TV shows with classic Russian spy meanies and bumbling Americans mixed in with the classic series about the FBI. There are so many instances of crime, intrigue, spying, investigations and the notorious double agents these days that I doubt even the best TV writing team would come up with any of this.

Then, there’s the classic 60s Soaps with scheming family members, bleach blondes galore, and some mean old geezer every one hates. We appear to be stuck in the reality show version of really whacky 60s TV programming. I fully believe there is a jail cell waiting with Jared Kushner’s name on it and it’s just around the corner.

Jared is in heaps of trouble. It appears the next set of indictments will be against the Russian Hackers of the Podesta emails. Just like two weeks ago, Mueller & Friends are laying the ground work on a crime against this country. Soon, we’ll see if any Americans supported that conspiracy. But, there’s also a ton of evidence of financial irregularities involving JarVanka that can be prosecuted at the state level in New York ensuring jail time, fines, and no promise of Presidential pardon. The golden children are on a slow turning spit with increasing fuel on the fire. Just this moring, the AP broke this little gem of a quid pro quo.

The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan.

While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

The SEC detail comes a day after The New York Times reported that Apollo’s loan to the Kushner Cos. followed several meetings at the White House with Kushner.

“I suppose the best case for Kushner is that this looks absolutely terrible,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Without presuming that there is any kind of quid pro quo … there are a lot of ways that the fact of Apollo’s engagement with Kushner and the Kushner businesses in a public and private context might cast a shadow over what the SEC is doing and influence consciously or unconsciously how the agency acted.”

Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue.

Diana Rigg as Emma Peel with Patrick Macnee as John Steed circa 1965

Ivanka’s business dealings are also part of an investigation as reported by CNN.

US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump’s international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.
It’s standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation. But the complexity of the Trump Organization’s business deals, which often rely on international financing and buyers, presents a challenge.
The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.

The development — a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa — opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office.

1965 photo of Efraim Zimbelist Jr. practicing pistol-firing technique at Quantico, VA

More on this FBI investigation from Vanity Fair.

Ivanka, too, has her own set of problems. While the First Couple braced for an Intercept story that Kushner’s father had failed to secure a loan from the Qatari government just weeks before Kushner backed a blockade of Qatar, CNN dropped another bombshell: United States counterintelligence officials are probing a Trump Organization real-estate deal in Canada in which Ivanka played a leading role.

The financing and negotiations surrounding the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver have come under F.B.I. scrutiny, according to current and former U.S. officials who spoke with CNN. It’s unclear why the F.B.I. is interested in the deal, which dates back to 2013, and in which Ivanka played a key role. But CNN reports that foreign buyers involved, as well as the timing of the $360 million project’s opening in February 2017, may have caught the agency’s attention. Like many Trump Organization deals, the New York-based company does not own the building but rather is paid licensing and marketing fees by the developer, the Holborn Group. Joo Kim Tiah, a member of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest families, runs the Canada-based development firm, and said in October 2015 that the First Daughter was closely involved: “Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project,” he said during an interview.

The Intercept reports Kushner Monkey Business in Qatar. This is the bombshell story mentioned in the Vanity Fair bit.

THE REAL ESTATE firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.

The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.

A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.

The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.

“I Spy” Robert Culp, Sheldon Leonard, Bill Cosby circa 1967 Photo by Gerald Smith

Philip Rucker–writing for WAPO–calls the couple “diminished”. Everything I’ve been reading indicates orange jumpsuits in their future with diminished assets.

Kushner no longer receives the President’s Daily Brief, a daily digest that’s restricted to Trump and about a dozen other top officials, these people said. Kushner also was removed from a number of less-exclusive but still highly classified intelligence reports that are sent daily to senior administration officials, because he no longer has sufficient clearance to read them. His chances of eventually having his clearance access restored or made permanent remain unclear.

“It’s amazing how Rob Porter taking Hope Hicks out on a date and getting a picture taken in that British paper led to so many unintended consequences,” said a Republican strategist in frequent touch with the White House, speaking anonymously to share a candid opinion.

For months now, Kelly has been considering changes to professionalize the security clearance process, alarmed by how many staffers had interim clearances and how lax the enforcement of access to classified materials seemed to be, according to White House officials.

The Chief and Max in the “Cone of Silence”

Jared is up to his oddly shaped ears in scandal. Scandal runs in the Kushner Family

Jared Kushner has problems.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators are reportedly interested in the senior White House adviser for a plethora of reasons — including, but not limited to, the central topic of whether the Trump team worked with Russia to interfere with the 2016 campaign.

Meanwhile, Kushner’s security clearance was recently downgraded. For unclear reasons, the FBI has refused to grant him full “top secret” status — throwing his position in the White House into doubt.

Additionally, and probably not coincidentally, more and more questions have been raised about Kushner’s efforts in recent years to drum up investments in his family’s real estate projects — and whether those efforts inappropriately overlapped with his work in the Trump transition or White House.

This week alone, the New York Times reported that Kushner’s family business got big loans from two US financial institutions shortly after he met with their executives in the White House, and the Washington Post reported that foreign officials have discussed using his business entanglements to manipulate him. Meanwhile, and separately from Mueller’s probe, federal prosecutors and state regulators have both recently sought documents on Kushner Companies’ finances.

Looming over so much of this is the fact that the Kushner company owes $600 million on a money-losing Manhattan tower that’s fully due in just one year. The Kushners have spent much of the past few years trying to get wealthy foreigners to finance an expensive redevelopment plan for the property — but so far, all those efforts have failed.

The 37-year-old presidential son-in-law has not been officially accused of anything. There haven’t been any reports that charges against him are imminent. He and Kushner Companies have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. And for now, Jared continues to hold his high-level White House job, in which he is tasked with, among other things, making peace in the Middle East.

Here’s some interesting gossip if you’re into that sort of thing.

A New York Times column by Maggie Haberman and Mark Landler claims President Donald Trump asked his chief of staff John Kelly for help in ousting first daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner from their advisory roles at the White House.

The column alleges that Trump’s managerial style, dubbed “chaos theory” by the writers, has caused emotional grief for the White House staff. It further claims that aides have “expressed frustration” that Kushner and Ivanka Trump have remained as senior advisers and that President Trump has “privately asked” Kelly for help in moving them out.

It is unclear if the president is asking them to leave out of compassion or, as the Times hints, concerns about Kushner’s potential legal issues over various business dealings. The Times story also reports that President Trump has spoken to Kushner and Ivanka Trump and asked them to stay on at the White House but privately has claimed they “never should have come” to work there. Thus, he has asked Kelly to be the instigator of their departure.

So, describing this huge morass of corruption, entitlement and crime sprees must make these reporters need whiskey and showers. But, it’s rewarding to see all this come out at the time we know Mueller’s sight is on the Trump family. This comes from Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine.

So what can we take away? One safe conclusion is that the investigation is probably not near done. Another is that Trump and his family are not safe. Mueller has only so far charged people outside Trump’s family — his campaign manager, national security adviser, and 13 Russian internet trolls — which the president and his defenders have weirdly treated as a kind of vindication.

The big picture is that, after Trump burned enough creditors that American banks stopped dealing with him, he became deeply reliant on Russian capital. The Russian economy is deeply connected to Vladimir Putin, and uses its leverage to advance political goals. For instance, Vnesheconombank, which works closely with Putin, financed a Trump hotel in Toronto. Trump’s finances are totally opaque, and he has been willing to endure a great deal of critical media coverage — the thing he most hates in the world — in order to avoid publishing his tax returns.

Kushner is also an important figure. He has his own web of business ties with Russia, and had assumed a lead role in communicating with the Russians secretly. Remember the secret backchannel he conducted with Russia during the transition, designed to elude American intelligence? If a new development arose in recent weeks, that probably bodes poorly for the president’s son-in-law.

Meanwhile, as Steve Bannon sloppily confessed, after Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in June 2016, it is overwhelmingly likely that he proceeded immediately to tell the father whose approval is the thing he most craves. That may or may not be provable by Mueller. But he is certainly going to try.

Carl Bernstein argues that Mueller is focused ‘like a laser’ on Kushner. This comes via The Hill.

Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein claimed Tuesday night that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is “in the crosshairs” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the White House adviser had his security clearance downgraded.

“Jared Kushner is in the crosshairs of special prosecutor Mueller’s investigation, which is focused in part on Jared Kushner like a laser,” Bernstein said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”

“And there is every expectation in the White House and among lawyers that are representing other people in Mueller’s investigation that Jared Kushner has many, many strikes lining up against him in the Mueller investigation,” the Watergate reporter continued.

Oh, well, grab the popcorn. It continues.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: “I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon”

Good Morning!!

If anyone had any doubts about Trump’s mental health they should be put to rest today. You probably saw his ridiculous speech to governors yesterday in which he bragged that he would have run in and confronted the school shooter in Parkland–even if he were unarmed.

After that Governor Jay Inslee of Washington explained why Trump’s plan to arm teachers is incredibly stupid. Trump didn’t like that.

Poor baby Donnie. Some press reactions:

The New York Times: Trump Says He Would Have Rushed in Unarmed to Stop School Shooting.

President Trump asserted Monday that he would have rushed in to save the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from a gunman with an assault weapon, even if he was unarmed at the time of the massacre.

Speaking to a meeting of the country’s governors at the White House, Mr. Trump conceded that “you don’t know until you test it.” But he said he believed he would have exhibited bravery “even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”

The president’s remarks came during an hourlong televised conversation with the governors in the State Dining Room, during which Mr. Trump continued to grapple publicly with how best to respond to the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., discussing such things as arming teachers and reopening mental institutions.

As Mr. Trump skipped from one possible solution to another, he mused about the “old days,” when potential criminals could be locked in mental hospitals, and he vowed to ban “bump stocks,” an accessory that can make a semiautomatic weapon fire rapidly, more like an automatic rifle. But he dropped any mention of raising the age required to purchase a rifle to 21 from 18, something he said last week he supported, despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.

Yes, Trump “dropped any mention of raising the age to purchase a rifle” because he found out the NRA doesn’t want that, and he’s scared of the NRA. But he’d run unarmed into a building where a gunman is fired an AR-15. Suuuuuurrre he would.

Humorist Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: Donald Trump possesses rare powers. Didn’t you know?

Donald Trump would have run in there, unarmed. He would have done that. And it would have worked.

Donald Trump is the greatest hero of our time.

He did not get involved in Vietnam because it would have been unfair to the other combatants, and he wanted to give them a sporting chance. Donald Trump would have been literally unstoppable, especially when angry. The whole country would have been flattened in an instant. Donald Trump was being merciful.

That eagle that seemed to frighten him so much at that photo shoot? Trump could not raise a hand against it, or the beautiful creature would surely have died. Those were his only options. He knows his own strength.

This is a world of cardboard, and it is all Trump can do to contain himself. This is why his handshakes are so formidable. This is as gentle as it is possible for him to be, and he is trying, so hard, to be gentle.

He could end all terrorism, not just domestic, if he ever chose to parachute in there in his signature tie and jacket, but he hasn’t. He has had other things on his mind.

He could end sexism with a swift kick to the teeth, but, again, he has been busy. The same with racism, but he has gotten attached to it, over the years.

Click on the link to read the rest. You won’t be sorry.

Eli Rosenberg at The Washington Post: Trump said he would charge a gunman. Here’s what he’s actually done in the face of danger.

The most frightened that Trump has ever seemed in public was perhaps a moment during a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio, in March 2016.

The then-candidate was in the midst of speaking about manufacturing, when a man hopped the barrier behind him and rushed the stage. Trump stopped speaking, looked nervously behind him and grabbed and started to duck behind his lectern.

He was then swarmed by Secret Service agents, who steadied him.

Trump continued his speech after the disruption, and gave the audience a thumbs-up, claiming that he could have handled the attacker himself, despite his first reaction.

“I was ready for him,” Trump said, “but it’s much easier if the cops do it.”

Later that year at another rally, Trump was hustled off a stage in Nevada, after the someone in the audience yelled “gun.” No weapon was found.

There are several more examples of Trump’s “courage” at the link. Remember Sam the eagle?

 

And that time Trump was so afraid of rain on his hair that he left Barron and Melania in the lurch?

 

More examples at the WaPo link.

One more on Trump’s idiotic boast: Tevor Noah Mocks Trump’s Absurd Claim That He’d Run Into a School Shooting Unarmed.

“You don’t know until you test it, but I think, I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon,” the president declared. “And I think most of the people in this room would have done that too.”

That statement stopped Noah in his tracks. “I like that he’s honest enough to say, ‘Look, I haven’t tested this, but I think would run in, without a weapon, yeah, I think I would,’” the host joked.

“To be fair, if Donald Trump ran into a school during a shooting, I do believe he would actually stop the shooting,” he continued, imagining the scenario in which a school shooter all of sudden sees the president walking toward him in the hallway. “How distracting would that be?” he asked.

“‘That’s right, it’s me, Donald Trump,’” he said, imitating the president. “‘I don’t have a gun, but what I do have is an amazing Electoral College victory.’”

“Eight minutes later, the police show up and Trump is still talking,” Noah said. “And the kid is like, ‘What is happening here?’”

Watch the video at The Daily Beast.

Trump Hotel and Tower, Panama

I’ve been following another strange Trump story. It’s about the Trump hotel in the Panama. You may recall that last year a major investigative story about the Trump’s business was published at Global Witness: Narco-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club Panama. Here’s a Newsweek article that discusses the investigation: Trump Made Millions of Dollars from Drug Money Laundering in Panama.

President Donald Trump made tens of millions of dollars in profits by allowing Colombian drug cartels and other groups to launder money through a Trump-affiliated hotel in Panama, according to a new investigation by the organization Global Witness.

In the early 2000s, Trump was having financial difficulties and began selling his high-profile name to real estate developers around the world, the report said. One of these developed Panama’s Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower.

The report said the drug cartels purchased hotel units to hide the origins of money earned through drug trafficking and other criminal activity, and Trump is estimated to have earned tens of millions of dollars from the deals….

The report said the Panama project is a textbook case of money laundering.

“Investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely,” the report noted. “Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere.”

“In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010.”

A few days ago the Associated Press reported: Trump officials fight eviction from Panama hotel they manage.

One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding.

Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. Trump’s managers retreated behind the glass walls of an office where they were seen carrying files to an area where the sounds of a shredding machine could be heard, according to two witnesses aligned with the owners. The legal complaint also accused Trump’s team of improperly destroying documents.

The Trump people are still in the hotel refusing to leave and and the new owner is still trying to evict them. The Washington Post: Bizarre legal brawl intensifies at Trump hotel in Panama.

Since that first confrontation, police have been called multiple times to referee disputes between owner Orestes Fintiklis — who blames the company’s poor management and damaged brand for the hotel’s declining revenue — and the Trump Organization, which says it still has a valid contract to manage the place.

Offices have been barricaded. Several yelling matches have broken out. The power was briefly turned off, in a dispute over the building’s electronic equipment. At one point, Fintiklis — denied a chance to fire the hotel staff or even check into a room — played a tune on the hotel’s lobby piano as an apparent show of defiance.

On Monday, Panama’s federal prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into the Trump Organization, after Fintiklis complained that he had been unlawfully blocked from his own property.

With that, this bizarre standoff turned a theoretical concern about the Trump administration — that, someday, the president’s private business might be investigated by a foreign government — into a reality.

Republicans in Congress should have been investigating this situation long ago, but they couldn’t be bothered. Now Panama is doing it. The Week: Panama is investigating Trump’s business, vindicating ethics watchdogs.

Panama’s federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the Trump Organization on Monday following the escalation of a dispute over the management of Panama City’s Trump International Hotel, The Washington Postreports. The probe has sparked concerns because President Trump still technically owns the organization that shares his name, although his sons oversee the day-to-day operations. “The fear has always been that there would be an international incident involving the finances of the president, and the president would have his loyalties questioned,” explained Jordan Libowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)….

The local investigators made clear that they are willing to request information from foreign entities as needed. CREW’s Libowitz has wondered “what kind of pressure would [Trump] be willing to place” on the Panamanian government as president.

“Panama’s government receives financial support for counter-narcotics work from the United States,” notes the Los Angeles Times, and “Panama is currently seeking to extradite its former president, Ricardo Martinelli, from the United States to face espionage and embezzlement charges.”

How much more of this shit will happen before the Republicans get off their asses and do something?

What stories are you following today? Please share!