Wednesday Reads: Turd Reich

After seeing a few minutes of the MSNBC interview with Barr yesterday…I had to turn the shit off.

Did you see this crap:

Check out some of the responses on that thread.

I believe my expression had to be something like that mountain lion…

Wouldn’t you know it, later last night…

If this impeachment trial in the Senate goes by like we know #MoscowMitch will handle it… I am so fearful of what could end up happening…

Someone is actually selling this design online… (lucashgm on redbubble)

The photo above was taken in Atlanta.

Now a few non-tRump things:

Didn’t something like this happen the last time a Saudi national murdered some dissident… after Khashoggi, women got the right to drive? Yes? (Actually, it was given to them a couple of months before he was killed.) I’m just making a connection.

That asshole. Fucking disgusting.

Let’s end this on a positive note.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Art and Reads

Good Morning!!

The paintings in today’s post are by Do Fournier, a contemporary French painter. Here’s a little information about her:

Do Fournier (French, b.1951) is a Contemporary painter, originally from Guerande, Brittany, France. She began her career as a successful illustrator, and, in 1984, changed her focus to the creation of her own paintings. Her works were well received, and numerous prestigious exhibitions of her artworks have been mounted in France. In addition, she has frequently been invited to exhibit at the Salon d’Automne in Paris.

Fournier creates fantastic, colorful, and intimate works inspired by her home in France, which overlooks the sea. Her family and pets, as well as her collection of objects d’art, rugs, and textiles, are her primary subjects.

As the noted French critic Gerard Xuriguera has observed: “Her approach in an uneasy society is not to describe it’s pain but the potential it still has for joy, it’s fragile moments of charm and peacefulness stolen from a routine existence. To do this she expresses reality in its most intimate, sensual, peaceful and carnal form. Not as imitation but as a vision filtered through her observations and cast in the exuberance of her blazing colours. What she is trying to capture is fleeting emotion, to immobilize it and express it as simply as possible.

 

Breaking News

Right now I’m watching a press conference by House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairs of the five House committees involved in the impeachment investigation.

In yesterday’s impeachment hearing, Rep Eric Swalwell spelled out the case against Trump in no uncertain terms.

Today’s Reads

The New York Times: Another Inquiry Doesn’t Back Up Trump’s Charges. So, on to the Next.

President Trump and his allies spent months promising that a report on the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation would be a kind of Rosetta Stone for Trump-era conspiracy enthusiasts — the key to unlocking the secrets of a government plot to keep Mr. Trump from being elected in 2016.

On that point, the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, did not deliver, even as it found serious problems with how F.B.I. officials justified the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide to a federal court.

But by the time it was released, the president, his attorney general, his supporters in Congress and the conservative news media had already declared victory and decamped for the next battle in the wider war to convince Americans of the enemies at home and abroad arrayed against the Trump presidency.

They followed a script they have used for nearly three years: Engage in a choreographed campaign of presidential tweets, Fox News appearances and fiery congressional testimony to create expectations about finding proof of a “deep state” campaign against Mr. Trump. And then, when the proof does not emerge, skew the results and prepare for the next opportunity to execute the playbook.

That opportunity has arrived in the form of an investigation by aRea Connecticut prosecutor ordered this year by Attorney General William P. Barr — and the president and his allies are now predicting it will be the one to deliver damning evidence that the F.B.I., C.I.A. and even close American allies conspired against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election.

Read the rest at the NYT.

One startling revelation from the IG report was that Ivanka Trump has been friends with Christopher Steele for years.

ABC News: ‘Dossier’ author Chris Steele met Ivanka Trump years before Russia scandal, source says.

Nearly a decade before the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka met a British intelligence officer who ran the Russia desk — and when the agent left his covert service and moved into private practice in 2010, she stayed in touch, ABC News has learned.

Artist Do Fournier

The two exchanged emails but never worked together, and the man, Christopher Steele, would one day re-emerge in a most unexpected way, taking a central role in the Russia scandal that consumed the early years of her father’s presidency, according to a source familiar with their past contacts.

The prior relationship came to light as investigators with the Department of Justice Inspector General’s office was looking into allegations of political bias at the origins of the Russia investigation since May 2018….

In 2007, Ivanka Trump met Steele at a dinner and they began corresponding about the possibility of future work together, the source said. The following year, the two exchanged emails about meeting up near Trump Tower, according to several emails seen by ABC News. And the two did meet at Trump Tower according to the source. The inspector general’s report mentions a meeting with a “Trump family member” there. They suggest Ivanka Trump and Steele stayed in touch via emails over the next several years. In one 2008 exchange they discussed dining together in New York at a restaurant just blocks from Trump Tower.

Ivanka Trump worked as an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, managing a range of foreign real estate projects, including in parts of the world where Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence touted expertise. She and Steele discussed services Orbis could offer to the Trump Organization regarding its planned expansion into foreign markets, according to two sources familiar with the meetings.

Read more at ABC News.

Also from ABC News: FBI Director Chris Wray reacts to DOJ watchdog report on Russia investigation: Exclusive.

FBI Director Christopher Wray offered mixed reactions to a Justice Department watchdog report that uncovered “serious performance failures” on the part of agents involved in the Russia investigation but ultimately determined the bureau was justified in launching its probe.

Artist Do Fournier

In an exclusive broadcast interview with ABC News, Wray lamented “actions described in this report that [he] considered unacceptable and unrepresentative of who we are as an institution.” But, he said it was “important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.” [….]

But the president and his allies have called it “a major SPY scandal” and accused those involved of working on behalf of the “Deep State.”

Wray did not respond directly to the president, but pushed back on the “Deep State” characterization of the bureau’s work.

“I think that’s the kind of label that’s a disservice to the men and women who work at the FBI who I think tackle their jobs with professionalism, with rigor, with objectivity, with courage,” Wray said. “So that’s not a term I would ever use to describe our work force and I think it’s an affront to them.”

Naturally, Trump is enraged at Wray’s remarks. Will he fire another FBI Director?

The Washington Post: Trump lashes out at FBI director in wake of Justice Department inspector general’s report.

President Trump lashed out Tuesday morning at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, suggesting that “he will never be able to fix the FBI” based on his reaction to a Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the bureau’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

Artist Do Fournier

The 434-page report rebutted conservatives’ accusations that top FBI officials were driven by political bias to illegally spy on Trump advisers as part of the probe into Russian election interference, but it also found broad and “serious performance failures” requiring major changes.

In a statement Monday, Wray, a Trump appointee, said he had ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations,” adding that he would not hesitate to take “appropriate disciplinary action if warranted.”

Cover-up General Bill Barr is also attacking the report by his own independent Inspector General.

Talking Points Memo: How The DOJ Watchdog Forced Barr To Scramble To Undermine Trump-Russia Probe.

Attorney General Bill Barr scrambled on Monday to keep a main anti-DOJ conspiracy theory going, after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a 476-page report finding that the FBI was justified in opening its Trump-Russia investigation.

Horowitz found that there was unanimous support within the Justice Department and FBI in July 2016 for opening an investigation into potential contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and found no evidence that anti-Trump bias played a role in the investigation’s start.

Horowitz opened his probe amid allegations from right-wing talking heads and politicos that partisan bias had propelled FBI officials into investigating the Trump campaign….

The result of the whirlpool of allegations arrived in the form of the Horowitz report, which substantively rebutted the accusations and affirmatively found that FBI officials were justified in opening an investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign.

Artist Do Fournier

So, upon the report’s release, both Barr and Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham issued statements disagreeing with Horowitz’s finding.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in his statement, adding that he was relying on evidence beyond the “component parts of the Justice Department.”

More details at the TPM link.

Vanity Fair: “It Is Not What The Department of Justice Does”: Barr and Durham Go Rogue On The Inspector General’s Report.

…what was truly surprising to some veterans of the Robert F. Kennedy building and the DC bar was the reaction from Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham, who Barr tapped to run a parallel investigation of Crossfire Hurricane and related investigations. Both issued statements throwing significant shade at Horowitz’s report, though, technically, Barr is Horowitz’s boss. “I’ve never seen such an internal DOJ effort to challenge and undermine the IG’s findings,” Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney, told me Monday. “It is not what the Department of Justice does.” [….]

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr wrote in a statement. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.”

Barr’s decision to publicly distance himself from Horowitz’s findings was met with some astonishment. “No law enforcement purpose is served by the Attorney General announcing that he disagrees with the inspector general’s conclusion that the FBI had an adequate predicate for its investigation of Russia’s contacts with the Trump campaign,” William Jeffress, a white-collar defense attorney who worked on the Valerie Plame leak case, told me. Barr’s missive was reminiscent of the now infamous four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s report, respinning the results of an exhaustive investigation in ways favorable to the president. “The statement by Barr will only deepen the sense that he is a Trump partisan who lacks the independence to lead the Department of Justice,” Jeffress added.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Do Fournier

Good Morning!!

How can a person whose brain is this dementia-ravaged actually be “president?” Bloomberg: Trump Orders Toilet Rule Review Over Low-Flow Flushing.

The president on Friday said he ordered a federal review of water efficiency standards in bathroom fixtures and complained that “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once” in homes with low-flow appliances.

He said other bathroom fixtures have slowed water to a trickle.

“You can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water comes out of the faucet, and the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands, you end up using the same amount of water,” he said at an event with small-business owners at the White House.

He said the Environmental Protection Agency was looking into the issue on his recommendation….

Trump said Friday it was “common sense” to review standards he said resulted in showers with water “quietly dripping out” and toilets that “end up using more water” because of repeated flushing.

The Bloomberg article made the Trump rant seem less crazy than it actually was. He also complained about light bulbs.

He also wants American cars to be less fuel-efficient.

Can we please put him out to pasture before he blows up the world?

Trump also defended Saudi Arabia after a Saudi national killed 3 people at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.

How awkward for the king and Trump that 6 other Saudis are being questioned in the attack–some of whom were seen filming it. The New York Times: Six Saudis Said to Be Questioned After Pensacola Navy Base Shooting.

A United States military official identified the suspect, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the attack, as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He was one of hundreds of military trainees at the base, which is considered the home of naval aviation.

Japanese blind, by Jane Lewis, British

Six other Saudi nationals were detained for questioning near the scene of the shooting, including three who were seen filming the entire incident, according to a person briefed on the initial stages of the investigation. A group that monitors online jihadist activity said that shortly before the shooting, a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s posted a “will” calling the United States a “nation of evil” and criticizing its support for Israel….

The attack by a foreign national inside an American military installation raised questions about the vetting process for international students who are cleared by the Department of Defense and is likely to complicate military cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia at a time when relations with the kingdom are already tense.

In recent months, President Trump has held fast against bipartisan congressional efforts to rebuke his fierce support for Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has pressed for his kingdom to rise as a global player in international finance and politics.

Trump values his relationships with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Russia far more highly than he does our traditional allies. We saw how little those allies respect the idiot “president” during the recent NATO summit. At The Washington Post, Brian Klaas writes: America’s allies despise Trump — and that’s a threat to NATO.

By now we’ve all heard or read about the hot-mic incident at the NATO summit in the United Kingdom this week. A camera caught several national leaders joking about the antics of President Trump. Many commentators drew unflattering comparisons with Trump’s oft-cited claim that other countries “are laughing at us” and left it at that.

Yet this might miss the full significance of the story. The leaders of our NATO allies aren’t alone in seeing Trump as a dangerous joke — their citizens do, too. And Trump’s deepening unpopularity in the other countries of the West is becoming as much of a threat to NATO as Trump himself.

By Ophelia Redpath (1965- present, British)

It’s worth noting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t disavow his own comments in the recorded incident — doing so would have made him look like an appeaser to his own deeply Trump-skeptical public. At the NATO summit, Trudeau also attended a news conference with the U.S. president — far less widely noted by the media — at which Trump referred to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) as a “deranged human being” and a “maniac.” No other world leader behaves like that at an international forum.

Such outbursts, which have a devastating effect on the United States’ reputation overseas, make it far harder for our allies to be seen as close to Trump. And because their citizens see Trump as the current representation of the United States, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the leaders of Germany, or Britain, or Canada, or France to sell pro-American positions to their own voters. Just witness Boris Johnson’s carefully choreographed dance to avoid Trump’s company during the NATO summit, knowing that any all-too-obvious association with the U.S. president could doom the prime minister’s chances in the approaching British election. For the leaders of our allies, proximity to Trump is electoral poison.

There are foreign policy consequences to Trump’s toxicity. Since he took office, global support for U.S. leadership has plummeted. According to Pew Research in a late 2018 study, there has been a collapse in global confidence that the U.S. president will “do the right thing in world affairs.” From President Barack Obama to Trump, such confidence has fallen 76 percentage points in Germany, 75 percentage points in France, 58 percentage pointsin Canada, 52 percentage points in Australia, 51 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 48 percentage points in Japan. In Russia, by contrast, confidence in the U.S. president has increased by 8 percentage points.

Justice Ginsburg granted Trump’s request for an emergency stay on a lower court’s order that his financial records be released to Congress. Politico:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg temporarily blocked a lower court ruling ordering two banks to release President Donald Trump’s financial records to House Democrats.

Two cats, Jenna Fornier

Trump had asked Ginsburg to consider the emergency request earlier Friday. The temporary stay sets the issue on hold pending full consideration by the high court, it does not reflect how judges will rule in the underlying case.

The stay is ordered until 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, and the court ordered that a response must be filed on or before Dec. 11 by 11 a.m.

The emergency filing came after a federal appeals court in New York ruled on Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One should comply with subpoenas from the House Financial Services and House Intelligence committees seeking information about Trump’s finances.

The House subpoenas seek documents including tax returns, evidence of suspicious activity and, in the case of Deutsche Bank, any internal communications regarding Trump and his ties to foreign individuals.

Trump-related requests are piling up at the Supreme Court — and the outcomes could set precedent on significant questions related to separation-of-power issues and whether a president is immune from state-based criminal investigations while in office.

Recently it was reported that Cover-Up General Bill Barr made some chilling remarks about law enforcement. Florida Rep. Val Demings responded in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday: What William Barr doesn’t understand about law enforcement.

This week, Attorney General William P. Barr honored 19 law enforcement officers selected by the Justice Department for “Distinguished Service in Policing.” I’m glad he did. I have no doubt that each officer earned the distinction. Law enforcement is a tough and dangerous job, and we are unwaveringly grateful for those who go above and beyond the call of duty.

By Misha Askenazy, black Kimono

Unfortunately, while speaking to the officers, the attorney general showed that he simply does not understand the foundational values of modern American policing. “If communities don’t give . . . support and respect” to law enforcement, he said, “they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

I hope this statement was made in ignorance rather than malice. It is a knife in the heart of decades of painstaking work to develop bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve.

Law enforcement is not a protection racket. It is a sacred charge. We take an oath not to any individual or faction but to the Constitution, or, in other words, to society at large. Because, at the end of the day, law enforcement and the community are the same. The police are the community, and the community is the police.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Here’s an interesting related article at The New York Times: ‘I Got Tired of Hunting Black and Hispanic People.’

At a police station tucked into an end-of-the-line subway terminal in South Brooklyn, the new commander instructed officers to think of white and Asian people as “soft targets” and urged them to instead go after blacks and Latinos for minor offenses like jumping the turnstile, a half-dozen officers said in sworn statements.

“You are stopping too many Russian and Chinese,” one of the officers, Daniel Perez, recalled the commander telling him earlier this decade.

Another officer, Aaron Diaz, recalled the same commander saying in 2012, “You should write more black and Hispanic people.”

The sworn statements, gathered in the last few months as part of a discrimination lawsuit, deal with a period between 2011 and 2015. But they are now emerging publicly at a time when policing in the subway has become a contentious issue, sparking protests over a crackdown on fare evasion and other low-level offenses.

The commander, Constantin Tsachas, was in charge of more than 100 officers who patrolled a swath of the subway system in Brooklyn, his first major command. Since then, he has been promoted to the second-in-command of policing the subway system throughout Brooklyn. Along the way, more than half a dozen subordinates claim, he gave them explicit directives about whom to arrest based on race.

Those subordinates recently came forward, many for the first time, providing signed affidavits to support a discrimination lawsuit brought by four black and Hispanic police officers.

Click the NYT link to read the rest.

Those are my recommended reads for today. What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This morning, Nancy Pelosi announced that she is authorizing the drafting of articles of impeachment against Trump.

The Washington Post reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that President Trump’s wrongdoing strikes at the heart of the Constitution and asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.”

Her address, in which she invoked principles espoused by the nation’s founders, came shortly after Trump went on Twitter to urge House Democrats to impeach him quickly, if they plan to do it, and suggested he would call an expansive list of witnesses during a trial in the Republican-led Senate.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that President Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine in the face of Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Of course Trump has weighed in.

Somehow I missed this, but Trump has started calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” again, and North Korea is not amused. The New York Daily News:

Looks like the North Korean honeymoon is over.

President Trump reprised his “Rocket Man” insult for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Tuesday as tensions spiraled between the two leaders who once boasted of their durable friendship.

North Korea has set a year-end deadline for Trump to return to the nuclear negotiating table, and has underlined its insistence on new talks by escalating its nuclear tests.

The U.S. appears to be doing its best to ignore Kim’s threats.

“He definitely likes sending up rockets, doesn’t he,” Trump said on the sidelines of the NATO summit, referring to KIm. “That’s why I call him Rocket Man.”

Now North Korea has responded. Kyodo News: N. Korea lambastes Trump for calling Kim “Rocket Man” again: KCNA.

A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump for calling him a “Rocket Man” again, saying it represents a “very dangerous challenge.”

“What makes us feel further worse is that the figurative style was dare used at random with no courtesy when referring to the supreme leadership of dignity of the DPRK,” First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hu said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency in English….

“It would be fortunate if the utterances of the use of military force and the title of figurative style made by President Trump were an instantaneous verbal lapse, but matter becomes different if they were a planned provocation that deliberately targeted us,” Choe said.

“If this is meant to make expressions, reminiscent of those days just two years ago when a war of words was fought across the ocean, surface again on purpose, it will be a very dangerous challenge,” she added.

I don’t support Joe Biden, but this is best anti-Trump ad I’ve seen yet.

I haven’t read it yet, but this looks like an important article by Julia Ioffe in GQ: Trump Is Waging War on America’s Diplomats.

Last year, just before Halloween, Lewis Lukens, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London, visited a pair of English universities where he spoke about the importance of international cooperation, beseeching students not to “swipe left” on the historic “special relationship” between the U.K. and America. The speeches were—according to a copy of the remarks that Lukens provided to GQ—fairly anodyne, reprising all the things Americans and Brits had learned from each other, all the ways we’ve helped each other over the years, disagreements notwithstanding. At the time, things between the two countries had been strained—in part because President Trump had attacked British leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan—but Lukens, the second-most-senior American diplomat to the United Kingdom, had a request for the students who had gathered to see him: “Don’t write off the special relationship.”

A week later, Lukens says, his boss, the U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a Trump political appointee, told him that he was done, firing Lukens from his post seven months ahead of when he was scheduled to leave for a new assignment. After nearly 30 years as a foreign service officer, his State Department career was over. The reason? Lukens says he had unwittingly committed a fatal error in his speech: He had mentioned former president Barack Obama.

To open the speech, Lukens, who had worked for presidents of both parties, used an anecdote from his time as ambassador to Senegal to illustrate how allies can handle disagreements. He mentioned Obama’s 2013 visit to the country. “There was incredible excitement,” Lukens said in his speech. “He had a guard of honor, crowds shouting his name, street vendors selling WE LOVE OBAMA T-shirts. It was really amazing. And the president had really great talks with the Senegalese president, Macky Sall. They got on really well. But what I remember most of all was the disagreement they had—as friends.” Lukens explained that during the trip, an American journalist had asked Obama whether he had pressed the Senegalese leader on LGBT rights—a provocative topic in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized as “unnatural” and where the LGBT community faces widespread discrimination. Lukens told the students that Obama handled the thorny question well. And then he moved on to the rest of the speech, not realizing the damage he’d done with a single anecdote. (When asked about the episode and Lukens’s ouster, the State Department declined to comment. The American embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.)

Read the rest at GQ.

I know many younger people don’t understand why some of us think John F. Kennedy was a good president and could have been a great one if he had not been murdered. Here’s an example of the kind of thoughtful discourse we heard from him as president. What a contrast to the current occupant of the office.

That;s all I have for you this morning, because I’m having some problems with watery eyes that make it difficult for me to read on the computer. This happens to me occasionally. So . . . what stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Drump All Over The World

That cartoon seems too fitting now…so I had to feature it again.

Here are some tweets:

And…

Dead frozen rat wearing hats and boots… should have sent that to the NATO Summit in Great Britain…would have been less offensive than tRump.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Plenty of Breaking News Today

Winter Glow, Boston Common, by Julia O’Malley Keyes

Good Morning!!

As you can see from the paintings I’ve chosen, I have snow on the brain this morning; as an early winter storm is still hovering over the Boston area for the third day. It’s a lovely winter wonderland outside my window, but I’m hoping the snow will leave us sometime this afternoon.

Trump is at the NATO meeting in the UK making a fool of himself as usual. He just finished a tense meeting with French president Macron in which the two talked past each other and exchanged hostile comments. We’ll have to wait for analysis from reporters, but here are some twitter takes.

The Washington Post: Trump calls French president’s criticism of NATO ‘nasty’ and ‘disrespectful’

LONDON — President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.

Shoveling Snow, New England, Frederick Childe Hassam

Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.” [….]

“I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”

Trump’s tough talk on France came just a day after the United States threatened new tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French products, including wine, cheese and yogurt — a response, Trump’s chief trade negotiator said, to a French digital services tax that the United States concluded is discriminating against American Internet companies.

More from The New York Times: In Tense Exchange, Trump and Macron Put Forth Dueling Visions for NATO.

A once-cordial relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France devolved in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, as the two leaders publicly sparred over their approach to containing the threat of terrorism and a shared vision for the future of NATO, a 70-year-old alliance facing existential threats on multiple fronts.

A Hare In The Snow by Bruno Andreas Liljefors

In a lengthy appearance before reporters, the president met a cool reception from Mr. Macron, who earlier in the day Mr. Trump derided as “very insulting” for his recent remarks on the “brain death” of the alliance. When asked to address his earlier comments on the French leader, Mr. Trump, a leader averse to face-to-face confrontation, initially demurred, but Mr. Macron was direct.

“My statement created some reactions,” Mr. Macron said. “I do stand by it.”

What followed was an extended, terse back-and-forth over trade, immigration, and Mr. Trump’s relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Mr. Trump’s interactions with the Turkish president are also sure to be closely watched. Mr. Erdogan, who has already upset NATO allies by purchasing a sophisticated Russian antiaircraft missile system, the S-400, is now threatening to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of Poland and the Baltic countries if the alliance does not join him in labeling some Kurdish groups as terrorists.

”Who is the enemy today?” Mr. Macron asked. “And let’s be clear and work together on that.”

More breaking news from Twitter:

CNBC: Trump loses appeal to block Deutsche Bank, Capital One from handing his financial records to Congress.

— A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can hand over years of President Donald Trump’s financial records in compliance with House Democrats’ subpoenas.

— The ruling offers another loss in the courts for Trump, who has fought attempts to obtain his financial records through multiple lawsuits.

— The case is likely destined for the Supreme Court, where the president has already appealed two other lower court decisions requiring the disclosure of his financial records.

Vincent van Gogh, Snow-covered field with a harrow (after Millet) (1889)

Aaron Blake has an interesting piece at The Washington Post on the timeline of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine even before Zelensky took over as president: 2 key Trump-Ukraine events we should be paying more attention to.

The first event:

In February 2017, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Poroshenko had spoken by phone and “discussed plans for an in-person meeting in the future.”

Even as Trump met with a procession of foreign leaders in those early months, though, a meeting with Poroshenko wasn’t scheduled. Indeed, it didn’t happen until late June. And why is that date significant? Because it was very shortly after Poroshenko’s government took action on an investigation of personal interest to Trump — and in a Trump-friendly direction.

Here’s a quick timeline:

June 8, 2017: Trump ally Rudolph W. Giuliani meets with Poroshenko and then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.
June 9, 2017: Lutsenko’s office joins an existing investigation into the “black ledger,” which implicated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The investigation had previously been handled only by Ukraine’s independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), and critics alleged the new move was meant to bury the scandal.
June 14, 2017: Reports in Europe indicate Poroshenko will meet with Trump.
June 19, 2017: Spicer says Poroshenko will meet with Vice President Pence, but doesn’t confirm a meeting with Trump.
June 20, 2017: Poroshenko gets a brief “drop-in” visit with Trump.

Marurice de Vlaminck, French 1876-1958

The second event:

In December 2017, the Trump administration made a key decision to provide Ukraine with lethal aid — specifically antitank missiles called Javelins. This is the same weaponry Trump and Zelensky would later talk about on their fateful July 25, 2019, phone call.

Republicans have hailed Trump’s decision to provide such weaponry as evidence of his support for Ukraine and as a counterpoint to the idea that he has been leveraging it. But what if the Javelins were also used as leverage?

What we can say is that they weren’t delivered until after another significant investigatory decision from Ukraine in Trump’s favor — one that was even more narrowly beneficial to Trump.

In early April 2018, according to the New York Times, Ukraine halted its investigations of Manafort and also its cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In addition, it reportedly allowed a potential witness in Mueller’s collusion investigation to leave the country for Russia, where they couldn’t be interviewed.

Later that month, the Javelins arrived. Poroshenko posted as much on Facebook on April 30, and U.S. officials soon confirmed it.

These don’t look like coincidences to me, and they probably didn’t look that way to Zelensky either.

Paul Gauguin, Breton Village in the Snow (1894)

At The Atlantic, Professor Kim Wehle of the University of Baltimore School of Law argues that House Democrats should be tougher on witnesses who refuse to testify in the impeachment inquiry: The House Is Making This Fight Too Easy for Trump.

Last week marked a low point in Donald Trump’s quest for presidential superpowers. On Monday, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have absolute immunity from having to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding misconduct by Trump and his associates in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. “Presidents are not kings,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

In practical terms, the court declared that Trump cannot lawfully forbid anyone and everyone he’s ever worked with from heeding legislative requests for information. This isn’t even a close question, as the stark language of Jackson’s 120-page ruling made clear. Notwithstanding White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s October 8 letter—in which he deemed the impeachment inquiry unconstitutional and announced that the administration would not cooperate in any way—the president cannot prohibit current or former government employees from testifying when called before Congress.

Which is why House Democrats’ milquetoast response to widespread defiance of congressional subpoenas is both perplexing and disturbing. When faced with credible evidence of serious misconduct, Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the president accountable on behalf of the people. Yet House leaders have psyched themselves out of fully exercising that duty.

Read the rest at The Atlantic link.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winterlandschaft (1811)

Bill Barr is working hard to be Trump’s personal defense attorney. The Washington Post reports: Barr disputes key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation.

Attorney General William P. Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horo­witz, is due to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Justice Department, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The discord could be the prelude to a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.

Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, these people said.

Barr’s public defenses of President Trump, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have led Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney and eroding the independence of the Justice Department. But Trump and his Republican allies have cheered Barr’s skepticism of the Russia investigation.

Claude Monet, The Magpie

Finally, The Daily Beast is running a series of three articles by Patricia Ravalgi about how officials who previously worked together for the benefit of U.S. national security are now on opposite sides because of Trump. Here are the first two installments and introductory paragraphs:

Mueller, Barr, Giuliani, Comey and Kallstrom Once Fought Terror Together—Now Trump Has Them Fight Each Other.

The constellation of federal investigators, attorneys, prosecutors and judges orbiting Donald Trump in the last three years have a unique, shared history.

Relatively unknown to the American public is the fact that before many of them became household names, cast as either the heroes or villains of the Trump saga (depending on where you stand on Trump), they were colleagues in the trenches of some of America’s biggest terrorism cases.

They crossed paths numerous times in courtrooms and at crime scenes, often united by a single case. From my perch working for the House Intelligence Committee, at the FBI as a congressional liaison, and then on the 9/11 Joint Inquiry, I observed what in many respects were their finest achievements, how those played out politically, how they fought their turf battles at home and with foreign governments, how they learned to communicate with the American public after each tragedy—and ultimately, fundamentally how they changed America’s approach to national security.

Once-Heroic Agents Have Helped Trump’s Effort to Divide and Conquer the FBI.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 carrying 230 summer vacationers, would-be tourists, and crew members took off from New York’s JFK airport en route to Rome. Ten minutes into the flight, the plane’s captain reported unusual readings on the Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS). Two minutes after that, a catastrophic explosion occurred.

TWA 800 broke apart mid-air into three huge sections that came crashing into the sea. People on the South Shore of Long Island would report seeing the fireball in the night. Others reported seeing lights streaking across the sky around the same time as the explosion.

Alongside the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI launched an investigation led by the assistant director for the New York field office, James Kallstrom. Until recently, he was defined in history as the man who headed that $20 million, 16-month investigation into the explosion—and who kept conspiracy theories from spinning out of control. And that was no easy task. Pierre Salinger, President John F. Kennedy’s former press secretary, was reporting from France that he had secret information that the plane had been brought down by the friendly fire of a U.S. Navy missile, and that theory has never been completely exorcised from the popular imagination.

These are long reads, with one more installment to come.

It looks like we’ll continue to have a busy news day today and a busy week of news to come. What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: Why do so many Americans have a Gun Fetish?

Image result for artist woman paintings with gunsGood Morning Sky Dancers!

Sunday greeted New Orleans with 16 shootings including a Mass Shooting on Canal Street early Sunday Morning that injured 10 people with two in critical condition.  Another shooting killed two later that day in the 7th ward, Our City’s crime has seen a downward trend in crime over the last 4 years but this isn’t exactly new to us or anywhere in the country.

Why do we have so many trigger happy Americans?

It’s amazing to me that the NRA can still have so much power after so much controversy surrounding its leadership and actions.  It also amazes me that so many people seem to think they a “well regulated militia” doesn’t mean what they think it means.  They to be a personal militia with no regulation. Hence,the real American Carnage … death by gun.

In a timely coincidence, today’s case at the Supreme Court deals with a Second Amendment Case. Many Republican politicians these days appear to recognize the Constitution only when it deals with this particular amendment and they’ve been busy stacking the court to be pro life except when it comes slaughter by gun.

Woman holding a revolver pistol standing in front of a piano in a burning city's empty street

Watch it burn, Gray Zhao

What may happen today at the Court? This is from today’s NYT.  “After Long Gap, Supreme Court Poised to Break Silence on Gun Rights
Following a change in personnel, the court could expand the scope of Second Amendment rights and chastise lower courts that have upheld gun control laws.”

It has been almost 10 years since the Supreme Court last heard a Second Amendment case. On Monday, a transformed court will return to the subject and take stock of what has happened in the meantime.

The nation has had a spike in gun violence. And lower courts have issued more than 1,000 rulings seeking to apply the justices’ 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established an individual right to own guns but said almost nothing about the scope of that right.

The new case concerns a New York City ordinance that limited the transport of guns outside an owner’s home. Fearing a loss in the Supreme Court, to say nothing of a broad ruling from the court’s conservative majority on what the Second Amendment protects, the city repealed the ordinance and now argues that the case is moot. But the court may be ready to end its decade of silence, elaborate on the meaning of the Second Amendment and, in the process, tell lower courts whether they have been faithful to the message of the Heller decision.

Proponents of gun rights and some conservative justices say lower courts have been engaged in lawless resistance to the protections afforded under the Second Amendment by sustaining unconstitutional gun-control laws.

Again, what don’t they get about “well regulated” and the 18th century idea of a “militia”?

On Monday the court hears arguments in a case from New York, a city and a state with some of the toughest gun regulations in the country. Several gun owners and the NRA’s New York affiliate challenged the rules for having a handgun at home. They contended the city gun license was so restrictive it was unconstitutional.

Specifically, they said the state law and city regulations violated the right to bear arms because they forbid handgun owners from carrying their pistols anywhere other than seven firing ranges within the city limits. That meant that pistol owners could not carry their guns to a second home, or to shooting ranges or competitions in other states nearby. The lower courts upheld the regulations as justified to protect safety in the most densely populated city in the country.

But when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the gun owners appeal, the state and the city changed the law to allow handgun owners to transport their locked and unloaded guns to second homes or shooting ranges outside the city.

With those changes, the first question Monday will be whether the case is moot and should be thrown out because New York has already given the gun owners everything they asked for in their lawsuit.

“This is an instance where it appears the petitioners won’t say ‘yes’ for an answer,” says James Johnson, counsel for the city of New York.

But former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who represents the gun owners, counters that the amended regulations still give the city too much power to regulate.

“The city of New York never expressed any doubt about the constitutionality of these regulations when they were winning in the district court and the court of appeals,” argues Clement. “And then lo and behold, all of a sudden the city decides you know maybe we don’t need these regulations after all.”

And, he observes, the city is still defending the original regulations.

The city is indeed doing that because the justices refused in October to throw the case out on mootness grounds, opting instead to hear the mootness arguments today, along with the direct challenge to the regulations themselves.

Testing a “moot” law seems odd to me.  New Orleans wasn’t the only city with gun violence yesterday.  Two kids  were wounded in a shoot out in the The Bronx.  Trace.org includes all these stories in it’s gun related news today.

Two kids were wounded in a mass shooting in the Bronx. Five people, including a 10-year-old and 14-year-old boy, were shot on a retail strip in the South Bronx on the afternoon before Thanksgiving. An after-school program was about to start classes when the unknown gunman began firing at a busy intersection. The director of the program was unconsoled by the fact that all the victims survived. “That’s just luck,” he told The New York Times“Every bullet has its own trajectory. We might not be so lucky next time.”

These shootings have also gone into the Gun Violence Archive where you can be horrifed by the list and dots on a map of the USA showing the 2019 shootings for the country.

This hopeful analysis argues the case could “fizzle” but it also explains the politics involved.  The Republicans are as entrenched as ever.

The mootness fight has taken on political dimensions. In August, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and four colleagues filed an unusually pointed brief that said the court would be undermining its own legitimacy if it ruled in the case.

The Democrats’ brief pointed to the millions of dollars spent by outside groups on recent Supreme Court battles. Trump’s two appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were confirmed in the Senate on nearly party-line votes.

“To stem the growing public belief that its decisions are motivated mainly by politics, the court should decline invitations like this to engage in ‘projects,’” the Democrats argued, highlighting a word the challengers used in one of their court filings.

Whitehouse’s brief provoked an equally sharp response from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his Republican colleagues. They told the justices to “stand firm” and “not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians.”

Trump has had strong support from gun owners and the National Rifle Association since his 2016 campaign. He has occasionally stated support for expanded background checks — particularly when mass shootings lead to a public outcry — but later backed off, expressing doubt they would be effective in curbing gun violence.

The administration is urging the Supreme Court to decide the case, telling the justices the dispute is still meaningful because residents could seek damages.

The court has hinted it may want to rule. In October, the justices refused to dismiss the case as moot but said they would revisit the issue at the argument.

Time Magazine has interviewed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and has this bottom line. ‘I Don’t Trust Anyone at All.’

But he also pushed back on Trump’s recent claims about corruption in Ukraine, and questioned the fairness of Trump’s decision to freeze American aid. “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” he said. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo.”

Zelensky’s focus during the interview, as it has been throughout his time in office, was on the effort to end Ukraine’s war against Russia and its proxies, who still control two separatist strongholds in the region of Ukraine known as the Donbass. More than 13,000 Ukrainians have died as a result of that conflict, and more are killed or wounded every week. Yet the European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting have been stalled for over three years.

So much violence, so many lives, and so many power grabs and that’s enough for me today.  I’m pretty sure the judiciary committee’s impeachment hearings will fill up the week shortly.  His lawyers declined to become involved as did the Kremlin Potted Plant who complained that he will be in NATO meetings this week. Obviously this trip will interrupt his Presidential Fox an Friends time so he will be peevish.

President Donald Trump on Monday blasted House Democrats for holding impeachment hearings while he is at a NATO summit in London and claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had cleared him of wrongdoing in an interview published earlier in the day.

Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House for the summit, Trump said Democrats had “decided” to hold the upcoming hearings at “the exact time” he’s in London. The president also said Zelenskiy “came out and said very strongly that President Trump did nothing wrong,” adding, “that should end everything, but that will never end it.”

Please go read that quote up there again and see if that’s your take away.  It certainly isn’t mine.

Anyway, let’s get through the month and the year as well we can.  Love to you all!  May peace surround you!

What’s on your reading, blogging, and watching lists today?