Friday Reads: C’mon Mueller Friday!!!

Mardi Gras Indians! Black New Orleans tradition that demonstrates traditional art and music of black neighborhoods.

We’re deep in lead up to Mardi Gras Day! The big parades are slogging through rain and the neighborhoods are lit! I love the traditional Mardi Gras practices more than anything so you’re going to see pix today of local traditions. Hopefully, that will carry you through Mueller Friday and all the incredibly, soul sucking news about what the nation’s number one Family Crime Syndicate is up to.

Yes. The Trump family criminal syndicate and their comfort with lying is on full display today with their denials that Trump had to override his entire administration’s objections to give son-in-law Jared Kusher any kind of security clearance.  Trump and Ivanka have both baldface lied about this.  For some reason, Republicans are still obsessed with the former Trump Fixer Michael Cohen’s lying rather than this case of lying that clearly threatens the national security of the country.

This led is a shared byline from yesterday’s NYT and is behind appalling. Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance.” Kushner is gallivanting around Saudi Arabia with the murderous MBS and hasn’t been actually interviewed or seen much recently.  He’s undoubtedly bringing home more bacon to the family crime syndicate while selling out the country.

President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.

Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, also said that at the time the clearance was granted last year that his client went through a standard process. Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and Mr. Kushner’s wife, said the same thing three weeks ago.

Asked on Thursday about the memos contradicting the president’s account, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”

 

The Baby Dolls have been a neighborhood tradition since the time of the Great Depression.

Trump Family Crime syndicate is led by the nation’s leading Nation Security threat–Dictator-curious Donald J Trump–who we have seen provide apologies for the murderous Vladimir Putin, MBS, and Kim Jong Un.  Today they have met with even more criticism than usual. His biggest sin of his latest dictator love affair is that of taking the word of Kim that he had nothing to do with the death of American Student Otto Warmbier.  The family has spoken via this WAPO article today: “Otto Warmbier’s family responds to Trump’s defense of Kim Jong Un, saying Kim’s ‘evil regime’ is responsible for their son’s death:

The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died after being detained for 17 months in North Korea, on Friday directly blamed leader Kim Jong Un for their son’s death a day after President Trump said he believed Kim’s account that he was not responsible.

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuse or lavish praise can change that.”

Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi that Kim felt “very badly” about Otto Warmbier’s death in 2017, several days after being released in a coma from captivity in North Korea.

“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said, responding to a question from a Washington Post reporter.

In December, the Warmbier family won a $500 million judgment in federal court against North Korea, with a judge ruling that the Kim regime was responsible for the torture and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier.Warmbier, then 21, was detained in Pyongyang in January 2016 after taking part in an organized tour of North Korea. He was accused of taking a propaganda poster.

Early Mardi Gras day in traditionally black neighborhoods you might catch a glimpse of a skeleton krew.

Meanwhile, Trump’s policies continue to take on the veneer of third world dictators with extreme human rights abuse.  This is from Kate Smith a CBS: “Infants as young as 5 months old are being detained by ICE, groups claim.”  Oh,and don’t forget! MIcheal Cohen has a history of lying and is going to jail for it.  So,yeah, these are INFANTS taken from their mother’s breasts but don’t worry, the Republicans are still frothing about the Cohen Show and Tell.

At least nine infants younger than a year old, including one who is just 5 months old, are being held in ICE custody at a rural Texas detention center without care that’s legally required.

That’s what three immigration advocacy groups claimed in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Thursday afternoon. The groups said there has been “an alarming increase in the number of infants” being held in ICE custody, and urged the department to “intervene immediately” at the Dilley, Texas, facility.

“We have grave concerns about the lack of specialized medical care available in Dilley for this vulnerable population,” said the letter from the three groups — the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Catholic Immigration Network, Inc.

The advocacy groups alleged the infants have been subject to “lengthy delays in receiving medical attention and lack of appropriate follow-up treatment.” They said one infant has been detained for over 20 days.

 

This Raw Story headline speaks for itself: “‘I was happy to do it for you’: Matt Gaetz overheard making stunning admission to Trump about Cohen threat”.  Since Cohen’s mission of threatening over 500 Trump irritants is over, Trump now hires Republican Congressmen as Fixers.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has fallen under investigation for an apparent threat against Michael Cohen — which he may have made at President Donald Trump’s request.

The Florida Bar Association is investigating a tweet Gaetz made, and later deleted, apparently threatening to reveal Cohen’s alleged infidelities to his wife, a day before the former Trump Organization lawyer testified before the House Oversight Committee.

Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) suggested during Wednesday’s hearing that he should be referred for possible criminal prosecution for witness intimidation or tampering.

Edward-Isaac Dovere, a staff reporter for The Atlantic, tweeted Thursday that he overheard a phone conversation between Gaetz and Trump, whom he said called the Florida Republican from Hanoi to discuss the Cohen testimony and apparent threat.

“I was happy to do it for you,” Gaetz said, according to Dovere. “You just keep killing it.”

Gaetz later refused to discuss the call, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, said the lawmaker’s comments should be investigated by both the Florida Bar and the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Yup. That’s my mayor with the all woman Krewe of Muses. So, that’s a big parade but I still had to put this in because this is the first Mardi Gras that all the krewes–even the big traditionally racist and sexist ones–will be saluting a Black Woman Mayor! The all women Nyx and Muses Krewes are among the most diverse in the city. Long may they roll!!

So, Fordham University has actually confirmed that Trump fixer Michael Cohen threatened them on behalf a Crime Syndicate Boss Donald J. Trump.  This is via Market Watch.

Fordham University is confirming it received a letter from Donald Trump’s then-lawyer threatening legal action if Trump’s academic records became public.

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has testified to Congress that Trump directed him to write letters warning his schools and the College Board not to disclose his grades or SAT scores.

Cohen has given the House Oversight and Reform Committee a copy of his letter to Fordham. It was dated May 2015, about a month before Trump started his presidential campaign.

 

Red Beans and Rice Parade on Lundi Gras in New Orleans Feb. 27, 2017. Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee – rhrphoto.com

Alex Wagner–writing for The Atlantic–writes about the Cohen Testimony.  We must never normalize this crap!

It was a frenetic scene on Wednesday morning outside hearing room 2154 in the Rayburn building of the U.S. Capitol complex: Reporters, producers, cameramen, and members of the public clogged the hallways as the Capitol Police barked at everyone to Stay to the side! and Clear a pathway! as the congresspeople of the House Oversight Committee made their way into the room, invariably flanked with an assortment of aides—their faces all plastered with weary, inscrutable looks signaling that they meant business. Michael Cohen was finally making his debut on the Hill, ready to sit for nationally televised hearings, and this was going to change everything.

Perhaps it did. Ironically, Trump’s preferred medium, television, may be the one that ultimately damns him.

Scandals, in the age of Trump, have taken on a certain numbing quality: vote rigging in North Carolina, a climate-science denier placed in charge of a climate-science panel designed to refute the conclusions of actual climate scientists, official subpoenas of an inaugural committee. These things come and go, provoking various degrees of indignation and debate, but they do not sear themselves in the American imagination. Nor have they provided any truly teachable moments, save for the fact that their frequent, passing nature tells us something broadly damning about our human appetite for behaving unethically.

But Michael Cohen’s testimony was something different. Here was a made-for-TV drama in the middle of a television presidency, an inflection point that drove home how unusual this moment is—in its sordidness and absurdity and lawlessness. Yes, cameras were everywhere, but Cohen’s testimony was made for the screen independent of the fact that many, many screens all over the nation were carrying it.

Foremost, Cohen offered a powerful indictment, clearly transmitted: The president of the United States is poison to our democracy. “He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen intoned in his opening statement. The description was, and likely will remain, impossible to forget. Equally so, the fact that not a single member of Congress chose to defend the president against these allegations—or even address the toxicity of the assessment.

Our newest small walking krewe parade: La Vie Boheme! Krewe du Boheme

Cohen will return this month to the halls of Congress before he does his 3 year stint in jail. Clearly, the Southern District of NY is not done with him as we got some tantalizing tidbits that there are investigations we do not know about quite yet.   The best headline I’ve read today is this one from USA Today. “Is anyone safe?”  That strikes a note on so many levels that it almost seems a moment of zen.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lead lead defense attorney, largely dismissed Cohen’s testimony as the product of a “tainted witness” whose own convictions related to financial fraud, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations called his credibility into serious question.

“Look, this whole thing started with allegations of collusion with Russia,” Giuliani told USA TODAY. “They haven’t proved that. All the rest are process crimes that don’t involve the president.”

While Cohen drew fresh attention during his congressional testimony to hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, he indicated that Manhattan prosecutors were continuing to review the involvement of Trump Jr. and Weisselberg in that plan to conceal an alleged affair with Trump. The Trump Inaugural Committee also is in the sights of prosecutors in New York, having recently acknowledged receipt of a subpoena seeking information related to possible fundraising irregularities.

And late into Cohen’s marathon House testimony Wednesday, after the the former Trump attorney offered a searing account of his dealings with the president, he dropped another stunner in a matter-of-fact exchange with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.

“Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven’t yet discussed today?” Krishnamoorthi asked.

“Yes,” Cohen responded, declining to elaborate because the issue is “currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York,” a reference to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

This circus may not leave town for some times but, at the very least, we could jail the clowns and the ring masters.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: The Usual Insanity Reigns in Trump World

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, there’s way too much news out there this morning. In Trump world, there’s never an opportunity to catch your breath and focus on one important thing. I can’t cover everything, so here are some random stories that caught my interest.

Cecile Richards has a new book out–Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead: My Life Story–and she included some creepy revelations about Jared and Ivanka Kushner. People Magazine: Planned Parenthood CEO Says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Offered ‘Bribe’ to Stop Abortions.

In a riveting passage from Cecile Richards’ new memoir, the Planned Parenthood chief says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were, during Donald Trump’s 2016 transition as president-elect, so eager to be recognized as shrewd political dealmakers that the soon-to-be first daughter and her husband made an offer that felt like a “bribe”: an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortions.

Richards says she “reached out” to Ivanka at the suggestion of a friend, in hopes of finding an ally in the Trump White House. Ivanka insisted on bringing Jared, so Richards asked her husband Kirk Adams to come with her.

According to a statement from Planned Parenthood given to Time.com, the purpose of the meeting “was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.”

After Richards explained this, she writes that Kushner told her Planned Parenthood “had made a big mistake by becoming ‘political.’ ”

“The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”

According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”

“If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win,” she writes. “In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money. It takes a lot to get Kirk mad, but it looked like his head was about to explode.”

Richards explained that there was “no way” Kushner’s proposal would work and that they’d continue to fight for funding.

“‘Our mission is to care for women who need us, and that means caring for all of their reproductive needs — including safe and legal abortion,’” she recalls saying.

Can you imagine the nerve? In Trump world, everything is about money. These people can’t even begin to conceive of the notion that there are people with personal values that are non-negotiable.

There’s another new book about Trump world–this time by Trump booster Ronald Kessler. Still, a few embarrassing tidbits are coming out in advice of its release date.

The Cut: Trump Reportedly Called Jared Kushner a ‘Little Boy.’

According to journalist Ronald Kessler in his new bookThe Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, when Kushner addressed reporters during a live television appearance, President Trump told the aides watching with him, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”

Kessler also claims that Trump once told Kushner and his daughter, Ivanka, that “they never should have left New York,” and he “made it clear to them that he would not mind if they gave up their White House roles.” [….]

Trump calling Jared “a child” seems rather unfair. Not only has president given his son-in-law a set of absurdly stratospheric, decidedly adult responsibilities, Kushner clearly looks more like a haunted doll than a little boy.

Kessler writes that Kellyanne Conway is the “number one leaker” in the White House except for Trump himself, who leaks as as an “anonymous source” to specific reporters in hopes of positive coverage. According to Kessler, Melania Trump is an important adviser to her husband, and she once “walked out on” Trump in 1998 when she found out he was cheating on her. Now you don’t have to read the book, which reported is filled with Trump boosterism.

Luke Harding, who wrote the terrific book Collusion, has a new piece on Paul Manafort’s machinations at The Guardian: Former Trump aide approved ‘black ops’ to help Ukraine president.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.

The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.

The strategies included:

 Proposing to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear a key opponent of the then Ukrainian president.

 Setting up a fake “thinktank” in Vienna to disseminate viewpoints supporting Yanukovych.

 A social media blitz “aimed at targeted audiences in Europe and the US”.

 Briefing journalists from the rightwing website Breitbart to attack Clinton, when she was US secretary of state.

Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipates later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Another interesting long read from The Guardian by Donna Ladd: Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs. It’s a portrait of one man–Benny Ivy–who as a kid joined “one of the oldest and largest white gangs in the US, the Simon City Royals.”

The Royals’ roots date to Chicago’s North Side in 1952, when two violent white “greaser” gangs – the Ashland Royals and Simon City – guarded Simon Park turf as Puerto Ricans moved in.

Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs. In 1968, the greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. (Their rhetoric is familiar: a Gaylords nostalgia websitecalled Latino gangs “storage bins for illegal immigrants”.)

The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.

But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed.

Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state.

Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race.

“Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers,” she says.

Much more at the link.

Trump is insisting on sending National Guard troops to the southern border because he heard about a so-called “caravan” of migrants marching across Mexico. We now have a “president” who uses to executive ordered to deal with fake crises. Trump probably doesn’t know that U.S. troops can’t take any actions against people to enforce domestic laws because of the Posse Commitatus Act. So he’s sending the troops down there anyway instead of just letting them train to do their real jobs. So what about this “caravan?”

The New York Times: ‘You Hate America!’: How the ‘Caravan’ Story Exploded on the Right.

It was the kind of story destined to take a dark turn through the conservative news media and grab President Trump’s attention: A vast horde of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the United States, and no one was stopping them.

A Central American woman gives water to a baby as a large group of immigrants sets up camp for a few days at a sports center in Matias Romero in Mexico’s Oaxaca state late Monday. (Felix Marquez / Associated Press)

“Mysterious group deploys ‘caravan’ of illegal aliens headed for U.S. border,” warned Frontpage Mag, a site run by David Horowitz, a conservative commentator.

The Gateway Pundit, a website that was most recently in the news for spreading conspiracies about the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., suggested the real reason the migrants were trying to enter the United States was to collect social welfare benefits.

And as the president often does when immigration is at issue, he saw a reason for Americans to be afraid. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” a Twitter post from Mr. Trump read.

The story of “the caravan” followed an arc similar to many events — whether real, embellished or entirely imagined — involving refugees and migrants that have roused intense suspicion and outrage on the right. The coverage tends to play on the fears that hiding among mass groups of immigrants are many criminals, vectors of disease and agents of terror. And often the president, who announced his candidacy by blaming Mexico for sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States, acts as an accelerant to the hysteria.

That’s the fake story, now for the real story.

The New York Times: Inside an Immigrant Caravan: Women and Children, Fleeing Violence.

MATÍAS ROMERO, Mexico — With a sarcastic half-smile, Nikolle Contreras, 27, surveyed her fellow members of the Central American caravan, which President Trump has called dangerous and has used as a justification to send troops to the border.

More than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, waited patiently on Wednesday in the shade of trees and makeshift shelters in a rundown sports complex in this Mexican town, about 600 miles south of the border. They were tired, having slept and eaten poorly for more than a week. All were facing an uncertain future.

“Imagine that!” said Ms. Contreras, a Honduran factory worker hoping to apply for asylum in the United States. “So many problems he has to solve and he gets involved with this caravan!”

The migrants, most of them Hondurans, left the southern Mexican border city of Tapachula on March 25 and for days traveled north en masse — by foot, hitchhiking and on the tops of trains — as they fled violence and poverty in their homelands and sought a better life elsewhere.

This sort of collective migration has become something of an annual event around Easter week, and a way for advocates to draw more attention to the plight of migrants.

But this particular caravan caught the attention of Mr. Trump, apparently after he heard about it on Fox News. In a Twitter tirade that began Sunday, he conjured up hordes of dangerous migrants surging toward the border. He demanded that Mexican officials halt the group, suggesting that otherwise he would make them pay dearly in trade negotiations or aid cuts.

Mr. Trump even boasted that his threat had forced Mexico’s government to halt and disperse the caravan participants. But there was no evidence of that on Wednesday.

Read the rest at the NYT.

What stories are you following today?