Posted: February 10, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Christian nationalists, classified documents, Department of Justice, destruction of documents, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, January 6 insurrection, Kim Jong Un, Maggie Haberman, Michigan, National Archives, Rudy Giuliani, seizing voting machines, White House toilets
Painting by Janie Olsen
Well, now we know why Trump was obsessed with low water toilets. It turns out he was trying to flush torn up documents in the White House bathrooms.
Axios: Haberman book: Flushed papers found clogging Trump WH toilet.
While President Trump was in office, staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper, Maggie Haberman scoops in her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man.”
Why it matters: The revelation by Haberman, whose coverage as a New York Times White House correspondent was followed obsessively by Trump, adds a vivid new dimension to his lapses in preserving government documents. Axios was provided an exclusive first look at some of her reporting.
Haberman also revealed to Axios that Trump claims to be keeping in touch with one of his favorite dictators, Kim Jong Un.
Haberman reports Trump has told people that since leaving office, he has remained in contact with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — whose “love letters,” as Trump once called them, were among documents the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.
The book will be published in October. Read more about it at Axios.
More on Trump’s destruction of documents:
The Washington Post: National Archives asks Justice Dept. to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records.
The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former president for a possible crime, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Full Moon Hare, by Andrew Bailey
The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that were not handed back in to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department, the people familiar with the matter said.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive request. The two people said the discussions about the matter remained preliminary, and it was not yet clear whether the Justice Department would investigate. The department also might be interested in merely reclaiming classified materials. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
The New York Times: Archives Found Possible Classified Material in Boxes Returned by Trump.
The National Archives and Records Administration discovered what it believed was classified information in documents Donald J. Trump had taken with him from the White House as he left office, according to a person briefed on the matter.
The discovery, which occurred after Mr. Trump returned 15 boxes of documents to the government last month, prompted the National Archives to reach out to the Justice Department for guidance, the person said. The department told the National Archives to have its inspector general examine the matter, the person said.
It is unclear what the inspector general has done since then, in particular, whether the inspector general has referred the matter to the Justice Department.
An inspector general is required to alert the Justice Department to the discovery of any classified materials that were found outside authorized government channels.
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: Documents weren’t the only things Trump tore up while in office.
Former president Donald Trump liked the feel of tearing things up — figuratively, as he did with laws and norms of public service; but also literally, as he did with documents that he was required to preserve under the Presidential Records Act. Having refused to give his elected successor a smooth and orderly transition, Mr. Trump then skulked away to Mar-a-Lago in Florida with 15 boxes of official documents and mementos that should have gone to the National Archives.
The Post reported this past weekend that Mr. Trump routinely destroyed briefing papers, schedules, articles, letters and memos, ripping them into quarters or smaller pieces, leaving the detritus on his desk in the Oval Office, in the trash can of his private West Wing study or on the floor of Air Force One. Mr. Trump’s aides were left to retrieve the pieces and piece them back together, sometimes hunting through special “burn bags” intended for classified material to find torn documents that needed to be reassembled and preserved. Recently, the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection received documents from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that appeared to have been torn apart and taped back together.
Mr. Trump broke the law. After President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, Congress passed a number of laws intended to preserve the integrity of documents and other materials from Nixon’s presidency, and made the laws applicable to all future presidents. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 ended the practice of records belonging to former presidents and declared that the United States shall “reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of presidential records.” The law requires a president to “take all such steps as may be necessary” to make sure the records are preserved — an important pillar of accountability in a democracy and also essential for historical understanding of the presidency….
Mr. Trump, who mercilessly attacked Hillary Clinton for using a private email server, turned out to be a slovenly steward of the people’s property. He regarded himself as above the law, but he was not. What’s left of the jigsawed and taped-up pages might not provide the thoroughgoing record of his presidency that the law demands, but they are a wrenching testament to his penchant for wanton destruction.
Wild Rabbit, by wildlife photographer Julian Rad
Here’s another bonkers story that The Washington Post broke yesterday: Giuliani asked Michigan prosecutor to give voting machines to Trump team.
In the weeks after the 2020 election, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other legal advisers to President Donald Trump asked a Republican prosecutor in northern Michigan to get his county’s voting machines and pass them to Trump’s team, the prosecutor told The Washington Post.
Antrim County prosecutor James Rossiter said in an interview that Giuliani and several colleagues made the request during a telephone call after the county initially misreported its election results. The inaccurate tallies meant that Joe Biden appeared to have beaten Trump by 3,000 votes in a Republican stronghold, an error that soon placed Antrim at the center of false claims by Trump that the election had been stolen.
Rossiter said he declined. “I said, ‘I can’t just say: give them here.’ We don’t have that magical power to just demand things as prosecutors. You need probable cause.” Even if he had had sufficient grounds to take the machines as evidence, Rossiter said, he could not have released them to outsiders or a party with an interest in the matter.
Legal scholars said it was unusual and inappropriate for a president’s representatives to make such a request of a local prosecutor. “I never expected in my life I’d get a call like this,” Rossiter said….
Giuliani’s team called Rossiter around Nov. 20, 2020, Rossiter said, as it worked to overturn Trump’s defeat to Biden. The direct appeal to a local law enforcement official was part of a broader effort by Trump’s allies to access voting machines in an attempt to prove that the election had been stolen. That effort extended to a recently disclosed draft executive order for Trump’s signature to have National Guard troops seize machines across the nation.
Jacqueline Alemeny, one of the reporters on the WaPo story, appeared on MSNBC yesterday.
Raw Story: ‘This story is fairly shocking’: WaPo reporter breaks down latest ‘bonkers’ reports on Trump’s final days as president.
Antrim County prosecutor James Rossiter told the newspaper that Giuliani and others called him around Nov. 20, 2020, and pressed him to hand over the voting machines so they could be examined for fraud, as part of an ongoing scheme to undo Trump’s loss in Michigan, and journalist Jackie Alemany explained the significance of her colleagues’ findings to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Painting by Scott Gustafson
“Well, it’s amazing, first of all, we are continuing to find so much new information that has yet to be uncovered, which is exactly what the Jan. 6 committee is doing,” Alemany said. “But this story especially is just fairly shocking because it shows them actually trying to implement some of their plans that we’ve seen sketched out in executive orders to seize voting machines. Here is a situation where they dialed in on a specific county and found a reason to do so despite it being obviously quite unconstitutional.”
“Even in the conversations I’ve had just in the past few months there are still a lot of people involved with this effort who believed that these voting machines needed to be seized to be protected so they could prove fraud,” she added. “These people are true believers.””That’s why those clips that were just played are so important for everyone to remember, especially when this investigation might potentially lead to whether or not this was negligence or actually intentional behavior,” Alemany said. “But it is clear that the former president knew exactly what was wrong with doing these things. He called up Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton on ripping up documents, taking classified information, accepting gifts, mischaracterizations because he knew it was politically damaging and gave the appearance of being corrupt. That’s what I think ultimately the DOJ is going to have to do if they decide ultimately to investigate the 15 boxes taken from Mar-A-Lago, which is what the archives has asked them to do according to our reporting yesterday.”
More on the Trumpist efforts to seize voting machines from Betsey Woodruff at Politico: Read the emails showing Trump allies’ connections to voting machine seizure push.
Leaked emails obtained by POLITICO reveal the connection of two outside Trump allies — Washington lawyer Katherine Friess and Texas entrepreneur Russell Ramsland — to the failed push to seize voting machines as part of a desperate bid to overturn the 2020 election.
The emails show then-President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and another former military officer workshopping the draft of a Trump executive order to seize voting machines. The emails between Flynn, retired Army Col. Phil Waldron and others provide new details about the events that preceded the assault on the Capitol last Jan. 6.
It is unclear if the Capitol riot select committee has obtained the emails. POLITICO is publishing them here, solely redacting the senders’ and recipients’ email addresses. We are also publishing two draft versions of the executive order that would have directed authorities to seize voting equipment. CBS News previously reported on the contents of the emails and published one of the drafts.
All three emails were sent to multiple people, including Friess, who appears to have lobbied for a variety of clients, including groups linked to Puerto Rico and the telecommunications industry. Friess’ visibility into the efforts to overturn the election results on Trump’s behalf has drawn comparatively little scrutiny. She did not respond to requests for comment. Ramsland, Waldron, Flynn and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — also a central player in the election subversion effort — also did not respond to requests for comment.
Head over to Politico to read the emails.
Bunny Graces, by Belinda Cooper
At The Religion News Service, a report on how right win Christians and the January 6 insurrection: New report details the influence of Christian nationalism on the insurrection.
A team of scholars, faith leaders and advocates unveiled an exhaustive new report Wednesday (Feb. 9) that documents in painstaking detail the role Christian nationalism played in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and calling it an unsettling preview of things to come.
Christian nationalism was used to “bolster, justify and intensify the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” said Amanda Tyler, head of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which sponsored the report along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Tyler’s group is behind an initiative called Christians Against Christian Nationalism.
The organizations touted the report as “the most comprehensive account to date of Christian nationalism and its role in the January 6 insurrection,” compiled using “videos, statements, and images from the attack and its precursor events.”
The report, written chiefly by Andrew L. Seidel, an author and director of strategic response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, details Christian nationalist rhetoric and symbols that cropped up at events that preceded the insurrection, such as the Million MAGA March and Jericho Marches that took place in Washington in Dec. 2020 and Jan. 2021.
Christian nationalist symbols and references, Seidel writes, were ubiquitous at those gatherings, as well as the insurrection itself: flags with superimposed American flags over Christian symbols; “An Appeal to Heaven” banners; prayers recited by members of the extremist group Proud Boys shortly before the attack or by others as they stormed the Capitol.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Seidel highlighted what he called the preponderance of “openly militant” rhetoric that conflated religion and violence. He pointed to William McCall Calhoun Jr., a Georgia lawyer who reportedly claimed on social media that he was among those who “kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door” on Jan. 6. (Calhoun later claimed in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he did not personally enter any office.)
What are your thoughts on all this insanity? What other stories are you following today?
Posted: June 3, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because | Tags: Arizona "recount", Donald Trump, Hitler-style rallies, Maggie Haberman, Michael Flynn, Mike Lindell, Trump blog, Trump delusions
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!
The demented, delusional former guy just won’t go away. After being banned by Twitter and Facebook, he decided to start a blog. Sadly, very few people read it, so he shut it down yesterday after less than a month. Next he plans to return to his Hitler-style rallies. Will anyone show up to listen to his paranoid rants?
Politico on the blog shutdown and his future plans: Trump’s blog failed, bigly. His next online venture won’t be any easier, by Tina Nguyen and Meredith McGraw.
Twenty-nine days after it was launched, Donald Trump’s blog, once hailed by fans as his triumphant return to the internet, was taken down on Wednesday.
It was just less than three Scaramuccis old. Noah’s Ark had a longer run.
Publicly, Trump’s team described the decision to remove the “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” site as part of the process towards building a larger online footprint. But privately, aides conceded that the site was proving to be more of a nuisance than a bullhorn.
“It was more of a hassle than anything else and it wasn’t getting as many views as the team would have liked,” conceded a person familiar with the decision to take down the blog. “It was drawing more negative press than positive press.” [….]
As Trump’s team took down the blog, it promised that something better was in the offing — a Trump-focused, Trump-branded, Trump-world social network, free of the constraints imposed by Big Tech….
So far, no new platform has been revealed. Anddespite reports leaked out of Mar-a-Lago about a string of meetings with MAGA-friendly developers and apps, the reality is that creating a stand-alone Trump platform — even with an eager, preexisting user base — is, experts say, a daunting, almost-impossible task, complicated by cash, technology, time and talent….
Creating and maintaining a social media site untainted by the influence of Big Tech could run into the tens — if not hundreds — of millions of dollars, tech experts say. Computer servers that could process his fans’ activity — every like, comment, share and video play — would have to be purchased. Expensive engineers would also have to be hired to maintain those servers. And as several tech experts told POLITICO, skimping on these investments could mean a site that crashes every hour.
“This isn’t going out and buying a PC from Walmart, and connecting to the internet and hosting a website,” said Keith Townsend, a technology consultant who specializes in cloud computing. “This is very complicated stuff that is extremely costly, and who’s going to fund it when it’s not making money?”
I doubt if Trump and his loser buddies have what it takes build and operate a social media platform. It’s more likely Trump will hit the road and try to get people to show up to his ridiculous rallies. Max Burns at MSNBC: Upcoming Trump rallies will help Democrats remind voters why they didn’t re-elect him.
This summer doesn’t mark only the return of family get-togethers and concerts. Starting this month, Donald Trump will also be back in public circulation, headlining a series of grievance-filled summer MAGA rallies. That’s fantastic news for anxious Democrats.
The return of Trump’s hourslong, rambling rallies is an opportunity to remind the American people that Republican craziness hasn’t dialed down a notch since his defeat last year and to remind Democrats that they have reason to focus on their shared values rather than their increasingly bitter Senate fights.
By now, most Americans know to expect plenty of disinformation and far-right red meat from Trump rallies. But they have yet to see how a humiliating electoral loss and Trump’s delusional claim that he’s about to be reinstated as president any day now mix with tried-and-true Trump classics like spreading election disinformation and whining about “cancel culture.”
After just one Trump rally, Democrats will have plenty of sound bites and offensive content to make the case that Trump has learned nothing during his time out of office surrounded by yes men at Mar-a-Lago. And while Trump’s unhinged claims to be the president of the United States in exile may energize MAGA fundamentalists, they reaffirm to independents and moderates who rejected Trump that he has, if anything, grown more detached from reality in defeat.
Let’s hope the cable networks will resist broadcasting these horror shows. Hayes Brown at MSNBC: Donald Trump’s rebooted rallies have no place on your television.
NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reported Tuesday: “Trump returns to the electoral battlefield Saturday as the marquee speaker at the North Carolina Republican Party’s state convention. He plans to follow up with several more rallies in June and July to keep his unique political base engaged in the 2022 midterms and give him the option of seeking the presidency again in 2024.”
Trump’s return to the rally circuit is a major shift in what has so far been a period of stasis and self-imposed exile at Mar-a-Lago, where he accepts supplicants seeking his blessing and sends out press releases on a blog nobody reads. By holding rallies again, even if theoretically for the benefit of other candidates, Trump will potentially regain a major platform. Let’s hope the news media has learned its lesson from six years ago.
I think that how these first post-presidential rallies are covered will reveal a lot about lessons learned — or not learned. Saturday’s rally simply does not need to be covered live.
For one thing, we can assume that Trump will not hold back. I argued last month that Trump’s social media silence was giving Republicans the space to work on their long-term projects, including re-engineering state election laws. But Trump’s return is likely to push the party line even further — whether GOP leaders want him to or not.
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported Tuesday that Trump has been telling people “he expects he will get reinstated by August.” That’s delusional. But it’s something that famed loon, er, lawyer Sidney Powell has been telling other far-right luminaries for months.
And it’s exactly what Trump’s base wants to hear — directly from the man himself.
Yes, Trump supposedly believes he is going to be “reinstated” as president this summer. Will Sommer and Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast: MyPillow Guy Says He ‘Probably’ Inspired Trump’s Idea of an August Restoration.
Donald Trump now has the notion in his head that he could return to the White House in August. But the twice-impeached former president isn’t getting that idea from constitutional scholars or his attorneys. Instead, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell apparently inspired him.
“If Trump is saying August, that is probably because he heard me say it publicly,” Lindell told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
On Monday, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that former President Trump has been telling associates that he expects to be restored to the presidency by August, after Joe Biden’s election is overturned. President Biden, of course, legitimately won the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and decisively beat Trump in the Electoral College and popular vote. There is zero evidence to support that Trump will be back in office this summer, or at any time during the rest of Biden’s term.
In the past few weeks, two people close to Trump told The Daily Beast, the ex-president had begun increasingly quizzing confidants about a potential August return to power. What’s more, he claimed that a lot of “highly respected” people—who Trump did not name—have been saying it’s possible. Both of these sources said they decided not to tell the former president what they were thinking, which was that it’s not going to happen.
It’s unclear, exactly, who these “highly respected” individuals are, and who first got the August chatter in Trump’s ear. But the August deadline tracks with comments made by Lindell, one of the ex-president’s most ardent supporters and personal friends.
It sounds bizarre and ridiculous, but Trump’s deluded followers might very well believe him and take to the streets when the “reinstatement” doesn’t happen. Jamie Gangel and Donnie O’Sullivan at CNN: Talk of overturning the 2020 election on new social media platforms used by QAnon followers sparks fears of further violence.
Hundreds of people gathered in Texas for a QAnon-sponsored conference over Memorial Day weekend to hear the biggest boosters of Donald Trump’s Big Lie downplay the Capitol riot and bandy about new threats of a coming coup.
Key Trump allies, including Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Allen West; and perhaps most notably Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., attended the three-day event, dubbed “For God & Country Patriot Roundup,” at the Omni Hotel in Dallas.
The QAnon conference came amid reports that Trump is attempting to orchestrate another election coup from his far-off kingdom at Mar-a-Lago. According to a Tuesday tweet from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the former President has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August.” Trump’s reported thinking echoes that of his former lawyer’s, Sidney Powell. On Saturday, Powell told attendees to the QAnon conference that Trump “can simply be reinstated.”
“A new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in,” she explained. “I’m sure there’s not going to be credit for time lost, unfortunately, because the Constitution itself sets the date for inauguration, but he should definitely get the remainder of his term and make the best of it.”
Powell was not the only speaker at this past weekend’s event who spoke directly about the possibility Trump could reclaim his throne soon.
And of course Michael Flynn called for a military coup at the same conference.
More stories on the danger we face from right wing Republicans:
Miles Parks at NPR: Experts Call It A ‘Clown Show’ But Arizona ‘Audit’ Is A Disinformation Blueprint.
E.J. Montini at The Arizona Republic: Will Republicans support Donald Trump’s summer coup attempt?
The Washington Post: Trump has grown increasingly consumed with ballot audits as he pushes falsehood that election was stolen.
Ben Jacobs at Vice News: The GOP’s ‘Off the Rails’ March Toward Authoritarianism Has Historians Worried.
David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Frightening New Republican Consensus. Conservatives may disagree with one another about what happened in 2020, but they’re converging on a belief that Democrats win close elections only through fraud.
Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: The Capitol Rioters Won. Although some Republican leaders deplored their violence, most have come to support the rioters’ claim that Trump’s defeat meant the election was inherently illegitimate.
The New York Daily News Editorial Board: Dangerously delusional Donald: Trump keeps lying to his faithful in the worst way.
The New York Times: Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters.
The Daily Beast: Is Glenn Greenwald the New Master of Right-Wing Media?
Have a nice Thursday!!
Posted: April 26, 2018 Filed under: corruption, Crime, Criminal Justice System, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Andrew McCabe, competency question, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, Fifth Amendment, Fox and Friends, James Comey, Jon Tester, Maggie Haberman, Michael Cohen, Ronny Jackson, Scott Pruitt, Southern District of New York, Stormy Daniels
The pressure is building on Trump. This morning he had a major meltdown on Fox and Friends. It was so bad that the hosts couldn’t hide their embarrassment and they finally had to cut off the call. Trump publicly accused James Comey and Andrew McCabe of committing crimes and for the first time he said the words “Stormy Daniels” and admitted that Michael Cohen was representing him (Trump) in Cohen’s dealings with Daniels. He also admitted that he spent the night in Moscow in 2013, despite what he told Comey. Finally, he said that he wasn’t going to keep his hands off the DOJ much longer.
Yahoo News: Trump sounds off on Comey, Cohen, Kanye and more in freewheeling ‘Fox and Friends’ interview.
President Trump called into his favorite morning show for a wide-ranging interview during which an animated — and, at times, angry — Trump weighed in on several scandals swirling around his administration. Chief among them: special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
The president chastised the Justice Department for greenlighting the Russia probe into his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia rather than pursuing a separate investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“Our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t, our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia,” Trump said. “There is no collusion with me with Russia and everyone knows it.”
On Michael Cohen:
Asked about the extent to which Cohen handles his legal affairs, Trump characterized his involvement as “a tiny, tiny little fraction.” But there was a notable exception.
“He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” Trump said, marking the first time he had ever spoken the porn actress’ name publicly. The disclosure also raised further questions about his earlier assertion that he had no knowledge that Cohen paid the porn actress $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“He leaked classified information to get a special counsel and leaked the memos which are classified — the memos were about me and he didn’t write those memos accurately. He wrote a lot of phony stuff,” Trump said as the Fox & Friends hosts looked on in silence. “For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant, so I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia, now, I didn’t go there, everybody knows the logs are there the planes are there. He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed there. Well his memo said I left immediately, I never said that. I never said I left immediately.”
Trump also said of Comey: “I did a great thing for the American people by firing him.”
Here’s his rant on McCabe.
I hope McCabe’s lawyer was listening, because I think he has a case for defamation.
Think Progress: Trump made 2 costly legal errors during unhinged Fox & Friends interview.
First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work….
Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press.
The day after the raid on his longtime personal attorney, Trump suggested that it shouldn’t even have happened because of attorney-client privilege.
But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.
The second legal goof:
Trump acknowledged during the Fox & Friends interview that Cohen did represent him during his dealings with Daniels. Trump recently claimed he had no knowledge of the payment at the time.
“Michael would represent me and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represented me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. He represented me and you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
But Cohen’s story about the secret Daniels hush payment — which may have been illegal if it was meant to help Trump’s campaign — is that he made it from his personal funds, without Trump being looped in at all. Trump’s acknowledgement that Cohen “represented me” in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” undermines the repeated public claims of his own lawyer.
Read more details at the link above. Also see this piece at The Guardian: Trump admits Michael Cohen was his lawyer in Stormy Daniels matter.
You can watch a long clip from the interview at this Business Insider link. If you can’t stand to listen to Trump’s voice, at least watch it with the sound muted to see the embarrassed looks on the faces of the Fox hosts.
Here’s what Trump whisperer Maggie Haberman had to say about Trump’s meltdown.
And here we go. The government’s attorneys quoted Trump’s Fox and Friends rant in their filing for the court hearing in the Michael Cohen case today at noon.
Click on that link to read the entire document.
One more related story from The New York Times: Michael Cohen to Take Fifth Amendment in Stormy Daniels Lawsuit.
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit filed against the president by Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star better known as Stormy Daniels.
Mr. Cohen’s decision, disclosed Wednesday in a court filing in California, where the suit was filed, came a day before a federal judge in Manhattan was set to hold a hearing regarding materials seized from Mr. Cohen during an F.B.I. raid earlier this month.
Mr. Cohen cited the Manhattan investigation in his filing on Wednesday, saying that, if called as a witness in Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit, “I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.” [….]
Citing the Fifth Amendment in the Clifford case allows Mr. Cohen to avoid being deposed and revealing sensitive information in the more important criminal investigation.
In Trump “I know the best people” news, The White House has withdrawn the nomination of Ronny Jackson to run the VA. The Washington Post:
The White House withdrew the nomination of Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, to lead the Veterans Affairs Department on Thursday after lawmakers went public with a torrent of accusations leveled against him by nearly two dozen current and former colleagues from the White House medical staff.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Dr. Jackson announced that he was withdrawing his name for consideration to be the secretary of Veteran Affairs.
“Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes,” Dr. Jackson said in a statement provided by the White House press office.
He said that the charges against him were “completely false and fabricated.”
Within minutes of the withdrawal, President Trump lamented the loss of his nomination, and said that Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, would “have a big price to pay” for undercutting Dr. Jackson.
Happening right now: Scott Pruitt is testifying before Congress. He faces two hearings today.
Vox: Congress is grilling Scott Pruitt about his ethical breaches.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will face a double whammy of hearings on Capitol Hill Thursday that could make or break his career at the EPA. You can watch the C-SPAN livestream here.
The hearings were originally intended to give Pruitt the chance to pitch his agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. But members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, including some Republicans, are expected to grill Pruitt over his growing list of alleged ethical lapses.
A tsunami of accusations of improper dealings has emerged since Pruitt’s last trip to the Hill in January, from using sirens to get to dinner reservations to a sweetheart condo deal with a lobbyist to ousting staffers who questioned his luxury travel. These allegations have led to investigations from Congress, the White House, and government watchdogs. The Government Accountability Office already found that the $43,000 phone booth in Pruitt’s office broke the law.
And though his prepared statement for the Energy and Commerce Committee completely ignores the controversies around him, the New York Times reported that Pruitt is preparing for a confrontation with a set of talking points on his long list of scandals. He will argue, among other things, that he flew first class based on recommendations from his security staff and that he wasn’t involved in the decision to bypass the White House to get massive raises for two close aides.NB
Meanwhile, EPA employees protested outside the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday, decrying budget cuts alongside activists and lawmakers who want to “Boot Pruitt” out of office.
NBC News’ First Read suggests that Trump’s biggest problem might be the competency question.
This morning, President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs withdrew his nomination after new allegations against him surfaced. Today, Congress is expected to grillthe president’s EPA administrator over alleged ethical lapses. And the president’s personal lawyer and fixer is pleading the Fifth Amendment.
Yes, it’s chaos and controversy, which we’ve constantly chronicled here. But it’s also a matter of competency. According to this month’s NBC/WSJ poll, a majority of Americans — 56 percent — said that Trump’s administration isn’t competent, including 39 percent who said it isn’t competent at all. By contrast, 43 percent said it was competent, including 16 percent who said “very competent.”
To put those numbers into perspective, 50 percent of American said Barack Obama’s administration was competent in June 2014 (so after the Obamacare website crash during his second term), and 53 percent said George W. Bush’s administration was competent in March 2006 (after Hurricane Katrina).
So for all the potential dangers to Trump’s presidency — the Russia investigation, historically low approval ratings, Democrats possibly winning the House (and Senate) in November — the biggest could very well be the competency question.
Indeed, majorities of women (61 percent), seniors (58 percent), millennials (57 percent), independents (57 percent) and men (51 percent) said the Trump administration wasn’t too competent or not competent at all. Even whites were split down the middle — 50-50.
That’s a big problem.
That’s all I have for you this morning. I know I’ve only touched on a small part of what’s happening. So . . . what stories are you following today?
Posted: April 6, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bashar al-Assad, China, Deven Nunes, Donald Trump, Glenn Thrush, House Intelligence Committee, Maggie Haberman, Neil Gorsuch, North Korea, nuclear option, Rep. Mike Conaway, Rex Tillerson, Russia investigation, SCOTUS, Syria, tRumpcare, U.S. Senate
Breaking stories this morning:’
— First, Rep. Deven Nunes is “temporarily stepping aside” from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to the AP. Details to come. According to MSNBC, Trump himself wanted this to happen because he’s “concerned about his dropping poll numbers.” We’ll learn more as the day goes on, but it seems more likely that this decision probably comes from Prince Jared.
Nunes released a statement saying that left-wing groups had made baseless charges against him to the ethics committee, and he’s made this decision even though the complaints are politically-motivated. Democratic ranking member gave a brief statement in which he said he appreciates Nunes’ decision and looks forward to working with Rep. Conaway (R-Texas) who will now lead the investigation.
— Second, Paul Ryan held a press conference this morning to pretend that Trump-Ryancare is still alive. Supposedly the House is reaching consensus around a high risk pool–something that would never work to lower premiums for everyone. They’re all going home for Easter break soon, so we’ll see what happens when they come back. IMHO, this is just a face-saving effort by Ryan.
The Dallas News has a “developing” story on Conaway taking over: Texas’ Conaway takes over Russia meddling probe, as embattled Intel chairman steps down.
WASHINGTON — Texas Rep. Mike Conaway is taking the helm of the House-led probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, after embattled Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes agreed to step aside Thursday.
Conaway, a Midland Republican, is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and a member of the Intelligence Committee. He chaired the Ethics Committee several years ago — considered one of the more thankless tasks in Congress, given its role in policing and occasionally punishing colleagues.
He’s one of the few CPAs in Congress. Before his election in 2004, one of his clients was the oil firm owned by future president George W. Bush.
Also happening today:
President Xi Jinping of China
NBC News: Trump and China President Xi Jinping to Meet, ‘Set a Framework’ for Relations.
As Donald Trump gets set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a tête-à-tête at the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Thursday, experts say it’s time for the U.S. leader to let his past hostile comments about the Asian powerhouse fade with the Florida sunset.
Trump must start building a solid personal relationship with his counterpart and open a starter dialogue on a number of sensitive issues between the two nations, analysts add.
“Well, it’s going to be very interesting, nobody really knows, we have not been treated fairly on trade, no presidents taken care of that the way they should have, and we have a big problem on North Korea, so we’re going to see what happens,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday about his upcoming meeting with Xi.
“I’ll tell you we’ll be in there pitching, and I think we’re going to do very well” Trump added.
While the Chinese are strategic and conservative in their policy and diplomacy maneuvers, Trump has earned his reputation as brash and somewhat unpredictable, often venting governing frustrations on Twitter in 140 characters or less.
“[The Chinese] know that you cannot conduct foreign policy by Twitter, by tweeting, and brashness,” former Ambassador to China Max Baucus told NBC News.
I’m sure the Chinese know that all they have to do is say nice things about Trump and he’ll give away the store. He’s going to get played. I just hope it won’t be too damaging.
Mitch McConnell is determined to get Neil Gorsuch through the Senate despite a Democratic filibuster, and it looks like he will exercise the so-called “nuclear option.” The sad fact that Gorsuch is obviously guilty of plagiarism doesn’t seem to matter to Republicans.
Now I want to move on to what I believe is the most important story for the U.S. and the world right now.
After yesterday, I’m convinced that nothing that happens in the news is more important than the fact that the man who is pretending to be “president” is not only completely unqualified but also mentally unfit. There is something seriously wrong with Trump’s cognitive processes, and whether it’s dementia, drugs, or simple stupidity, we’re all in deep trouble.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman
Did you read the transcript of the interview Trump gave to The New York Times yesterday? I want to quote two sections of it here. During a discussion of the Gorsuch nomination, Trump claimed that Democrats have told him privately that they really don’t object that much to the pick, and here is his example:
TRUMP: Elijah Cummings [a Democratic representative from Maryland] was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”
TRUMP: And then he went out and I watched him on television yesterday and I said, “Was that the same man?”
TRUMP: But I said, and I liked him, but I said that was really nice. He said, in a group of people, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.” And then I watched him on television and I said, “Is that the same man that said that to me?”
Did Trump somehow confuse Elijah Cummings with some other black man? WTF is he talking about, why don’t these reporters press him on it? This “interview” could easily pass as an evaluation of a mental patient by two psychiatrists. Here’s another section in which Trump claims that the story of Susan Rice’s unmasking of U.S. persons when she was Obama’s National Security Adviser is “a massive story.”
I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world, I mean other than The New York Times.
HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.
HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.
TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a bigger story than you know. I think —
HABERMAN: You mean there’s more information that we’re not aware of?
TRUMP: I think that it’s going to be the biggest story.
New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush
THRUSH: Why? What do you think —
TRUMP: Take a look at what’s happening. I mean, first of all her performance was horrible yesterday on television even though she was interviewed by Hillary Clinton’s P.R. person, Andrea Mitchell [the NBC News journalist]. Course you’ve been accused of that also.
HABERMAN: Mostly by you, though.
TRUMP: No, no, no. Mostly by a lot of people. So you know, we’ll see what happens, but it looks like it’s breaking into a massive story.
THRUSH: What do you think are — what other shoes are there to drop on this?
HABERMAN: Yeah, what else could we learn on this?
TRUMP: I think you’re going to see a lot. I think you’ll see a lot.
HABERMAN: In terms of what she did and in terms of [unintelligible]?
TRUMP: I think in terms of what other people have done also.
TRUMP: I think it’s one of the biggest stories. The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that. But what, you know, what various things led into it was the story that we’re talking about, the Susan Rice. What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine. I’ve never seen them acting this way. Because that’s really an affront on them, you know, they are talking about civil liberties. It’s such an affront, what took place.
THRUSH: What other people do you think will get ensnared in this? Can you give us a sense? How far this might extend
HABERMAN: From the previous administration.
TRUMP: I think from the previous administration.
THRUSH: How far up do you think this goes? Chief of staff?
TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but —
TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but you know who. You know what was going on. You probably know better than anybody. I mean, I frankly think The Times is missing a big thing by not writing it because you’re missing out on the biggest story there is.
Why are these NYT reporters (Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush) patronizing Trump like this? I guess they are drawing him out to demonstrate that he’s a simpleton, but shouldn’t this be treated as a national emergency? The “president” is not well. No wonder there are always multiple “minders” in the room when he’s speaks publicly. Why are so many people pretending that this is somehow normal? We are facing multiple foreign crises right now and we have an incompetent “president” whose 36-year-old son-in-law appears to be running the government.
Yesterday’s Trump press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan was just as embarrassing. Trump spouted a lot of stream-of-conscientious nonsense about how disturbed he was by the chemical attack in Syria and that he had changed his point of view, and reporters pretended he had actually said something meaningful. Here’s the NYT story, for example. Yet Trump said nothing to explain what his policy was previously or what he had changed it to. He even went through that song-and-dance about how he won’t tell anyone ahead of time about what he’ll do “militarily.” This man is nuts, and the press should start saying so.
As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is every bit as incompetent as the “president.” Tillerson made a statement a couple of days ago that basically gave Asad permission to do whatever he wanted to the Syrian people. Business Insider reports:
Tillerson told reporters while he was in Turkey last week that the “longer-term status of President [Bashar] Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”
The remark signaled a shift in the US’s official position toward the Syrian strongman. Though they were criticized for failing to act against Assad, President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry had long called for Assad to step down in a monitored transition of power.
The US’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took an even stronger position than Tillerson, telling reporters that the administration’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
Haley’s comments stood in stark contrast to those of the previous UN ambassador, Samantha Power, who directly confronted Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies during a UN Security Council meeting in December with a fierce address.
“Three member states of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you,” Power said at the time. “You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame?”
And of course there’s the growing threat from North Korea, which Tillerson also likely aggravated. The Week: Rex Tillerson says the U.S. has ‘spoken enough about North Korea,’ won’t comment on latest missile launch.
Not long after the news broke that North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan, Tillerson released a brief statement Tuesday night confirming the launch of “yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile,” adding two very terse sentences: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” If you seek words of comfort in these uncertain times or angry declarations and threats of retaliation, Tillerson made it clear you had better look elsewhere.
If this is the secretary of state’s way of hinting he wants out of the job, Tillerson should know by now that all he needs to do is tag Jared Kushner, say, “You’re it,” and call it a day. Catherine Garcia
Here’s Charles M. Blow: Creeping Toward Crisis.
I am racked with anxiety that our buffoonish “president” — who sounds so internationally unsophisticated and who is still operating under a cloud of illegitimacy — is beginning to face his first real foreign crises.
What worries me most is that he seems to have no coherent plan, at least not one that he is willing or able to communicate. “I don’t show my hand” isn’t a strategy to conceal a plan as much as one to conceal the absence of a plan.
His statements are all bluster and bungling and bosh. Our commander in chief is not in full command of his emotions or facts or geopolitics.
We may sometimes think that the absurdity of Trump’s endless stream of contradictions and lies ends at the nation’s borders, but it doesn’t. The world is watching, and the world is full of dangerous men who see killing as a means of maintaining and exerting power. They see in Trump a novice and know-nothing, and they will surely test his resolve.
Trump has exposed himself to the world as an imbecile and burned through American credibility with his incessant lying. Even many of our allies seem confused and worried about where we stand and how we plan to proceed.
Trump is full of pride, obsessed with strongman personas, and absent of historical and geopolitical perspective. This is the worst possible situation. The man who could bring us into military engagement is woefully deficient in intellectual engagement.
Please go read the rest at the NYT.
It will clearly be another busy and chaotic day in politics. What stories are you following?
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