Posted: June 16, 2017 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Comey, obstruction of justice, Trump Russia investigation
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
We’re going further down the Nixon road to impeachment hearings except we’re not getting rid of Indiana Spiro Pence first. It’s difficult to imagine who is going to be # 46 at this point. Kremlin Caligula appears to be headed for the Nixon paranoia zone–if you read his tweets–while continuing to do untold damage to the basic functioning of our government and society in the mean time. It’s difficult to find a place to start every time I blog these days.
This headline just about knocked me off my chair. I’m beginning to think that Trump thinks all Black Americans grew up in subsidized housing and therefore are experts on it. I don’t know how else to explain this. Here’s the headline from NYDN: ‘President Trump chooses inexperienced woman who planned his son Eric’s wedding to run N.Y. federal housing programs’. This follows his odd appointment of Dr. Ben Carsons as the head of HUD. It speaks volumes about what he thinks about the life experiences of African American to me.
She’s arranged tournaments at Trump golf courses, served as the liaison to the Trump family during his presidential campaign, and even arranged Eric Trump’s wedding.
Now President Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton — who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned — to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York.
Patton was appointed Wednesday to head up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, where she’ll oversee distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Patton’s tight relationship with the Trump clan dates back to 2009, when she began serving as the family’s “event planner.”
“Responsible for organizing, executing and assisting with upscale events and celebrity golf tournaments,” her LinkedIn profile says. “Handle celebrity talent acquisition for various marketing projects with a specialized digital marketing agency, philanthropic events and golf tournaments.”
He seems to value whatever he thinks loyalty is over competence which explains the series of failed businesses his left in his wake. Charles Pierce has some interesting analysis in his Trumplandia Chronicles.
The deconstruction of the administrative state continues apace, and descends to low comedy, unless you happen to live in federally subsidized housing in the city of New York. Then, it’s not funny at all.
No. It’s not funny at all.
Meanwhile, we have more headlines about the Griftopia set out by the first family of greed and thuggery. Jared Kushner’s business dealings are under investigation by the Mueller team. This should get interesting. This may unravel a number of money laundering scams. It’s likely to involve offshore banking havens.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign-policy adviser for the campaign.
The Washington Post previously reported that investigators were scrutinizing meetings that Kushner held with Russians in December — first with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank. At the time of that report, it was not clear that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings.
The officials who described the financial focus of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Chris Britt / Illinois Times
There’s a dream team of specialists going after the Trump Criminal Enterprises and it’s a doozy. The woman investigating money laundering has already dug into the ugly world of Paul Manafort. The Vox article highlights the experience of both the Mueller team and the few lawyers that are willing to take on the Trump Syndicate’s defense.
In a spartan office at the Justice Department, a team of experienced prosecutors is conducting a rapidly expanding probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia — and into whether President Donald Trump himself may be guilty of obstruction of justice.
Led by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, the team includes heavy hitters like Michael Dreeben, an expert on criminal law who has argued more than 100 cases in front of the Supreme Court, and Andrew Weissmann, a seasoned prosecutor who’s spent his career going after organized crime.
Adding to the firepower are James Quarles, a former assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation; Jeannie Rhee, a former senior adviser to former Attorney General Eric Holder and a white-collar crime specialist; and Aaron Zebley, a cybersecurity expert who spent decades in the FBI before joining a private practice.
The appointments come amid growing signs that Trump himself is in Mueller’s crosshairs: On Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that the special counsel was directly investigating whether the president’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey was an effort to obstruct justice.
The Mueller team is setting up interviews with the nation’s top intelligence officials to find out whether Trump had asked them to try to persuade Comey to drop the FBI’s probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to the Post. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported Tuesday night that Mueller was also looking into possible money laundering by Trump campaign staffers and associates.
The fact that Mueller’s team can conduct such a broad probe — one apparently looking into every possible angle of the Trump-Russia scandal, from possible financial crimes to outright collusion with the Kremlin — is a reflection of just how much legal firepower he has assembled.
Mike Luckovich / Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Mueller Team now includes 13 lawyers.
The special counsel’s investigators are looking into questions of Russian interference in last year’s election, and plan to speak to senior intelligence officials, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Mueller is also investigating whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The Post reported that the interviews represent a widening of the probe to include looking into whether the President obstructed justice in suggesting to his former FBI Director James Comey that Comey drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, as well as for his firing of Comey.
Mueller’s investigators have asked for information and will talk to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, according to a source, who said they have also sought information from recently retired NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett. Coats and Rogers have testified that they were not pressured by the Trump administration.
The interviews are some of the first indications of the efforts of Mueller’s newly assembled team
Trump is tweeting his life away and likely many lines of potential defense. It seriously reminds me of the final days of the Nixon White House. I keep wondering if some one is going to have to stop him from nuking the Clinton Library at some point. He’s back attacking the Hillary Clinton again as well as fuming about the number of people taking a look at his actions and words. At some point, we will start to see his tax statements and his financial statements. This could be one of those things that goes down as a case study in psychology as much as politics.
President Trump issued an eyebrow-raising tweet Friday morning.
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” he wrote.
Trump’s tweet comes less than a day after another strange statement from a senior official in his administration.
On Thursday night, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued a statement in which he cautioned Americans against believing stories about the DOJ Russia investigation that cited unnamed sources:
“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”
Though Rosenstein did not explain what prompted the statement, many political observers connected it to recent reports that special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Department of Justice investigation into Russian election meddling, is also investigating whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice — though USA Today also noted that it came shortly after a Washington Post report that Mueller’s team is also investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings.
Indiana Spiro Pence has lawyered up. You absolutely cannot convince me–at this point–that he does not know where the bodies are buried. His Sargent Schulz act isn’t going to go far but he did get a good, experienced lawyer. He’s also fundraising today for his PAC which means he’s going to be paying top dollar for said lawyer. They go for about $1000+ an hour these days.
The night before, on the eve of Trump’s first foreign trip—and Pence’s private speech—two news outlets published a pair of eyebrow-raising stories that reflected mounting anxiety within the vice president’s inner circle. The sourcing and strategy seemed clearly choreographed. First, both articles aimed to distance Pence from the chaos engulfing Trump’s White House; CNN quoted “a senior administration adviser” who said Pence “looks tired” and never expected such mayhem on the job, while NBC cited “a source close to the administration” who complained of a “pattern” of Pence being kept in the dark on matters relating to the scandal-plagued former national security adviser, Mike Flynn. Second, both stories were authored by former Pence “embeds,” reporters who had spent months traveling with him and are expertly sourced among the vice president’s tight-knit team. And third, the news accounts cast Pence in a sympathetic light at the very moment when the D.C. media was, for the first time, beginning to hammer him. The New York Timeshad reported the day earlier that Flynn informed the Pence-run transition team before Inauguration Day that he was under federal investigation; the implications for Pence were staggering, and the White House categorically denied the story. But Pence had also courted trouble the week earlier by insisting that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was based on the deputy attorney general’s recommendation—a claim Trump promptly contradicted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, embarrassing the vice president and sending an awkward question echoing around Washington: Is Pence being kept out of the loop, or is he being deceitful?
Yeah. That’s the question alright. Pence is circling the paleoconservative wagons.
As the Russia investigation continues to expand, for example, Pence took steps this week to protect himself, hiring former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen as his own outside legal counsel, just as Trump has retained attorney Marc Kasowitz.
The vice president’s advisers are also discussing bringing on an additional aide to help with strategy — likely either Nick Ayers, a senior strategist to Pence who is chairman of the vice president’s newly launched super PAC; Marc Short, who currently heads up legislative affairs in the White House; or Marty Obst, the former manager of Pence’s Indiana gubernatorial campaign who is executive director of the super PAC.
The heat is also on the Justice Department’s Deputy Attorney General who released that odd statement on leaks. It sounds like it came from Trump more than a seasoned lawyer. Every one is still trying to decode it. Let me just repeat it so you can see it stand alone.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia probe due to Jeff Sessions’ recusal, released an unorthodox statement Thursday night:
“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations.
The general reaction,summed up by the NY Times’ Maggie Haberman, “Have literally never seen a statement like this.”
Rosenstein may be on his way to recusing himself.
The senior Justice Department official with ultimate authority over the special counsel’s probe of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election has privately acknowledged to colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the matter, which he took charge of only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ own recusal, sources tell ABC News.
Those private remarks from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are significant because they reflect the widening nature of the federal probe, which now includes a preliminary inquiry into whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he allegedly tried to curtail the probe and then fired James Comey as FBI director.
Rosenstein, who authored an extensive and publicly-released memorandum recommending Comey’s firing, raised the possibility of his recusal during a recent meeting with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s new third-in-command, according to sources.
Although Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to lead the federal probe, he still makes the final decisions about resources, personnel and — if necessary — any prosecutions.
In the recent meeting with Brand, Rosenstein told her that if he were to recuse himself, she would have to step in and take over those responsibilities. She was sworn-in little more than a month ago.
This seems like the summer of 1973 on steroids. We shall see.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 15, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: impeachment, obstruction of justice, Paul Manafort, Republican Party Fail
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Does the rule of law matter to Republicans any more? Is it all about installing a radical theocratic and corporate agenda now and letting who ever will do it run amok through everything we stand?
So, is it about to end and will the Republicans actually do it?
Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor have supposedly found sources that told them that a grand jury returned sealed indictments against Trump, Manaford, Flint and others. I’d write this off under normal circumstances but these two–from very different political viewpoints–seemed to be scooping the MSM on nearly every thing these days. They have at least one good source between them.
Separate sources with links to the intelligence and justice communities have stated that a sealed indictment has been granted against Donald Trump.
While it is understood that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means that, until Mr. Trump is impeached, he cannot be prosecuted, sources say that the indictment is intended by the FBI and prosecutors in the Justice Department to form the basis of Mr. Trump’s impeachment. The indictment is, perhaps uniquely, not intended or expected to be used for prosecution, sources say, because of the constitutional position of the President.
The biggest issue is that none of the MSM has picked up on anything yet or is unable to verify the details or won’t do it yet. However, today, Morning Joke and Meeka inkled this: Morning Joe says FBI close to exposing the president: ‘It’s a criminal issue — and Trump knows that’.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough believes President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey because he sensed the investigation was getting close to revealing whatever criminal actions he’s trying to hide.
The “Morning Joe” host compared the situation to the Showtime series “Billions,” which depicts a U.S. attorney pursuing a hedge fund billionaire named Bobby Axelrod, and he said the FBI had found strong evidence against Trump and his associates.
“The FBI has started pulling that string, and they are still pulling that string where it leads is not just an election issue, it is a criminal issue — and Trump knows that,” Scarborough said.
John Heilemann, the co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and an MSNBC political analyst, agreed that Comey’s firing was not an irrational action or a political miscalculation, but rather an effort to stop or slow the FBI investigation into his ties to Russia.
“The reason he did this is not because he’s out of his mind,” Heilmann said. “He did this is because, as you said Joe, I think he recognizes — he looked over at the FBI and said, this guy James Comey came to the White House, I asked him, if we believe this story, asked him for his loyalty, he wouldn’t give me his loyalty. He’s been investigating since last July, he’s now taking daily briefings on this matter, rather than weekly, he’s now asking for more prosecutors. Donald Trump knows what’s at the heart of this. I don’t know what that is, but he does, and he’s saying this guy knows, too.”
Scarborough said he’s heard from FBI sources that the investigation had gathered steam in recent weeks, and he said Comey was fired in response to that development.
“They have already found the string and they are pulling on it, based on my contacts inside the FBI and they are starting to tug on that string, and they are going to keep tugging, keeping going, and it’s accelerated because of the way he fired Comey, and he knows it,” Scarborough said.
So these two aren’t my favorite sources but we’re getting closer to the end game. Also, there’s supposedly a RICO investigation dealing with money laundering Russian donations to the RNC that’s heating up. We’re dealing with major criminal enterprises if all this is true and they can prove it. Just for side giggles, Meeka and Joke also mentioned that the White House Mommy hates President Swiss Cheese for Brains.
Steve Benson / Creators Syndicate
Former Trump Adviser and Campaign Manager Paul Manfort still appears to be a vital link in investigations second maybe to only General Flynn. Newsweek‘s Graham Lanktree follows the money and the investigation by top NY Lawyers today. Manafort’s lawyers appear to be on the offense trying to stop leaks.
New York state’s attorney general has begun an investigation into the real estate dealings of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to reports.
Manafort has made millions of dollars worth of real estate investments in the U.S. in recent years, using shell companies to purchase properties in New York, Florida, Virginia, and Los Angeles.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened an investigation into Manafort’s real-estate transactions, sources told Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. The outlets confirmed that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has also opened a separate investigation into Manafort’s real-estate dealings.
Sources told the WSJ last week that in an unrelated matter the U.S. Justice Department requested Manafort’s bank records in April as part of its investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia as it worked to influence the 2016 election.
Last month The New York Times revealed Manafort took out $13 million in loans from Trump-tied businesses soon after he resigned from the campaign last August amidst a scandal.
Manafort was forced to step down after he was accused by the Ukrainian government’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau of receiving $12.7 million in off-the-book payments from the country’s former President Viktor Yanukovych—an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Manafort advised the ousted leader’s election campaigns from 2004 to 2010. He has also worked as a political operative for dictators in Asia and Africa.
Manafort told The Times that “there is nothing out of the ordinary about” the loans and that he is “confident anyone who isn’t afflicted with scandal fever will come to the same conclusion.”
Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni hit back at leaks of the latest investigations in a phone call with Bloomberg Saturday, stating that “if someone’s leaking information about an investigation, that’s a crime.”
The disconnect between Republicans and reality continues as Vox reports: ‘Trump admits he fired Comey over Russia. Republican voters don’t believe him.‘
President Donald Trump has said the real reason he fired James Comey from the FBI was because of the bureau’s investigation into links between Trump’s 2016 campaign associates and Russia. But that doesn’t seem to have gotten through to the majority of Republican voters.
Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Republicans still believe the White House’s first rationale for Comey’s firing — that the FBI director was dismissed for poorly handling the investigation into Hillary Clinton emails — according to a recent public poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal. Overall, 38 percent of Americans still believe Clinton’s emails were behind the firing, according to the poll conducted from May 11 to 13.
Trump’s decision to fire Comey still isn’t playing well with the American public overall — only 29 percent of Americans approve of the decision, while 38 percent disapprove. And the reactions continue to be partisan; 58 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s decision, while 66 percent of Democrats disapproved. This is a continuation of early public polling on Comey’s firing from multiple outlets that showed Republicans were largely brushing off the Comey story.
One thing has changed however: Overall, 78 percent of surveyed Americans said they prefer a special prosecutor or independent investigation into the possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, including 68 percent of Republican voters. This has been a major call among Democratic lawmakers in Washington, and a demand Republican congressional leaders have been quick to push against. But among American voters, this poll suggests there is more bipartisan support.
The NBC/WSJ poll results suggest Republicans nationally are largely in step with their leaders in Washington on the Russia issue. News of Comey’s firing created some divisions among Republican politicians, who have expressed concern with Trump’s decision to fire a man currently investigating the administration. But overwhelmingly, Republican leadership has toed the White House’s line on Comey’s dismissal.
Chuck Todd is already saying Republicans are in the ‘danger zone’ for midterms. I’m so completely over these folks and their horse race style political coverage but let’s look at the why, at least.
There are two ways to look at the new national NBC/WSJ poll we released Sunday. The first way: President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey didn’t significantly change the president’s overall standing. Trump’s job-approval rating dipped one point from 40% in April to 39% now, which is well within the poll’s margin of error. And his fav/unfav score is 38% positive/52% negative — again basically unchanged from April.
But here’s the second way to view the poll: Trump’s 39% job rating is a screaming alarm bell for the Republican Party when you think about the midterms, which are still more than 500 days away. To put Trump’s 39% into perspective, George W. Bush didn’t reach that level in the NBC/WSJ poll until October 2005, so after the Social Security debacle, after the Iraq war turned south, and after Hurricane Katrina. And the GOP lost the House and Senate the following year. And Barack Obama NEVER reached 39% in our poll — his lowest approval rating was 40% in September 2014, right before Democrats lost the Senate (after losing the House in 2010).
Now a president’s job-approval rating isn’t the end all-be all for determining what happens in a midterm environment, although political scientists will tell you that it plays a considerable role. What’s more, there’s more than a year and a half between now and November 2018, so a lot can change. But if you see Trump’s 39% and think, “Hey, all things considered, it doesn’t look THAT bad for the president,” remember that we’re 116 days into Trump’s presidency, and he’s where George W. Bush was in October 2005 and about where Barack Obama was in September 2014. But this is also why the pressure is on Democrats to win at least one of two competitive special congressional elections coming up in the next month — in Montana on May 25, and in Georgia on June 20.
Congressman Al Green is all about impeaching Trump. The Texas Democrat announced his intentions to see it done. Green joins Maxine Waters in the effort to impeach Kremlin Caligula.
Texas Representative Al Green has called for impeachment proceedings to begin against President Donald Trump, saying that the president has put the US democratic process at risk.
In calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment, Mr Green specifically referenced the firing last week of former FBI Director James Comey, and remarks made by the president afterward. After firing Mr Comey, Mr Trump said he had considered the Russia investigation when firing the former FBI chief. He later tweeted that Mr Comey better hope that there aren’t recordings of conversations between himself and the president before he begins to speak out about what happened.
“These acts, when combined, amount to intimidation and obstruction,” Mr Green said during a press conference in his southwestern Houston district. “If the president is not above the law he should be charged by way of impeachment by the US House of Representatives.”
However, the key to this atm is in the hands of Congressional Republicans.
During an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius relayed the growing fear of Trump among Republicans, “Talking this week to several prominent Republicans, people who have not been sharp critics of Donald Trump, I heard the same thing, which is: This guy scares me. And I think the reason that people were scared this week is that they saw impulsive behavior, they saw a kind of vengeful, brooding about past slights. They saw a willingness to be — to be — just basically to lie to the country, not to tell the truth. And I think — one person said to me, there are no guardrails on this presidency. Another person said, this is Richard Nixon on steroids. In other words, this is kind of a hyperactive — so, I think that’s where we are at the end of the week. A lot of people are scared. And they wonder, how do we get out of this?”
The whispers that Republicans are looking for a way out have been getting louder off the record ever since the President accused Barack Obama of wiretapping him.
Republicans really appear to have believed that they could manage Trump. What they are finding out is that they greatly underestimated Trump’s capacity for misuse of executive power, the Russia scandal, and Trump’s own mental and emotional instability.
I do believe this is the beginning of the end but I have no idea how long–and more important how deeply damaging–this struggle will be. I hate to think that I heard most of this first from Louise Mensch or Jennifer Rubin but it is what it is.
Every single Republican must make a decision: Insist on full-throated, independent investigation of the firing, or be party to a possible cover-up. Every candidate for office in 2018 must be asked a question: If it is determined that Trump fired Comey to interfere with the Russia probe, would that representative vote for impeachment/senator vote to convict? Yes, it really has come to that.
I’ll just say I took it more seriously when I heard it from Lawrence Tribe.
The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice.
The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through what the framers called “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they cannot be trusted to continue in office.
No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate.
Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.
Well, it’s Tricky Dicky from Yorba Linda
Hip hip hip hurrah.
Tricky Dicky from Yorba Linda
Hip hip hip hurrah.
He walks, he talks, he smiles, he frowns,
He does what a human can,
He’s Tricky Dicky from Yorba Linda,
The genuine plastic man, oh yeah,
He’s the genuine plastic man, oh yeah,
He’s the genuine plastic man.
We need an update for “Don the Con from Mar-a-Lago. Hip hip hip hurrah.” And read this about Trump and “inconvenient data”. It’s just another way to fatten us all up for the big grift.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 13, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Comey, corruption, FBI, John Dean, obstruction of justice, Paul Manafort, Sam Irvin, Senate Hearings, T-Russia, Watergate
Happy Mother’s Day Weekend Sky Dancers!
As usual, we have no respite from the news and it looks like we get to kick Dick Nixon’s dead body some. Every where you turn you hear the word “Nixonian”. BB managed to find a lot of Trump/Nixon mash ups in political cartoons. I thought it completely symbolic to see a picture of Kremlin Caligula with Kissinger in the White House this week. I was just wondering if Kissinger was asked once more to pray. I actually bought and read Woodward and Bernstein’s ‘The Final Days’ just to read that entire scene. It still sits on my book shelf like a monument to the death of my belief in American Exceptionalism.
I probably could imagine a similar conversation taking place between Bannon and President Swiss Cheese for Brains. (My apologies for the ‘k” word,) The cut away would probably be to discuss the escalation in Syria/Afghanistan instead.
APRIL 22, 1973: THE PRESIDENT, H.R. “BOB” HALDEMAN, AND HENRY KISSINGER, 9:50–10:50 A.M., OVAL OFFICE.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Where is…where is that kike, Kissinger?
KISSINGER: I’m right here, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Oh…uh, Henry, good, I’m glad you’re here…I want you to get down on your knees, Henry, and pray for me…I’m up shit creek without a paddle. I’ve got the damn Jew press on me like a “kick me” sign taped to my ass.
KISSINGER: Of course, Mr. President.
HALDEMAN: You can kneel over here, Henry.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Never mind that…just get me some support from those sons-of-bitches in the cabinet. Tell them I’ve got stuff on them…pictures.
KISSINGER: But, Mr. President, you have these things?
PRESIDENT NIXON: We’ve got tons of stuff…tons…
KISSINGER: All right, Mr. President, but it would help me if I could…see the pictures.
HALDEMAN: We’ll get some for you, Henry.
KISSINGER: Good. Now, sir, I want to discuss the latest operation in Camb—(cuts off)
Well, some folks just have a lot of nerve and they think we’re such fools. They just want to be on the side that’s winning.
So, it will get worse if the Ryan/Trump economic plan gets passed. We know this. It’s nice to hear it from an esteemed Nobel prize winning economist though. Can we stop pretending the people that voted him found him the source of relief for economic distress? They’re about to get a shitload of it.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies risk creating growth that mostly benefits the rich and aggravates income inequality in the United States, Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton said.
Trump was swept to power on promises of help for poorer Americans but Deaton said his proposals to roll back regulations on finance and industry and cut healthcare benefits would mostly help corporate groups with political influence.
Trump’s plans to cut taxes and raise trade barriers, if enacted, might give a short-term income boost to some workers but would not deliver the long-term growth that is essential for mitigating the effects of inequality, he said in an interview.
“I don’t think any of it is good” for addressing income inequality, said Deaton, a Princeton University professor, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2015 for his work on poverty, welfare and consumption.
He was speaking on Friday after addressing a meeting in Italy of finance ministers and central bankers from rich nations at which inequality topped the official agenda.
The political shocks in 2016 of Trump’s U.S. presidential election victory and Britain’s Brexit vote have been linked to widespread dissatisfaction with stagnant living standards for many workers, forcing policymakers in many countries to grapple with ways to narrow the gap between the rich and poor.
Income inequality has grown sharply in the United States over recent decades and the World Bank says that at a global level the gap has widened too since the 1990s, despite progress recently in some countries.
The Trump administration says it will lift U.S. economic growth to more than 3 percent a year and bring more manufacturing jobs back to U.S. shores, helping workers.
But many economists say growth like that will be hard to achieve with employment already high and the baby boom generation retiring in large numbers too.
Deaton said restoring stronger economic growth, preferably through encouraging more innovation, would help reduce the anger among many people who feel they have been left behind.
“A rising inequality that probably wouldn’t have bothered people before does become really salient and troublesome to them (during periods of low growth). It poisons politics too because when there are no spoils to hand out it becomes a very sharp conflict,” he said.
Deaton said he did not think inequality was inherently bad as long as everyone felt some benefit from growth.
“But I do care about people getting rich at public expense,” he said, referring to political lobbying by business groups.
So onto the the criminal and traitorous group known as the Trump family syndicate and friends connected to all things Russian. The Senate is starting to follow the money and the bodies.
This robust compliance was not happening at the Taj Mahal. The Treasury Department found that the casino didn’t monitor or report suspicious activity. About half the time that Treasury investigators identified suspect behavior, the Taj Mahal had not reported it to authorities. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the FinCEN director, said in a statement at the time of the settlement. “Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”
The Trump Organization is not known for its careful due diligence. As I wrote in the magazine earlier this year, Ivanka Trump oversaw a residence and hotel project in Azerbaijan. The project was run in partnership with the family of one of that country’s leading oligarchs, and while there is no proof that the Trumps were themselves involved in money laundering, the project had many of the hallmarks of such an operation. There was no public accounting of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flowed through the project to countries around the world, millions of dollars were paid in cash, and the Azerbaijani developers were believed to be partners, at the same time, with a company that appears to be a front for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is known as one of the world’s leading practitioners of money laundering. Trump’s Azerbaijani partners are known to have close ties to Russia, as do his partners in other projects in Georgia, Canada, Panama, and other nations.
A former high-ranking official at the Treasury Department explained to me that FinCEN could have collected what are known as Suspicious Activity Reports from banks, casinos, and other places, about transactions involving any Trump projects. These reports could be used to create a detailed map of relationships and money flows involving the Trump Organization.
The Senate committee headed by Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Warner has been ratcheting up the pressure on Trump’s associates in the course of investigating Russian meddling in the Presidential campaign. On Thursday, the committee sent a subpoena to Michael Flynn, the short-lived national-security adviser, demanding documents that he didn’t turn over voluntarily. By asking the Treasury Department for more details about Trump and his associates, the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be signalling a widening of its interest from the narrow question of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign staff. (My calls to Warner’s office about this weren’t answered.) If the committee does begin to seriously consider the Trump Organization’s business practices and any connections those show to figures in Russia and other sensitive countries, it would suggest what prosecutors call a “target rich” environment. Rather than focussing on a handful of recent arrivals to Trump’s inner circle—Mike Flynn and Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser—it could open up his core circle of children and longtime associates.
The WSJ is on the forefront of this story and the Manafort probe. It’s nice to know that even papers known to be ‘captured’ by an agenda can still do straight up news.
The Justice Department last month requested banking records of Paul Manafort as part of a widening of probes related to President Donald Trump’s former campaign associates and whether they colluded with Russia in interfering with the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.
In mid-April, federal investigators requested Mr. Manafort’s banking records from Citizens Financial Group Inc., the people said.
It isn’t clear whether Citizens is the only bank that received such a request or whether it came in the form of a subpoena. Federal law generally requires that a bank receive a subpoena to turn over customer records, lawyers not connected to the investigation said.
Citizens gave Mr. Manafort a $2.7 million loan last year to refinance debt on a Manhattan condominium and borrow additional cash, New York City real-estate records show. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t ascertain if the Justice Department request is related to that transaction or whether the bank has turned over Mr. Manafort’s records.
I think the WSJ is getting less strict on its paywall practices for these items because you can go read the rest of it.
Comey to Trump:
Go ‘way from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I’m not the one you want, babe
I’m not the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong
To protect you an’ defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe
The FBI is not happy with the President and what he did to Director Comey. They’ve evidently not signed on to participate in some twisted version of The Apprentice. Trump has made quite a few institutional enemies from Park Rangers to the scientists in the EPA and HHS. The weirdish thing about all this is that he’s just made an enemy of the one institution he could ill afford to put off and was most likely to support his thuggish brand of justice.
Clearly, Comey underestimated Trump’s impatience—as well as the president’s pathological inability to allow anyone to question the legitimacy of his election, let alone keep pressing the investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia. Comey is now puttering in his yard in Northern Virginia. But the political and legal whirlwind that his firing has set in motion is just beginning to spin, with the White House and the F.B.I. subject to the greatest damage. Even pro-Trump agents are horrified and furious at how Comey was treated. “It shows us, the career people who care only about justice, that there is no justice at the top,” one agent says.
There were agents who found Comey priggish; within the bureau’s New York office, there was a faction that thought he’d soft-peddled the investigation of the Clinton Foundation. But those complaints have now been dwarfed by shock and revulsion at how Comey was fired—and how it reflects on them. “The statements from the White House that he’d lost the faith of the rank and file—they’re making that up,” says Jeff Ringel, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran who retired in May 2016 and is now director of the Soufan Group. “Agents may not have agreed with everything he did. I was one of the people who thought the director shouldn’t have stepped up and made those public statements about Hillary Clinton. But Director Comey was one of the last honest brokers in D.C. Agents are pissed off at the way he was fired, the total disrespect with which it was handled. It was a slap in the face to the F.B.I., to everybody in the F.B.I. The director being treated terribly, being called incompetent, is a signal that Trump has disdain for the bureau.”
Oops. Yet we still have slutty Republicans bending over backwards for the mad king.
Elected Republican officials are publicly defending Trump but privately are dumbfounded, disgusted and demoralized by this turn of events.
We haven’t had a single conversation with a top Republican that doesn’t reflect this. The worries are manifold
- This kills momentum on legislating, and unifies Democrats in opposition to everything they want to do.
- This makes it easier for Democrats to recruit quality candidates and raise money for the off-year elections.
- It sours swing voters.
- It puts them on the defensive at home. They want to talk tax reform and deregulation — not secret tapes and Russian intrigue.
- But mainly it reinforces their greatest fear: Trump will never change. They keep praying he’ll discipline himself enough to get some big things done. Yet they brace for more of this.
And of course, Trump voters could care less. The most immoral of them is the Evangelical base. At least the NAZIs are upfront about being deplorable.
But just like with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the vast majority of Republicans — and especially the Trump base — seem unfazed. For all the media/Democrat/Twitter histrionics, consider:
- The Gallup daily tracking poll shows Trump’s approval has held steady (40% the day of the firing, 41% two days later).
- Polls show two countries: In NBC News/Survey Monkey, 79% of Rs thought Trump acted appropriately, and 13% of Dems.
- Most elected Republicans are backing Trump or staying silent. AP reports that at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting out in Coronado, Calif., party leaders defended the president’s actions and insisted that they would have little political impact.
- The Comey topic is hot in traditional media, but cold on Facebook: Seven other events of the Trump presidency trended harder.
Be smart: Don’t underestimate how much wiggle room Trump bought himself with his voters and conservatives by putting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, enforcing the red line in Syria, and muscling a partial repeal of Obamacare through the House. He has a long leash with Trump Country.
So, like many folks my age, my head is spinning because we’ve seen this before. The only difference is that Nixon never basically admitted to a journalist that he obstructed justice. But then, Nixon did not have Swiss Cheese for brains.
One of my favorites quotes today comes from Watergate’s John Dean. “President Trump is an ‘authoritarian klutz’ — just like Nixon.”
In an interview with New York Magazine‘s The Daily Intelligencer, John Dean, the former advisor to President Richard Nixon whose call-recording testimony made the Watergate case, told reporter Olivia Nuzzi that both Nixon and President Donald Trump share alarming tendencies.
“I think they’re both authoritarian personalities,” Dean told The Daily Intelligencer. “We only know of Nixon’s full personality because of his taping system. But Trump just doesn’t try to hide anything, he’s just out there.”
Dean also said that both Trump and Nixon are “klutzy” when it comes to electronics, and that Trump’s apparently Luddite approach to technology may have made any recordings he’d made as apparent as Nixon’s were to Dean.
“I’m told he’s not very mechanical. He’s kind of like Nixon in that regard,” Dean said. “In other words, he’d have trouble surreptitiously recording somebody, you know, starting the machine, if it wasn’t going and what have you.”
On comparisons between Trump’s surprise firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, Dean told Nuzzi that there are some parallels, but they aren’t exact.
“There were some echoes, but not much more. Echoes being the brutal way it was handled, and so unnecessary,” Dean said. “But not quite the same stage, where Comey wasn’t defying Trump, whereas Archibald Cox clearly was, and both of them had the power to do what they did, but it wasn’t very wise to do.”
In the fallout from firing former FBI James Comey, Trump may have implicated himself in his own conversation-recording scheme. Trump also allegedly has a history of recording phone calls.
So, we’re once again about to see how well the checks and balances work. We seem reliant on the Senate and is there a Sam Ervin out there? It’s hard to see that Ervin’s neighboring state of South Carolina’s Lady Lindsey will go for the truth the way Ervin did. I remember coming home from high school with my hippy jeans, my books overflowing in my boy scout back pack, and undoing the tie backs that kept those jeans from getting caught in my 12 speed’s derailleur to my mother with the TV blaring. She never watched daytime TV because it was banal game shows and soaps. But there she was–frequently with our cleaning lady from maid service boston of like 15+ years–watching from the door way. Mildred–the big German woman who my mother called a good ol’ gal–was usually shaking her head like she’d seen the Third Reich all over again. She was really good at her job, so we knew that in the case we didn’t need her anymore she can get another job, Maid Zone is hiring or maybe any other house cleaning company. The networks had interrupted everything once again to show case Sam Ervin and his Watergate hearings. It seems like a galaxy far far away to me but yet every time I turn on the TV news, it comes back to me.
More extraordinary than Ervin’s sense of humor is his uncompromising belief in the Constitution as a basis of government. A “strict constructionist,” presumably after Mr. Nixon’s heart, he has phrased his passionate Constitutionalism in resounding measures that owe much to Shakespeare and the Bible, but surely as much to the great jurists of Anglo-American common law.
“I don’t think we have any such thing as royalty or nobility that exempts them,” says Ervin of the White House, and one realizes how much the issues of the American Revolution are living ones to him and not eighth-grade clichés. He has been a consistent and eloquent enemy of such ominous inspirations as no-knock laws and military surveillance of civilians.
Ervin is a States’ Rights man on Constitutional grounds. Ironically, he is vilified by rightists who just a year ago were complacent “strict constructionists”: Jim Fuller of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reports his newspaper gets calls at all hours of the day and night, some from as far away as Houston, demanding that “that fat, senile old man” lay off the President. “The most common threat,” Fuller says, “is castration.” Ervin doesn’t look worried.
Maybe you’ll remember reading or hearing these words in that ol’ Southern Good Ol’ boy drawl.
We are beginning these hearings today in an atmosphere of utmost gravity. The questions, that have been raised in the wake of the June 17th break-in, strike at the very undergirding of our democracy. If the many allegations made to this date are true, then the burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the United States.
If these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable—their most precious heritage, the right to vote in a free election. Since that day, a mood of incredulity has prevailed among our populace, and it is the constitutional duty of this committee to allay the fears being expressed by the citizenry, and to establish the factual bases upon which these fears have been founded.
The Founding Fathers, having participated in the struggle against arbitrary power, comprehended some eternal truths respecting men and government. They knew that those who are entrusted with power are susceptible to the disease of tyrants, which George Washington rightly described as “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” For that reason, they realized that the power of public officers should be defined by laws which they, as well as the people, are obligated to obey.
The Constitution, later adopted amendments and, more specifically, statutory law provide that the electoral processes shall be conducted by the people, outside the confines of the formal branches of government, and through a political process that must operate under the strictures of law and ethical guidelines, but independent of the overwhelming power of the government itself. Only then can we be sure that each electoral process cannot be made to serve as the mere handmaiden of a particular Administration in power.
The accusations that have been leveled and the evidence of wrongdoing that has surfaced has cast a black cloud of distrust over our entire society. Our citizens do not know whom to believe, and many of them have concluded that all the processes of government have become so compromised that honest governance has been rendered impossible. We believe that the health, if not the survival, of our social structure and of our form of government requires the most candid and public investigation of all the evidence…. As the elected representatives of the people, we would be derelict in our duty to them if we failed to pursue our mission expeditiously, fully, and with the utmost fairness. The nation and history itself are watching us. We cannot fail our mission.
Preach it sir! Here’s to a system that values truth, justice and the rule of law. May it totally crush this Administration under the heels of history.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 12, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, FBI, James Comey, obstruction of justice, self-incrimination, Trump lies
Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on the streets of NYC
I’m filling in for Dakinikat, who is trying to wrap up her grades today. There was so much news yesterday, but today is Friday and there is likely to be more coming out based on what’s happened the past few Fridays.
Already this morning, Trump has threatened former FBI director James Comey on Twitter and claimed the Russia investigation is a story made up by Democrats. In addition, Trump basically incriminated himself in a strange-but-true interview with NBC’s Lester Holt yesterday.
The Washington Post: The Daily 202: Trump’s warning to Comey deepens doubts about his respect for the rule of law.
The biggest news out of Donald Trump’s Thursday interview with NBC was his confession that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he fired FBI director James Comey. Undercutting 48 hours of denials by his aides, the president said: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”
But what may ultimately get Trump into bigger trouble is his story about Comey assuring him he was not under investigation during a one-on-one dinner at the White House. Lester Holt asked the president to elaborate on his claim, made in the letter firing Comey, that he’d been told three times he was not under federal investigation. “He wanted to stay at the FBI, and I said I’ll, you know, consider and see what happens,” Trump said. “But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation.’” (Watch a 13-minute video of Holt’s sit-down here.)
It would be a big dang deal if the FBI director was discussing an ongoing investigation with the president — generally prohibited by Justice Department policy — at the same time he was also asking to keep his job.
Naturally, the leaks are coming thick and fast out of the FBI.
The New York Times: In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred.
Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.
The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.
By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.
Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.
But Mr. Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty.”
“You will have that,” Mr. Comey told his associates he responded.
NBC News: My Dinner With Comey: Current and Former FBI Officials Dispute Trump Account of Meeting With FBI Director.
One day after the acting attorney general warned the White House that its national security adviser was subject to blackmail, the president summoned the FBI director to dinner at the White House, sources close to James Comey told NBC News….
It’s not known whether the men talked about national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI a few days before, on Jan. 24 — grilled about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak….
Trump suggested, in an exclusive interview Thursday with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, that he had the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation on his mind when he decided to remove Comey.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'” Trump said.
Trump gave Holt an entirely different account of the dinner, saying that Comey requested it to seek job security, and told the president he was not under investigation.
None of that is true, Comey’s associates insist.
A former senior FBI official said Comey would never have told the president he was not under investigation — contradicting what Trump said.
“He tried to stay away from it [the Russian-ties investigation],” said the former official, who worked closely with Comey and keeps in touch with him. “He would say, ‘Look sir, I really can’t get into it, and you don’t want me to.'”
CBS News reports on another leak: Source: There is “whole lot of interfering” in Russia investigation.
Although President Trump has now stated and written that fired FBI Director James Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an investigation, sources cast doubt on that claim.
It would be out of character for Comey to have made that statement even once, much less three times, to the president, one law enforcement source told CBS News. Along with his firing, the source noted a high level of “interfering” in the Russia probe.
As for the White House assertions that “countless” FBI rank-and-file employees wanted Comey out, the source said that was a “load of cr*p” to think that agents wanted to see him ousted. That sentiment is shared by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in less colorful language. He told a congressional panel Thursday, “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. We are a large organization. We are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. we have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”
This was the case in spite of the divided opinion within the agency over Comey’s July 2016 announcement that he would not recommend Hillary Clinton be charged for mishandling classified information, in the investigation into her use of a private server for her email.
Within the FBI, the Russia investigation is considered to be “a crisis,” the source said, and “there is a whole lot of interfering.” The succession of events surrounding Comey’s firing is not considered to be a coincidence by the agency. In the week before he was terminated, Comey asked Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation.
I cannot wait until Comey testifies again in public.
At Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes writes that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must resign.
“He made—he made a recommendation,” Donald Trump said yesterday of his Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein in an interview with NBC News. “He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him; the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.
”There it is, directly from the presidential mouth: Trump happily traded the reputation of Rosenstein, who began the week as a well-respected career prosecutor, for barely 24 hours of laughably transparent talking points in the news cycle. The White House sent out person after person—including the Vice President—to insist that Rosenstein’s memo constituted the basis for the President’s action against the FBI director. The White House described a bottoms-up dissatisfaction with Comey’s leadership, which Rosenstein’s memo encapsulated and to which the President acceded. And then, just as casually as Trump and his people set Rosenstein up as the bad guy for what was obviously a presidential decision into whose service Rosenstein had been enlisted, Trump revealed that Rosenstein was, after all, nothing more than a set piece…. [read the full excerpt from the interview at the link.]
Note that Trump did not merely reveal Rosenstein as a set piece here; he revealed him as a set piece in Trump’s own effort to frustrate the Russia investigation. The story as told by the president to NBC now is that Trump decided to fire Comey in connection with saying to himself that the Russia investigation was a made up story, and that it was in that context that he got Rosenstein to write a pretextual memo….
Trump’s idea of correcting the record was to say publicly exactly the thing about a law enforcement officer that makes his continued service in office impossible: That Trump had used his deputy attorney general as window dressing on a pre-cooked political decision to shut down an investigation involving himself, a decision for which he needed the patina of a high-minded rationale.
Once the President has said this about you—a law enforcement officer who works for him and who promised the Senate in confirmation hearings you would show independence—you have nothing left. These are the costs of working for Trump, and it took Rosenstein only two weeks to pay them.
The only decent course now is to name a special prosecutor and then resign.
I have no doubt that more news will be breaking all day long and into tonight. I’m already exhausted. What stories are you following today?