Monday Reads: Impeachment Edition

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?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Positively Nixonian

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 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.  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?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trumpcare’s Ignominious Defeat and Spy News

Good Afternoon!!

Last night, for the first time since November 8, 2016, I went to bed happy. Thanks in large part to the millions of Americans who marched in the streets, went to town halls or their representatives’ offices to defend Obamacare, the attempt by tRump and Ryan to destroy the health care system has been thwarted–at least for the time being.

Trump is being roasted in the media. Here are a few stories to check out, links only because there are so many:

The Washington Post: ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care.

Politico: Trump gets tamed by Washington (click on this one if only to view the absolute worst photo of tRump’s hair so far).

Politico Magazine: Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle. Eighteen days that shook the Republican Party—and humbled a president.

The Atlantic: The Republicans Fold on Health Care. The House abandoned its legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, handing President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan a major defeat.

The New York Times: How the Health Care Vote Fell Apart, Step by Step.

Jonathan Chait: Why Obamacare Defeated Trumpcare.

I want to highlight one aspect of the tRump strategy. He let Steve Bannon talk to the Freedom Caucus, and it did not go well.

Mike Allen at Axios: 

When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon’s opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:

Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.

  • Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.
  • One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”\\ [….]It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the Day 64 defeat. President Trump, who made repeal-and-replace a central theme of his campaign, and House Republicans, who made it the central theme of every campaign since 2010, lost in a publicly humiliating way despite controlling every branch of government and enjoying margins in the House rarely seen in the past century.

More on Bannon’s role at The Daily Beast: Bannon Tells Trump: ‘Keep a Shit List’ of Republicans Who Opposed You. (This one was published before the bill was pulled.)

According to multiple Trump administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, the president is angry that his first big legislative push is crumbling before his eyes—and his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is advising him to take names and keep a hit list of Republicans who worked for Trumpcare’s defeat.

“[Bannon] has told the president to keep a shit list on this,” one official told The Daily Beast. “He wants a running tally of [the Republicans] who want to sink this…Not sure if I’d call it an ‘enemies list,’ per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.”

One aide described it as a proposed “hit list” for Republicans not sufficiently loyal. Courses of action stemming from any related tally is yet to be determined, but the idea and message is that “we’ll remember you.”

Two senior Trump administration officials with direct knowledge of the process told The Daily Beast that Bannon and Trump have taken a “you’re either with us or against us” approach at this point, and that Bannon wants the tally of “against” versus “with us” mounted in his so-called West Wing “war room.”

“Burn the boats,” Bannon (in his typical, pugnacious style) advised Trump, according to one official involved. Burning one’s boats is a reference to when military commanders in hostile territories order his or her troops to destroy their own ships, so that they have to win or die trying.

Now let’s get to the really interesting stuff–the spy news.

Is Mike Flynn already talking to the FBI? I would be if I were in his shoes, and he has been awfully quiet since he belatedly registered as a foreign agent for his work in support of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And yesterday we learned that Flynn proposed kidnapping Erdogan’s sworn enemy Fethullah Gulen, a former Turkish cleric whom Turkey has been trying to get extradited from the U.S.

The Washington Post: Pentagon weighs response to Flynn working on behalf of Turkish interests without U.S. permission.

President Trump’s ousted national security adviser did not seek permission from the U.S. government to work as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests, U.S. defense officials said, raising the possibility that the Pentagon could dock the retirement pay of Michael T. Flynn.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the Defense Department is reviewing the issue. It arose after Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered retroactively this month with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work that his company, Flynn Intel Group, carried out on behalf of Inovo BV, a Netherlands-based company. It is owned by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is not a part of the Turkish government, but has links to it.

The Inovo assignment centered on researching Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric whom Ankara blames for fomenting a coup attempt last summer and wants extradited from the United States, where he has lived in exile for years. That led Flynn’s company to conclude that the work “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” according to a letter sent by Flynn’s attorney, Robert K. Kelner, to the Justice Department, along with the filing.

Flynn Intel Group received a total of $530,000 in three payments between September and November from Inovo BV before discontinuing the arrangement after Trump was elected president, according to Flynn’s filings. It is unclear from the paperwork how much Flynn personally profited from the deal, but he is the majority owner and chief executive officer of the firm. Kelner, reached by phone Wednesday night, declined to comment on the deal.

Flynn is in deep trouble, and now that tRump has thrown him under the bus in The National Enquirer, Flynn has plenty of motivation to start telling what he knows about the tRump campaign’s coordination with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton.

In addition, we learned yesterday that the three other tRump guys who are under investigation, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page, have offered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Next, we have the very strange behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the Intel Committe, who appears to be working as a double agent for tRump. Nunes has given three bizarre press conferences about supposed secret information he got access to that may or may not show that members of the tRump transition team were caught up in surveillance of foreign actors. It’s obvious that Nunes is way over his head and doesn’t really understand whatever it is he saw. So far he hasn’t shared anything with the members of his committee. But where did he get this mysterious information? He isn’t saying, but here’s some background from Tim Mak at The Daily Beast: Devin Nunes Vanished the Night Before He Made Trump Surveillance Claims.

Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.

By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference. His own aides, up to the most senior level, did not know what their boss planned to say next. Nunes’ choice to keep senior staff out of the loop was highly unusual.

The Republican chairman had a bombshell to drop.

“The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes told reporters Wednesday morning.

Nunes reviewed “dozens of reports” produced by the U.S. intelligence community that showed this, he added….

Where Nunes went and who his source was for this information—which he said was still incomplete—is now a mystery with serious repercussions for the independence of his investigation into Russian interference with U.S. elections.

“This information was legally brought to me by sources who thought that we should know it,” Nunes added.

Suspicions have been raised that Nunes may have gotten his information from the White House, and so far he has refused to deny it. So who could have been incidentally picked up on wiretaps? Yesterday, Dakinikat posted some links that suggest that person could have been Mike Pence. I’m reposting them here.

DailyKos, 3/22/17: Manafort made Pence the VP, they talked regularly during the transition.

The Daily Beast: 11/30/16: Paul Manafort Is Back and Advising Donald Trump on Cabinet Picks.

Finally, Bill Palmer pull the conspiracy theory together: Mike Pence appears to be the “Donald Trump transition team” member caught on wiretap.

This week House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes got his hands on some kind of classified intelligence through unofficial channels, and it spooked him to the point that he broke every protocol – and may have broken his career in the process. Nunes insists someone on the Donald Trump transition team was legally picked up on a wiretap that was targeted at someone else. And it appears the person incidentally surveilled was Vice President Mike Pence.

Based on Nunes’ description, someone on the Trump transition team was picked up while speaking on the phone with someone who was the subject of a FISA warrant. Widespread media reports have long pegged four people in the Trump campaign’s orbit as being under FBI investigation: Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort. These are the four who could realistically have been the subject of a judge-issued FISA surveillance warrant.

Of the four men, the only one who is known to have had phone conversations with anyone on the Trump transition team during the transition was Manafort. And the one person Manafort kept calling? Mike Pence (source: Daily Kos. The two have long been aligned; Manafort went to great lengths to ensure Pence was Trump’s running mate. So it appears that Devin Nunes learned this week that Pence had been caught saying something disconcerting on Manafort’s wiretap. And that may explain why Nunes did what he did from there.

More at the link.

And we can’t forget James Comey’s surprise appearance at the White House yesterday. Will more shoes drop over the weekend? I sure hope so!

What stories are you following?


Friday Reads: Just another Manic Newsday

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I don’t know about you, but I can barely keep up with the breaking news this week.  I feel like I’m caught in a whirlpool of unbelievable events and emotions. I’m going to be like BB yesterday and just try to list them.  I’m not sure I have to time to truly analyze or elucidate anything.  Maybe the chaos is working in their favor on that account.  At least news reporters are assigned desks and topics.  Some of them must be very busy.  Here are the three top stories:  T-Russia, T-RumpCare, and T-Rump Syndicate shenanigans.

First, up is that notorious Foreign Agent, obsequious Trump neighbor, and former Campaign Director Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify to Congressional Intelligence Committees.  Congressional Clown Car Chauffeur Devon Nunes announced it today.  It will likely be a closed session.

Manafort has also offered to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a Senate source.

Both Intelligence committees are investigating Russian interference in the US election.

The White House this week rushed to distance itself from Manafort after the revelation that he signed a multimillion-dollar contract with a Russian oligarch in 2006 to help advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests around the world.

The story fueled the growing controversy over the Trump team’s ties to Russia, which was rekindled Monday when FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the bureau is investigating whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow during the 2016 presidential race.

Nunes also said Friday he has asked Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers to brief the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session.
Nunes cautioned that he does not expect to receive documentation from the NSA regarding his claims that Trump campaign associates were possibly monitored by the intelligence community on Friday.

Nunes said he expects to have more information from the NSA by “early next week.”

But he categorically denied that his decision to make public the information on the issue that he does have was coordinated by the White House.

Nunes continues to be underfire for what appears to be collusion with the White House to cover up the Russian Involvement with the Trump Campaign which is so obvious now that a grade school kid would call “shenanigans!!”

So you can read more about this unfolding story at CNN too as well as the recent announcement that Republicans are using closed meeting formats which is not making Democrats happy.  Nunes is really in over his head on all of this.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman and the panel’s top Democrat publicly disagreed Friday over the handling of their investigation into Russian meddling into the US election, coming after the announcement that President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman agreed to testify before the committee.

“Yesterday, the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client,” committee chairman Devin Nunes announced during a news conference. “We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.”

Nunes also announced that the committee is bringing in FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers for a second briefing, this time behind closed doors so that they can provide more information. The committee is also delaying its March 28 hearing, a decision infuriating Democrats on the committee.

“Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee tweeted moment before going to speak to the press Friday morning.

Schiff refused to say whether he thought Nunes should step down from his position, telling reporters, “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract.”

You can view the Nunes presser at that link also.

GOP leaders have done the WHIP count on Trumpcare and it appears that they do not have the votes they need to pass it.  This may be a very big test of both Paul Ryan and Kremlin Caligula’s ability to whip a vote.

House GOP leaders aren’t confident they have enough votes to pass their embattled health-care bill, according to a senior congressional aide, and are already considering what to do if the measure is blocked before a do-or-die vote hours away.

House Speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House Friday to brief President Donald Trump ahead of the vote. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Arkansas to be in Washington for the vote, a White House official said.

The Trump administration is doubling down on its demand that House Republican leaders hold a vote Friday on their embattled health-care bill without any changes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the vote will proceed as scheduled Friday afternoon.

“It’s not a question of negotiating any more, it’s understanding the greater good,” Spicer said at a news conference. “This is it.” The president, he added, has “made it clear this is our moment.”

But an influential GOP member said he’s not sure they have the votes.

“I’m not sure we’ve landed it,” Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee of House members, said Friday morning. “I’m hopeful that we can get there today but at this point I don’t know how many we’re short.”

Tensions among House Republicans were high, said Chris Collins of New York, the first House member to endorse Trump last year.

“There’s some divisiveness within our conference now that’s not healthy,” Collins said. “I’ve never seen this before. People are just refusing to talk to each other. They’re storming past each other. This is not good.”

Paul Ryan is CYA mode this afternoon.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

The House opened debate Friday on what would have been one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years, a bill that would have rolled back a major, established social welfare program, a feat that is almost unheard of.

Meanwhile, more Trump ethics violations are on the horizon: “After Promising Not To Talk Business With Father, Eric Trump Says He’ll Give Him Financial Reports”.

Eric Trump sits behind a desk on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in New York City, dressed in a slightly less formal version of his father’s go-to power uniform—blue suit, white buttoned-down shirt, no tie. There are reminders of Donald Trump everywhere in this office, including the TV in the corner that beams out wall-to-wall news about the president any time his son turns it on. Amidst it all, Eric Trump, who now manages the Trump Organization with his brother Don Jr., wants to emphasize that the Trump business is separate from the Trump presidency.

“There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise,” he says, echoing previous statements from his father. “I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”

But less than two minutes later, he concedes that he will continue to update his father on the business while he is in the presidency. “Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it.” How often will those reports be, every quarter? “Depending, yeah, depending.” Could be more, could be less? “Yeah, probably quarterly.” One thing is clear: “My father and I are very close,” Eric Trump says. “I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”

So, this is what it’s like to live in a Banana Republic.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Epic Meltdown Continues

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday, Trump fan Chris Matthews devoted much of his 7PM Hardball program to praising Donald Trump’s supposed “modulation” of his “tone.” By the time the rerun of the program aired at 10PM, it was already obsolete. Trump had given a speech in Michigan in which he blatantly lied about the state’s economy and delivered more stunning insults to black voters while speaking to a nearly all-white audience. The Detroit News reports:

DIMONDALE — On his second visit to Michigan in two weeks, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday blasted Democratic policies he said have destroyed Detroit and other urban centers and called for African Americans to support him, saying blacks cannot expect change otherwise….

Trump’s remarks, however, seemed somewhat out of place, given that he was delivering it in a hall outside Lansing, halfway across the state from the Detroit. He also hammered away on a message than Michigan manufacturing is in the dumps, just days after Gov. Rick Snyder — also a Republican — noted that unemployment in the state has dropped to its lowest levels since the early 2000s.

“Your business and plants have been ripped out,” said Trump, who repeated earlier promises to stop manufacturing from leaving Michigan — even though auto jobs are up sharply since the depths of the 2007-9 recession….

Trump said “the Michigan manufacturing sector is a disaster,” and no sector has been hurt more by “Hillary Clinton’s policies than the auto sector,” statements which seemed to ignore that since the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler in 2008-9, auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan have grown from 22,800 to 38,200 and auto parts jobs also have grown, from 73,400 to 162,800.

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

Trump’s message to black voters:

“What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?” he asked of blacks.

Trump noted that Detroit is the most violent city in America — a statistic he didn’t back up but Detroit does show up at or near the top of lists of major cities in terms of violent crime and murders — and said he could work changes on the city if elected. A recent EPIC-MRA poll reported by the Free Press last week showed Trump behind Clinton in Michigan by a margin on 85%-2%, with 10% undecided.

“It’s time to hold Democratic politicians accountable for what they have done to these communities,” Trump said. “At what point do we say enough?”

“I will produce for the African Americans,” he said. “All the Democrats have done is taken advantage of your vote. … You have nothing to lose.”

But that’s not all. Trump went off-script with these lovely remarks (h/t Slate):

“What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?” he said. “What do you have to lose? You’re living in poverty; your schools are no good; you have no jobs; 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

Never mind that Trump—who recently polled at 1 percent among black voters in a nationwide survey—was treating black people as a monolithic group of poor, unemployed people. His ad-libbed “what the hell do you have to lose” line sounded very much like Trump thinks he knows what’s better for black voters than they know for themselves….

There were other moments where Trump veered wildly off-script in a way that seemed absurd. Specifically, Trump said that he would not just win this election, but win re-election in 2020 with 95 percent of black voters supporting him—again, earlier this month Trump’s polling among black voters was somewhere between 1 and 4 percent.

“At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get 95 percent of the African-American vote,” he said. “I promise you, because I will produce for the inner cities and I will produce for the African-Americans.”

Darren Thompson

Darren Thompson

Cable news commentators are speculating that these disgusting remarks about black people are probably aimed at college-educated Republican women who have abandoned Trump in droves. I can’t imagine it will work.

Philip Bump responded to some of the charges made by Trump: It’s hard to imagine a much worse pitch Donald Trump could have made for the black vote.

Consider: Black Americans are not “living in poverty” as a general rule. A quarter of the black population is, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about the same as the percentage of Hispanics. In Michigan, the figure is slightly higher. Most black Americans don’t live in poverty, just as most white Americans don’t.

Consider: The unemployment rate in the black community is higher than that in the white community, as it has been since the Department of Labor started keeping track. Among young blacks, though, the figure is not 59 percent — unless (as Politifact noted) you consider not the labor force butevery young black American, including high school students. Many young black high school students are unemployed. This isn’t a metric that Labor typically uses, for obvious reasons, but calculating the rates for young whites gives you about 50 percent, too.

Consider: Black voters are perfectly able to evaluate candidates on qualities other than their political parties. Black voters began supporting the Democratic Party heavily thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since then, they have consistently voted for the party — a party that is one-fifth black and which since 1964 has elected the vast majority of the black members of Congress. (This line of argument from Al Sharpton in 2004 is worth a read.) Democrats win the support of black voters consistently because those voters like the work that they do and like the fights that they fight.

When Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, 93 percent of black Americans thought he was doing a good job as president. That’s also the percentage of the vote he received, according to exit polls, beating Mitt Romney by 87 points.

And yet, somehow, Trump is doing worse.

Les Muses, Maurice Denis

Les Muses, Maurice Denis

There’s much more at the Washington Post link above. The gist is that Donald Trump is pathetically ignorant about the lives of African Americans.

Yesterday Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned after being pushed aside in the latest campaign shakeup and after multiple revelations about his involvement with foreign leaders close to Russia. Politico has all the gory details: Inside the fall of Paul Manafort.

According to Politico, Manafort told Trump in early August that the stories coming out about his foreign consulting and lobbying would become a “distraction” and he wanted to come up with a new leadership plan just in case.

Although Manafort told associates that he thought he would be able to weather the controversy, his meeting with Trump nonetheless sparked internal discussions about changes to the campaign’s senior management structure. They included elevating pollster Kellyanne Conway, who had been brought onto the campaign last month, into a more senior role, and also officially bringing on Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon, who had been informally advising people around the campaign for months.

Still, Manafort associates said, he hoped he could ride out the storm and remain with the campaign until the end. That’s despite what the associates characterize as Manafort’s growing frustration with Trump’s unwillingness to embrace advice for a more scripted, measured tone and a greater reliance on more traditional campaign tactics.

But it quickly became clear that Manafort would have to go. More details about the crumbling mess of a campaign at the link.

Cocotte, reading, by Camille Pissarro

Cocotte, reading, by Camille Pissarro

There’s a federal investigation now, and it involves the Podesta Group, which is currently being run by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s brother. Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed: Top Firms Lawyer Up In Ukraine–Manafort Lobbying Controversy

Two powerful Washington lobbying firms are engaging outside counsel after becoming embroiled in a controversy over undisclosed foreign lobbying by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy.

The situation concerns a period between 2012 and 2014, when the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs worked on behalf the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. The Brussels-based nonprofit is closely linked to the Party of Regions, the political party of Ukraine’s pro-Russian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort and his associate Rick Gates connected the European Centre with the two firms, according to the AP, which also reported that Gates personally gave instructions to Mercury and Podesta Group employees in a lobbying effort on behalf of Ukrainian officials. At the time, Manafort and Gates were consulting for Yanukovych in Ukraine. The AP’s story showed that Manafort and Gates had acted as unregistered foreign agents, never disclosing their work for the Ukrainians to the Department of Justice, as is required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Now, the Podesta Group is acknowledging that the European Centre may have been directed by the Party of Regions and has hired outside lawyers to advise on the situation.

“The firm has retained Caplin & Drysdale as independent, outside legal counsel to determine if we were misled by the Centre for a Modern Ukraine or any other individuals with regard to the Centre’s potential ties to foreign governments or political parties,” Podesta Group CEO Kimberly Fritts said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “When the Centre became a client, it certified in writing that ‘none of the activities of the Centre are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in part by a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party.’ We relied on that certification and advice from counsel in registering and reporting under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We will take whatever measures are necessary to address this situation based on Caplin & Drysdale’s review, including possible legal action against the Centre.”

Much more at the link.

John L. Wellington

John L. Wellington

As Trump melts down, the media has tried to get voters outraged about “scandals” involving Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Global Foundation; but so far it’s not working very well. Trump’s high profile flame-out is getting most of the attention. There’s so much happening that I can’t possibly cover all of it, but here are a few more interesting links to check out.

NYT: In Maze of Trump’s Empire, Unknown Ties and $650 Million in Debt.

Sarah Kenzior at Quartz: Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin underscores an unsettling truth about the two leaders.

Former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul at the WaPo: Why Putin wants a Trump victory (so much he might even be trying to help him).

Ruth Marcus at the WaPo: Trump’s Sickening attacks on Clinton’s health.

Daily News Bin: Donald Trump goes to Louisiana flooding site, spends a minute handing out Play-Doh, leaves.

Buzzfeed: Trump Campaign Manager On Manafort: “He Was Asked” To Resign.

Politico: Republicans prep ‘break glass’ emergency plan as Trump tumbles.

Christian Science Monitor: Trump hands his campaign to the ‘alt-right’ movement.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!


Friday Reads: Rearranging the Deck Chairs in Das Führerbunker

Good Afternoon and Welcome to Day 32 of America Held Hostage by the RNC!

HBos-Game-of-Thrones-Season-6-Episode-10-The-Winds-of-Winter-Cersei-Lannister-sits-on-the-iron-throne-670x499When is an apology not an apology?

When the campaign mommy makes you do it and you can’t even bring yourself to mention all the folks you trashed,hurt, bullied and sicced the League of Angry White men on like reporters, women, and helpless children who just want their families to stay together, etc. This blatant, pandering play for the votes of suburban white women comes from the same Kellyanne Conway that tries to stop Republicans saying dumb things about women’s bodies and specifically rape and abortion. This woman makes Phyllis Schafly and Cersei Lannister look like your average fairy godmother.   Snakes would be embarrassed to compare their tongues with hers. They would definitely come up very short and straight.

Conway spent time on Hardball last evening patiently explaining how women were the real victims of abortion service providers and it was a matter of time before the wonderful people in the forced birth movement would get Donald to use the right code words.  That’s what it’s all about now. She also wants to unleash the inner Trump again but oddly enough it includes teleprompter speeches that appear to be written by Stephen Bannon and edited for woman appeal by Cersei Conway.

TRUmP_GOT_sceneThey’ve gone full throttle Breithbart while trying to fake it at rallies with teleprompter speeches to get educated white people and white women in the suburbans to ignore the Stormfront material and realize that Donald is just being Donald and just doesn’t select his words quite right since he’s not a real politician. She followed the ever-delusional Katrina Pierson in the increasingly-disgusting MSNBC guest schedule yesterday. Pierson diagnosed Hillary Clinton with Dysphasia on MTP Daily. Too bad the Doctor diagnosing the Donald can’t do another weird diagnosis and the fake one they tried earlier didn’t pass muster.  Meanwhile, Pierson–who actually works for Kellyanne now–spewed this weirdness yesterday.

The Trump spokeswoman was at it yet again, telling MSNBC’s Kristin Welker that Clinton is suffering from a rare brain disorder known as dysphasia.

In the MSNBC interview, after she tried to blame Michael Cohen’s #SaysWho exchange on technical difficulties, Pierson decided to diagnose the former Secretary of State with a rare brain disorder. Basing everything on fake reports from4chan,

In a later interview, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza remarked that the Pierson segment “was among the five most remarkable” Pierson interviews he’s seen, acknowledging that while she’s known to say crazy shit all the time, this was truly off the deep end. He also stated that the hit showed that there would be no pivot, other than the Trump campaign is going to triple down on crazy.

Just to recap Katrina Pierson’s last week or so:

— says President Obama started the War in Afghanistan

— states that liberal reporters are “literally” beating up Trump supporters

denies that there was a campaign shakeup after Trump placed two new people into leadership roles

— diagnoses Clinton with brain damage

Less than 90 days left of this folks. I think we can make it. I hope so.

Kellyanne–when asked by Tweety if this tact wasn’t a bit ratfuckerish–explained that she wasn’t a doctor and wanted Trump to stick to the issues.  If that’sTrump the case, why don’t we see Katrina Pierson’s real unemployment check today?  Believe me, just watch an interview with this woman and you’ll realize what a twisted sister she really is. Actually, either of them–but especially Kellyanne –can spin a tale that sounds somewhat plausible if you’re into wicked twisted stepsisters.

Let’s sum up the possible folks who really deserve a specific apology instead of a generic mea cupa event meant to endear the press and confuse white women.

160817120243-kellyanne-conway-july-2016-large-teaseThe press seems to have a short memory but he’s really relying on key white voting constituencies to have even shorter memories.  Will this really make them feel okay voting for this small-fingered vulgarian?

Three and a half months after sealing the Republican nomination, Donald Trump pivoted to contest the general election on Thursday night, expressing regret for his past failures to “choose the right words” and delivering one of the most comprehensive, on-message rationales for his candidacy to date.

Speaking from prepared remarks on the heels of another staffing shakeup, Trump positioned himself as the champion of voiceless Americans against a corrupt and incompetent elite and the leader of an inclusive movement who repeatedly condemned “bigotry.”

His address, delivered at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, presented the sort of message Republican leaders have been waiting months to hear. But with 82 days left until the election and early voting only weeks away, even a flawless sprint to the finish line may be too little too late for Trump to salvage his flailing campaign.

Early in his remarks, the New York businessman nodded at the months he has squandered, acknowledging that his own mouth had hindered his candidacy. “Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that,” Trump said to laughter and cheers from his supporters.

“And believe it or not I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake is for us to be consumed by these issues, but one thing I can promise you is this. I will always tell you the truth,” said Trump, who did not specify which words he regrets saying.

The press is probably more gullible than Walmart or Security moms.

 

Meanwhile, Paul Manafort has quit and will undoubtedly be facing a number of FBI inquiries.  Bye Bye now!!! Out the moondoor with you!!

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Trump campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul Manafort resigned on Friday, following a staff shake-up this week that reduced his role in the campaign.

GOP nominee Donald Trump confirmed the resignation in a statement: “This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”

Meanwhile, lurking at the edge of darkness remains Stephen Bannon who put the Go in Goebbels.  Every one’s hair continues to go on fire about this dude including people that have worked for him as BB indicated yesterday.

A former Breitbart News spokesman slammed Donald Trump’s new campaign chief executive, Stephen Bannon, for allegedly using racistrhetoric during editorial meetings at Breitbart that he said sounded “like a white supremacist rally,” while a Trump ally calls the new CEO a positive addition to the team. Both men joined this week’s episode of ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics podcast.

Kurt Bardella, who worked with Bannon at Breitbart for two years, says the former Breitbart News chairman regularly disparaged minorities, women, and immigrants during daily editorial calls at the publication.

ABC News reached out to Bannon for comment but did not receive a response.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella, citing what he called Bannon’s “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves.”

“This is someone who has a very low moral compass,” he said of Bannon, “and the idea that this is the type of person that Donald Trump, as the Republican nominee, as president, would have closest to him is very disturbing.”

Bardella joined this week’s episode of “Powerhouse Politics” podcastwith ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Deputy Political Director Shushannah Walshe to discuss the recent shakeup in the Trump campaign.

“I think it’s incredibly concerning and dangerous actually to have someone have this kind of influence with the person who is running for president of the United States, who would be a top adviser if he were to win the election,” he cautioned.

Bardella quit Breitbart in March in protest over how he believes the news organization handled allegations by then-reporter Michelle Fieldsthat she was manhandled by Trump’s campaign manager at the time,Corey Lewandowski. Police charges filed against Lewandowski in the case were later dropped. Bardella said he believes the Breitbart News organization did not defend Fields over the incident.

Politics-GQ-villiansWho would ever thought that we’d have an Epic Cartoon Villain and his team against Hillary Clinton this time out?

Donald Trump

Is the Lex Luthor of our time

When, exactly, did Donald Trump cross over—going from rank assholery into real-deal, can’t-not-watch, like-chugging-spoiled-milk super-villainevil? If we had to place it, it started after he called the good people of Mexico rapists, but definitely before he called for a ban on all Muslims. Because what’s so delightful about Trump’s villainy is how lazy it is—how drowsily he shifted from hollering about his BEST AND CLASSIEST campaign to pure, raw racism and misogyny. Maybe Donald Trump hates women, and Muslims, and our socialist Kenyan president. (Okay, he definitely does.) But the super-villain-y part is that he didn’treeeally hate them until it was politically expedient.

Trump is truly the villain we deserve in 2016—and not because he wants to take over the world. It’s because he’s after something far, far scarier: applause. — Sam Schube

Stay tuned.  It’s likely to get much worse.

As an example, check out the new Trump ad.

Last night, Donald Trump delivered a speech in which he spoke in soothing tones about the need to unify the country and expressed “regret” about any remarks that have caused “personal pain,” though he didn’t specify which particular remarks he regrets. This led some commentators to suggest that another “pivot” is underway.

This morning, Trump released his first general election ad, an ugly and dishonest production which shows he isn’t changing a thing.

In fact, the new ad is filled with precisely the same sort of dark, dystopian themes and content — and even some of the same sort of grainy, dark footage depicting illegal immigrants as invaders — that marked one of the first ads he ran during the GOP primaries.

Meh, more of the same!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Disastrous Day One of the Republican National Convention

Good Afternoon!!

After the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, there’s good news and bad news for the Trump campaign. The bad news is that the big story today is that Melania Trump’s speech last night was basically a light edit of Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 with a few paragraphs thrown in to make it look like it was about Donald Trump. The good news for Trump is that this story is distracting the media from the racist, misogynist, and xenophobic content of the rest of the Convention speeches.

The Washington Post: Republican National Convention: Scrutiny of Melania Trump’s speech follows plagiarism allegations.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign came under new scrutiny Tuesday after it became apparent that part of Melania Trump’s primetime address Monday night at the Republican National Convention bore conspicuous similarities to a speech delivered by first lady Michelle Obama in 2008 at the Democratic convention.

The plagiarism charges have cast a shadow over Trump and his campaign on the second day of the convention here in Cleveland, where Republicans are making the case to a skeptical country that the celebrity billionaire —the most unconventional and impulsive major-party standard-bearer in modern history — could be a credible and steadfast leader at a time of terrorist threats abroad and senseless tragedies at home.

Trump’s campaign and allies rushed to defend Melania Trump on Tuesday morning.

“In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” wrote senior communications advisor Jason Miller in a statement. “Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.” ….

Melania Trump had previously indicated that she wrote the speech herself.h. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pretty much threw Melania under the bus by sticking to the story that she wrote it herself.

On Tuesday morning, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort denied that there had been any plagiarism, despite clear similarities between the two speeches. Some parts of the speeches appeared to be the same, word for word.

“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values that she cares about, her family, things like that,” Manafort said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning. “She was speaking in front of 35 million people last night, she knew that, to think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

The sections in the video are only the beginning. There are similarities to Michelle Obama’s speech throughout. Even the final lines claiming “he will never turn his back on you” were borrowed from Michelle. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pretty much threw Melania under the bus by sticking to the story that she wrote it herself.

Oh yes, and Manafort also blamed Hillary for the mess the campaign is in. Think Progress: Trump Campaign Manager On Melania’s Plagiarism: It’s Hillary’s Fault

Donald Trump and his campaign are scrambling to address the apparent plagiarism in Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech, which replicated specific language from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Trump’s former rivals-turned-surrogates Ben Carson and Chris Christie both refused to acknowledge the plagiarism.

Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort went even further. He not only denied the speech was plagiarized, but accused Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton of spreading the storybecause she hates other women.

“This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton she seeks out to demean her and take her down,” he said. “It’s not going to work.”

Manafort repeated the sexist attack in a press conference a few hours later. “When Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person,” he told reporters.

There are now rumors that Trump is furious with Manafort. Perhaps he’ll be looking for a new campaign manager soon–right in the middle of the RNC.

Wow! That’s some heavy duty misogyny there.

Some folks on Twitter have been digging up tweets from Mr. and Mrs. Trump that suggest plagiarism is nothing new for these two.

And check this out:

Unbelievable.

And what about the parts of Melania’s speech that weren’t plagiarized? Isaac Chotiner at Slate: Melania Trump’s Pathetic Attempt to Humanize Her Husband.

The traditional role of the first lady is, in the clichéd language of our politics, to “humanize” her spouse. Melania Trump may in some sense appear to be nontraditional for the wife of a Republican nominee. But in her speech on Monday night she set for herself the same goal: showing a side of Donald Trump that voters had not seen. What she delivered, according to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, speaking from the convention floor, was the speech of the night. The CNN panel gushed. Hugh Hewitt got excited on MSNBC. But don’t believe it: Melania’s speech was just as morally questionable as Rudy Giuliani’s Mussolini-not-so-lite speech that preceded it.

The most striking feature of Melania’s speech was the lack of specifics: Perhaps because her husband is a gruesome demagogue rather than a halfway-decent person, there were no humanizing anecdotes or sweet stories to tell. The candidate’s public personality is clearly more than an act; those who know him have nothing truly nice or personal to say about him, just as he has nothing nice or personal to say about them. (People he likes in his orbit tend to be “absolutely terrific.”)

I noticed that last night. Melania didn’t provide a single specific anecdote to illustrate her husband’s supposed generosity, kindness, and other positive qualities she claims he has.

This morning Ivanka Trump told the AP that her dad wants her to make sure everything in her speech introducing him on Thursday is in her own words.

Could there be trouble between Trump’s third wife and his children from first wife Ivana? Joy Reid tweeted today that Melania refused to attend the introduction of Mike Pence and his family because she was angry with Donald’s children for pushing him to name a VP candidate that he didn’t really want.

Reid also cited a Daily Mail article that suggests trouble in the Trump extended family: ‘She can’t talk, she can’t give a speech’: Donald Trump’s ex-wife Ivana slams his current spouse Melania and suggests she would make a better First Lady.

Trump’s first wife Ivana, who was married to the Republican presidential front runner from 1977 to 1991, said Melania ‘can’t talk’ and ‘can’t give a speech’.

The 66-year-old – who had three children with the billionaire – reportedly said she would have made a good First Lady and backed her ex-husband to be a ‘great President’.

Ivana was told at a recent party in New York that she would have been a good First Lady.

According to the New York Daily News, she laughed and replied: ‘Yes, but the problem is, what is he going to do with his third wife?’

Referring to Melania Trump, Ivana continued: ‘She can’t talk, she can’t give a speech, she doesn’t go to events, she doesn’t want to be involved.’

Ivana also said Trump would be a successful President and backed him to win the Republican nomination.

‘He’ll be a great President,’ she said. ‘He’ll surround himself with the right people. He was always meant to be a politician.’

She added that she had backed Trump to run for President in the 1980s, but ‘then he got involved with Marla Maples and America hated him’.

ROFLOL! Most of America still hates him.

I’m going to wrap this up soon, because I’m completely exhausted after driving nearly 1,000 miles over the past two days. But I want to include stories about one more speech from last night.

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If you missed Rudy Giuliani’s crazy address to the convention, you really need to watch it. You can do that at Slate, where Fred Kaplan writes about it: What Has Happened to Rudy Giuliani? He used to be a pragmatic moderate. Now he’s spewing nonsense.

Exactly 20 years ago, as the Boston Globe’s New York bureau chief, I interviewed Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his office in City Hall. The 1996 Republican Convention was going on in San Diego, and I asked him why he wasn’t there. “It’s not my sort of thing,” he replied. “I’m much closer to moderates in both parties than to extremists in either.”

That was a long time ago….

Self-righteous and bombastic as he has become in recent years, I have never seen him—I have never imagined him—huffing and puffing with such fire and brimstone. Or spewing such rank nonsense.

Boasting that he changed New York “from the crime capital of America to the safest large city in America,” he said, “What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America.” Stipulating that he played a role in cutting crime in New York (and I think he did, to some extent), what did he do? Most pertinent, he appointed William Bratton as his police chief, who tracked crime with daily computer statistics (before then, there were only quarterly statistics), then instantly redeployed cops to neighborhoods where crime was spurting. He also arrested people for committing small crimes, and many of those people, it turned out, were wanted for large crimes. Other things were happening in society, too. But these techniques and the surrounding circumstances have no application to the fight against global terrorism. Nor does the sophisticated approach that Giuliani and Bratton brought to urban disorder have any resemblance to Trump’s attitude to anything.

Then Giuliani delved into the shallowest realm of Trump’s attack on Obama’s (or Obama-Clinton’s) counterterrorism policies—the refusal to call our enemy by their name: as he bellowed it, “Islamic extremist terrorism” (words that drew an enormous ovation). Obama has addressed this critique: It is silly to believe that, if only he uttered those three words (like “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!”), the bad guys would turn and run—or anything different would happen whatsoever. “If they are at war against us,” Giuliani roared, “we must commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them.” What does that mean? What does the United States or the West have to do to achieve that goal? I ask Giuliani and others who speak in this language to put forth a three-point outline, a 100-page treatise—some idea of what new policies, tactics, or strategies they have in mind. I honestly don’t know, and I’m pretty sure they don’t either.

Kaplan carefully dissects the entire Giuliani diatribe.  The piece is well worth reading.

I wonder what atrocities Trump and the Republicans will produce in day 2 of the their convention? So far this week looks like it will be very good for Hillary Clinton.
What stories are you following today?