Happy Valentine’s Day, Sky Dancers!!
Andrew McCabe’s book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump will be released on Tuesday, and he will be interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. This might be one 60 Minutes I decide to watch.
McCabe was deputy director of the FBI under James Comey and he became acting director after Trump fired Comey. Trump attacked McCabe repeatedly, and eventually succeeded in driving him out of office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe one day before he could have retired with his full pension.
Today The Atlantic published an article adapted from McCabe’s book: Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House.
On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.
A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.
The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”
The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?
He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?
McCabe describes the reaction of FBI employees as one of shock and dismay. Trump then said he wanted to come to the FBI and “show all my FBI people how much I love them.” McCabe thought that was a terrible idea, but agreed to meet with Trump about it. Next, Trump:
…began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.
I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.
I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.
The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.
After that Trump taunted McCabe about his wife’s losing campaign for the Virginia Senate, asking McCabe, “How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?” and later saying “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”
I once had a boss who was a monstrous whack job like Trump. It was crazy-making. The entire department under this man functioned like an alcoholic family with an unpredictable, out-of-control father. You never knew what horrible thing would happen next. It was total chaos, as the White House seems to be. I’m glad McCabe is telling the truth about what he experienced.
Two more articles based on the McCabe book:
CBS News 60 Minutes: McCabe Says He Ordered the Obstruction of Justice Probe of President Trump.
The New York Times: McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office.
I expect Trump will be ranting about McCabe on Twitter and in the Oval Office, but he can’t do anything to shut McCabe up anymore.
Soon we’ll have a new U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, and already the corruption surrounding him has a very bad odor. CNN reports that Barr’s daughter and son-in-law are leaving the Justice Department for new jobs at FinCEN and the White House Counsel’s office respectively.
Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.
Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office, two officials said.
It’s not clear if McGaughey’s switch is a result of Barr’s pending new role, and the kind of work he’ll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly’s husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department’s National Security Division for now.
The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them “a good idea” to “avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him.”
However, Shaub added that McGaughey’s detail to the White House counsel’s office was “concerning.”
“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub said.
Read more at the CNN link.
If you listened to Rachel Maddow’s podcast about Spiro Agnew (or even if you didn’t) you should read this op-ed at The Washington Post by three attorneys who were involved in that corruption case: We should demand high standards from William Barr. Spiro Agnew’s case shows why, by Barnet D. Skolnik, Russell T. Baker Jr., and Ronald S. Liebman.
In the winter of 1973, 46 years ago, the three of us were assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore starting a federal grand jury investigation of a corrupt Democratic county chief executive in Maryland. That investigation ultimately led to the prosecution of his corrupt Republican predecessor — the man who went on to become the state’s governor and then President Richard M. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro T. Agnew.
On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew entered a plea to a criminal tax felony for failure to report the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’d received in bribes and kickbacks as county executive, governor and even vice president. All paid in cash, $100 bills delivered in white envelopes.
And he resigned.
From the beginning of our investigation, months before we had seen any indication that he had taken kickbacks, Agnew, along with top White House and administration officials and even Nixon himself, repeatedly tried to impede, obstruct and terminate the investigation in nefarious ways. Some of those efforts were unknown to us then and have come to light only now thanks to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her “Bagman” podcast.
When newspapers began to report that he was under criminal investigation in the summer of 1973, Agnew aroused his base by screaming “witch hunt” and launching a vicious assault on the “lying” press, the “partisan” Justice Department, and the “biased” and “liberal Democrat” prosecutors in Baltimore.
If Agnew and Nixon had succeeded in derailing our investigation, the most corrupt man ever to sit a heartbeat away might have become the president of our country when Nixon was forced to resign less than a year later. But our investigation was protected — first, by our staunch and courageous boss, the late George Beall, the U.S. attorney for Maryland and a prominent Maryland Republican, and second, by the man who had become the new U.S. attorney general that spring, Elliot L. Richardson.
The authors then go on to explain why Barr should not be confirmed unless he commits to releasing Robert Mueller’s findings to the public. Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There is so much more news! Here are some links to check out:
Just Security: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe. (This is an incredibly important story. Corruption is all around us.)
The New York Times: House Votes to Halt Aid for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen.
Gulf News: Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia.
HuffPost: I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter. (Trigger warning for rape description)
The New York Times: Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price.
So . . . what stories have you been following?
We’re having an incredible heat wave in Boston, and I know we’re not alone. It’s hot just about everywhere. Today it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees here. Anyone who believes the climate isn’t changing is delusional.
Maybe the sharks are affected too, because we’ve had some Great White close encounters here in Massachusetts lately. The Boston Globe: Shark sightings force swimmers out of the water in Plymouth, Cape Cod.
Swimmers at Plymouth and Wellfleet beaches looking to catch a break from the oppressive heat were forced out of the water Monday afternoon after sharks were spotted lurking nearby.
Plymouth beaches were closed after a great white shark was seen off Manomet Point. Red flags were flying at the beaches as crews investigated, the Plymouth harbormaster tweeted shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy were about a quarter-mile from Marconi Beach in Wellfleet when they saw a great white shark at around 1:45 p.m. They reported it to beach officials, and lifeguards promptly pulled everyone out of the water, Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore, said. The beach was closed for an hour as a standard precautionary measure.
Also from the Globe: ‘It came right up, and opened its mouth’: Great white shark breaches water below boat.
State biologist Greg Skomal got an up-close look at a great white shark during a recent excursion off Cape Cod when one of the apex predators that researchers had been observing breached the water right beneath him, exposing its large teeth.
“Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” Skomal can be heard saying in a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Monday morning. “It came right up, and opened its mouth right at my feet!”
In the video, Skomal can be seen standing on the research boat’s pulpit, as the captain closes in on a shark. Skomal was using a long pole with a GoPro camera attached at the end so he could dip it into the water and capture footage of the shark. That’s when it suddenly breached the ocean’s surface.
“Oh!,” the boat’s captain, John J. King II, can be heard saying. “Holy crap! It dove right out of the water.”
Here’s the video. Be sure to put it on full screen and wait for the close-up.
Seriously though, have we already lost the fight to reverse climate change? That’s the argument put forth by Nathaniel Rich in last week’s New York Times Magazine: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?
Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.
Check out the full story at the NYT.
Today there are some interesting primary elections and one special election to watch. Will we see portents of a blue wave in November?
Voters head to the polls in five states Tuesday to test whether Democrats will get their “blue wave” on Election Day this fall.
The most heated race to watch is a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where a Democrat hasn’t won since the 1980s. Despite big spending by Republicans, a huge ground push, and even campaign appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, polls show the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, might actually beat Republican Troy Balderson.
Washington state’s top-two primary will be a similar test of how Democrats might perform in historically conservative districts.
In a governor’s race in Michigan and a House race in Kansas, meanwhile, Democrats will test whether the future of the party is rooted in its progressive wing.
To win back a House majority in November, Democrats will have to triumph in historically red districts, as they did in Pennsylvania earlier this year when Conor Lamb pulled off a surprise victory. Some big wins on Tuesday night could be another sign that a wave year is possible.
Read the details at Vox.
On Sunday, we watched Trump incriminate himself and throw his own son under the bus on Twitter. Will Don Jr. be indicted? Charles Savage at The New York Times: Donald Trump Jr.’s Potential Legal Troubles, Explained.
“I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did,” Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. But his participation in the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, as well as another meeting, has put that claim under scrutiny.
Ahead of the meeting with Russians, an intermediary promised Donald Trump Jr. that a “Russian government attorney” would provide “very high level” dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He wrote back, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
In a meeting three months before the election, Donald Trump Jr. met with another small group offering to help his father win the election. It included an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes who run Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. The younger Mr. Trump responded approvingly, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The New York Times.
Of course we all know by now that “collusion” is just another word for “conspiracy,” which can be a crime.
….lawyers instead talk about conspiracy: an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime — whether or not they end up doing so. A powerful tool for prosecutors, conspiracy charges allow them to hold each conspirator responsible for illegal acts committed by others in the circle as part of the arrangement. To convict someone of such a conspiracy, prosecutors would need to obtain evidence of an agreement to commit a specific crime….
A provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act, Section 30121 of Title 52, broadly outlaws donations or other contributions of a “thing of value” by any foreigner in connection with an American election — or even an express or implied promise to take such action, directly or indirectly.
Depending on how a grand jury interprets the facts the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has gathered about the two Trump Tower meetings, it could find that the foreigners violated that law — and that Donald Trump Jr. conspired in that offense.
Another provision of the same statute makes it illegal for an American to solicit a foreigner for such illicit campaign help — again, even indirectly. If a grand jury were to interpret the evidence about Donald Trump Jr.’s words and actions as a solicitation, he could also be vulnerable to direct charges under that law, experts said.
Notably, the statute can be violated even if the promised or requested help is never provided.
Read the rest at the NYT.
At The Washington Post, William Ruckleshaus, who served as deputy attorney general under Nixon writes about Trump’s behavior: Only one other president has ever acted this desperate.
President Trump is acting with a desperation I’ve seen only once before in Washington: 45 years ago when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Nixon was fixated on ending the Watergate investigation, just as Trump wants to shut down the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.
In fact, in some ways, Trump is conducting himself more frantically than Nixon, all the while protesting his innocence. Nixon fought to the end because he knew that what was on the tape recordings that the prosecutor wanted would incriminate him. We don’t know what Trump is hiding, if anything. But if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, why not let Robert S. Mueller III do his job and prove it?
On the way Trump and his minions are attacking the investigation:
…the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake.
The vehemence and irresponsibility of the rhetoric attacking the Mueller investigation tear at the very structure of our governance. Men who have sworn to use and protect our institutions of justice are steadily weakening them. Should the president finally decide to fire Mueller and put in place someone who will do his bidding, the country could be thrown into a political crisis that would scar our democracy and further erode the trust of our people in our governmental institutions.
We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.
Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There are a lot more interesting reads out there today. Some to check out:
Rolling Stone: Rick Wilson: Trump’s Tweets May Actually Be His Undoing.
The Washington Post: Trump’s political base is weaker than it seems, our new study finds.
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: How Trump Radicalized ICE.
What stories are you following today?
First a quick update on the smoking situation I’ve been dealing with. I got an air purifier yesterday and I think it will help a lot as I wait for the man down the hall to be evicted. If necessary, I may get a smaller one to put in the kitchen later on. Someone gave the guy more warnings after my flurry of complaints last Monday and Tuesday, and the air was clear until Thursday afternoon when I noticed the hallway was filled with smoke again.
I called the office yesterday morning, and the woman I’ve been talking to was very nice and supportive. I guess maybe she was just stressed out the last time I talked to her. After all, she had been on the job for less than a week. Yesterday she told me that people have been upstairs monitoring the air every day and talking to the man. She has done a huge amount of paper work, sent him another warning letter and contacted the lawyers to begin working on the eviction. She wants me to call her every time I smell smoke so she can put notes in the file about every incident. She also told me it would help if I get my doctor to write a letter for me. So I’m very encouraged, although the eviction process will probably take awhile.
Thanks for all your support–it really made a difference to my state of mind.
It’s another crazy day in the news. President Baby-Man has been having a major tantrum on Twitter because he somehow learned (or suspects) that there was a FISA warrant for the phones in Trump Tower last fall.
NBC News at 8:29AM today: Trump Accuses Obama of Wiretapping Trump Tower During Campaign.
Donald Trump alleged in a tweet storm early Saturday that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower before his election victory.
Trump did not provide any evidence for the claims, which followed an interview on Fox News where the allegations came up.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump wrote as part of a series of tweets Saturday morning.
He added: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
If it was “turned down by a court” the first time, it must have been a FISA warrant; there were some leaks that one had been obtained after an initial turndown. I guess tRump and his gang should have used better encryption.
How long are we going to have to put up with this joke of a “president” enriching himself from the public trough? Of course we don’t know yet where tRump got his information about the “wiretapping.” It could have been Infowars. The Washington Post thinks it might have been Breitbart: Trump cites no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower.
Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities….
Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Reactions from John Schindler:
I have this image of tRump pacing back and forth in his bathrobe in his tacky apartment down in Palm Beach, screaming into his insecure cell phone in frustration. He just can’t understand why he should be subject to any checks on his power. He is truly insane. Folks, we are witnessing the biggest scandal in American history. It’s going to be yuuuuge!
Yesterday’s childish tantrum from President Baby-Man was a demand for an investigation of Chuck Schumer for meeting with Vladimir Putin in 2003. Huffington Post: Donald Trump’s Attempt To Shift Russia Focus To Chuck Schumer Is More Than A Little Desperate.
President Donald Trump attempted to call out Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday by highlighting a meeting over a decade ago between Schumer and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump tweeted the image after it appeared in a Reddit thread Thursday and was shared by a number of conservative pundits, including an editor-at-large for , a site that promotes conspiracy theories. The picture also appeared on Gateway Pundit, which has also promoted conspiracies, as well as on conservative site, The Drudge Report.
The photo appears to be from 2003, when Putin made a public appearance at a New York City gas station that had recently been bought by Russia’s Lukoil. Schumer responded to Trump by highlighting the absurdity of his comparison, noting that Sessions denied having contact with Russia’s ambassador while he was under oath.
According to tRump whisperer and WaPo reporter Robert Costa, tRump was already mad as hell when he left for Florida yesterday.
Remember, Friday night and Saturday are the times when Ivanka and Jerrod are observing the Shabbot and aren’t available to exert control over the crazy man.
Maggie Haberman has more at The New York Times: Sessions Controversy Heightens Trump’s Feeling of Being Under Siege.
President Trump was still upbeat Wednesday night, as he settled into dinner in the White House residence with his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, some 24 hours after giving the most consequential speech of his brief presidency.
But not long afterward, the glow from Mr. Trump’s best day in office began to fade with the breaking news that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had met with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Sessions failed to mention those conversations in his Senate confirmation hearing, or, according to presidential advisers, to tell Mr. Trump at all….
In a statement repeating a familiar critique that Democrats were on a “witch hunt” over the administration’s ties with Russia, Mr. Trump offered a passing but pointed public jab at how Mr. Sessions had handled the matter. “He could have stated his response more accurately,” Mr. Trump said.
The president was irritated that Mr. Sessions did not more carefully answer the questions he was asked under oath, according to people who spoke with him. His larger frustration, however, was not with Mr. Sessions, but with whoever revealed the meetings to reporters for The Washington Post.
Mr. Trump, according to his advisers inside and outside of the White House, has felt besieged by what he regards as a mostly hostile bureaucracy, consisting in part of Democrats and people who opposed his election who are now undermining his presidency with leaks. He believes that they are behind the stories about confusion and dysfunction in his administration and, most of all, that they have made his relationship with Russia a recurring issue.
WTF did he expect after he colluded with a hostile foreign power to damage Hillary and win the election? How stupid do you have to be to think you can get away with something like that?
I also have to wonder if tRump somehow heard about this Andrea Mitchell interview with Senator Chris Coons on MSNBC, posted by Malcolm Nance:
Now the trump administration is looking for technological ways to stop all the leaks, according to Foreign Policy.
White House IT officials met with at least one private firm selling a network security system that would give administration officials control over how staffers use computers and cellphones to transmit sensitive information, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move is part of broader push by the administration to rein in leakers across the federal bureaucracy and in the White House after a string of embarrassing disclosures to the media since Trump took office, the people said.
The leaks have ranged from details of President Donald Trump wearing a bathrobe to watch late-night television, to disclosures of National Security Advisor designee Michael Flynn’s communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Trump has denounced the leakers and vowed to hunt them down.
Now, the White House is searching for a high-tech solution akin to the defense systems used by companies to stop wayward employees from stealing proprietary data. The quest underscores the administration’s desire to better control the news cycle — and perhaps to quash dissent.
This guy is more paranoid than Richard Nixon. The Russian government and their puppet tRump may think the investigations of their ties are a witch hunt, but the American public disagrees. Politico reports: Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls.
While the public still has considerable confusion about what, precisely, individuals connected to the Russian government did — and how they might have been connected to the Trump campaign — there is general consensus that whatever happened, it merits further independent investigation.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week asked Americans if they believe that Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is “too friendly” or not. A 38 percent plurality called the Trump-Putin relationship too friendly, more than the 29 percent who said it wasn’t too friendly. Nearly a third, 32 percent, didn’t have an opinion.
When it comes to the Trump-Russia issue, there are two parallel trends that should raise red flags for the White House. First, as Americans have formed opinions on the issue, it has been to Trump’s detriment. Since December, the percentage of undecided Americans on the Trump-Putin relationship has declined from 44 percent to 32 percent. At the same time, the percentage who view Trump as too friendly with the Russian leader has risen from 31 percent to 38 percent.
Moreover, while nearly two-thirds of Democrats feel Trump is too friendly with Putin, only half (52 percent) of Republicans feel he isn’t too friendly with his Russian counterpart. Independents are unsure about Trump’s relationship with Putin — but more feel they are too friendly (35 percent) than think they aren’t (27 percent).
I’ll have more links in the comment thread, and I invite you to share what you’re reading and hearing. Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!
Populist insurgencies usually get ugly. We’ve got two campaigns that are pretty representative of that assertion. I’m a veteran of a lot of political shenanigans and ugliness having run against a mean ass outsider in my day. People that only see themselves and their “movements” as some savior of society are willing to do and say just about anything. That goes for the kinds of people they attract to the campaign also. I’ve seen some ugly ass comments coming from surrogates this year that really have made my stomach churn. I know this isn’t a particularly cheery topic but since New York, all I see is two campaigns resplendent with hostile, angry people, candidates, surrogates, and staff. It’s beginning to feel a lot like a Nixon campaign.
We knew it would probably get ugly when Donald Trump started surging. He’s been friends with two of the worst Nixon ratfuckers that ever lived. How could you possibly trust a guy with mentors like Roy Cohn and Roger Stone to be anything but a mean, nasty piece of work? Jeffrey Toobin scored an interview with Stone for the New Yorker. All that’s missing is Donald Segretti when it comes to the Trump Equation.
Roger Stone, the political provocateur, visited the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel on primary day last week to reminisce about his long friendship with Donald Trump. It started in 1979, when Stone was a twenty-six-year-old aide in Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign. Michael Deaver, a more senior campaign official, instructed Stone to start fund-raising in New York. “Mike gave me a recipe box full of index cards, supposedly Reagan’s contacts in New York,” Stone said. “Half the people on the cards were dead. A lot of the others were show-business people, but there was one name I recognized—Roy Cohn.” So Stone presented himself at the brownstone office of Cohn, the notorious lawyer and fixer.
“I go into Roy’s office,” Stone continued, “and he’s sitting there in his silk bathrobe, and he’s finishing up a meeting with Fat Tony Salerno,” the boss of the Genovese crime family. Stone went on, “So Tony says, ‘Roy here says we’re going with Ree-gun this time.’ That’s how he said it—‘Ree-gun.’ Roy told him yes, we’re with Reagan. Then I said to Roy that we needed to put together a finance committee, and Roy said, ‘You need Donald and Fred Trump.’ He said Fred, Donald’s father, had been big for Goldwater in ’64. I went to see Donald, and he helped to get us office space for the Reagan campaign, and that’s when we became friends.”
Stone is now sixty-two, and he’s allowed his hair, which used to be a kind of yellow, to evolve into a shade more suitable for an éminence grise than for an enfant terrible. He has played roles in many of his generation’s political dirty-tricks scandals. He was just nineteen when he had a bit part in Watergate; he sent campaign contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was running against Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Almost three decades later, he helped choreograph the so-called Brooks Brothers riot, which shut down the Bush v. Gore recount in Miami-Dade County.
This is one of the reasons I groan when a member of the Bernie cult tries to tell me that Charles Koch is “backing” Hillary Clinton. How
much we’ve forgotten of the Nixon years. How much we need to pay closer attention to the connections between the old Nixon CREEPS and Trump. Nixon evidently even had a thing for Trump when he appeared on a Phil Donahue segment back in the day.
At the time, Trump was only 41 but was already a New York media darling. The Art of the Deal had just come out, which would make him a national figure. Most of the interview isn’t about politics, but the parts that are are very Nixon-friendly. Trump defends Nixon and his father against allegations that they discriminated against black tenants, and talks admiringly of Roy Cohn, the right-wing lawyer most famous for prosecuting theRosenbergs and serving as Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel in the Senate.
Cohn (who spent his whole life closeted and died of AIDS the year before the interview) was a friend of Nixon’s and reportedly helped him win reelection in 1972 by leaking Democratic VP candidate Thomas Eagleton’s psychiatric history.
“The one thing I’ll say about Roy is that he was an extremely loyal guy,” Trump says. “Loyalty is a great trait.”
The prospect of Trump running for office comes up again and again:
Donahue: You tell us also in your book that you left Queens and you left Brooklyn for Manhattan to get away from rent control! You’re honest to tell us in this book.
Trump: I’m honest. Hey, I’m not running for anything, Phil, I’m not running for office. I don’t have to lie in a book. I want to tell the facts, okay? Do you want me to say little fibs and little this and little that, and how much we all love rent control and what a great thing it’s been for New York? It’s been a disaster for New York, it’s badly hurt New York, it’s crippled New York.
Trump follows that up by engaging in the kind of political rhetoric that he’s perfected over the past year: populist while simultaneously drawing upon his own power as an elite. He condemns rent control for primarily helping the politically well-connected, bragging in the process that he has those connections (“it’s the people with the connections — somebody knows Trump, somebody knows somebody else, they call up and say, ‘Do me a favor,’ that’s what it’s all about”).
Pardon me for citing the National Review, but they see it too.
Richard Nixon might have been right at home in the bully-boy politics of today. As a young candidate, Nixon conducted what he called “rock ’em, sock ’em” campaigns. Donald Trump sometimes seems to be channeling Nixon in his pursuit of “the silent majority,” a phrase coined by Nixon. Trump would be lucky to do as well as Nixon did in attracting voters with his populist rhetoric. While winning a second term in a landslide in 1972, Nixon got the votes of 35 percent of self-described Democrats — many of them lower-middle-class blue-collar whites.
Trump also seems to suggest that he would be like Nixon in another way: as a deal maker. This side of Nixon sometimes gets overlooked, but it is worth examining as Republicans (and possible the country as a whole come November) contemplate whether Trump would be a good president. As president, Nixon was willing to compromise. Democrats controlled Congress, so Nixon worked with their leaders to pass a raft of environmental and social-welfare legislation. In part, Nixon was being politically opportunistic. Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine hoped to ride the nascent environmental movement to the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House in 1972. Nixon saw a chance to outflank Muskie by creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon was not just posturing — he really did want to get things done. In his crafty way, Nixon was willing to outmaneuver his own subordinates. He told Chris DeMuth, a young aide assigned to write up the new environmental-law regulations (and later president of the American Enterprise Institute), to steer clear of Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, a prolific Nixon fund-raiser who was closely allied with big industry. “I’ll take care of Stans,” said Nixon, and he did, keeping him away from the rule-making process.
Nixon’s capacity to play to the emotions of voters while still governing effectively was best displayed in his approach to civil rights. In 1968 and 1972, Nixon employed what was called the GOP’s “southern strategy.” Appealing to southern Democrats (then the majority), Nixon loudly inveighed against forced busing to integrate schools. To liberals, he seemed to be pandering to racists. But with Nixon it was important, as his attorney general, John Mitchell, said, “to watch what we do, not what we say.” Working quietly behind the scenes to overcome resistance to federal court orders, Nixon set up citizens’ committees in each of the Deep South states to integrate the schools. When Nixon became president, 70 percent of black kids in the Deep South attended segregated schools. Within three years only 10 percent did.
Perhaps in today’s noisy and instantaneous media environment, Nixon could not have gotten away with such politically deft sleight of hand. Nixon, who was always muttering that “the press is the enemy,” did not have to contend with bloggers or cable-news talking heads. Nixon wrote many of his own speeches (including the “silent majority” speech) but was cunning about using the right speechwriter to set the tone he wanted in any particular moment — Pat Buchanan for red-meat populism, Ray Price for high-minded good governance. Still, sometimes he was too clever by half, especially when trying to be both a hawk and a dove on Vietnam.
Nixon was one of those guys that got where he did by bringing out the worst in people. Trump is following in that style. So is the other populist in the race. Just when you thought the attacks couldn’t get any more personal from the sinking Sanders campaign, up jumps Rosario Dawson with a Monica Lewinsky reference.
Bernie Sanders’ lone Senate endorser on Monday rejected the notion that the recent comments made by one of the candidate’s celebrity surrogates represents more than an isolated, inflammatory incident.
“No. This is individuals going off track on their own,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview with CNN’s “New Day,” addressing actress Rosario Dawson’s invocation of Monica Lewinsky against bullying while introducing Sanders over the weekend in Delaware.
Such remarks are “not helpful to the campaign, and it’s certainly not in keeping with what Bernie wants to see.”
“Those are complete distractions. They take away from the conversation about core policy issues. In a campaign you have many people who step forward on your behalf. They come out with some things that go off track,” Merkley said. “Hopefully everything I say will be on track, because I do believe that this is a conversation about so many important issues.”
Dawson’s comments are not the first from a Sanders surrogate to have raised eyebrows among those on the Hillary Clinton campaign and beyond. For example, when actor Tim Robbins compared Clinton’s victory in South Carolina as “about as significant” as winning the island of Guam, the territory’s lone congressional delegate and former first lady fired back, pledging her support to Clinton ahead of the May 7 primary. Robbins later apologized, saying he did not intend to make light of the territory’s lack of full voting representation.
For his part, Sanders declined to directly address Dawson’s comments about Lewinsky on Sunday, praising the actress in a CNN interview for doing a “great job” in discussing the “real issues” facing the country.
Bernie’s silence on the matter screams a lot about his intent to me. I think he’s so mad about not being the recognized savior that he doesn’t give two shits about what his people say about Clinton or the Democratic Party. The man has a mean streak as large as Richard Nixon’s paranoia.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont did his best on Sunday to avoid talking about comments made by one of his supporters, the actress Rosario Dawson, who invoked Monica Lewinsky at a rally for Mr. Sanders this weekend.
Ms. Dawson created some controversy Saturday when she referenced Ms. Lewinsky, the former White House intern who had an affair with President Bill Clinton. Though Ms. Dawson was talking about cyberbullying and about being under pressure to support Hillary Clinton, the Clinton campaign has called the comment “vitriol.”
“We are literally under attack for not just supporting the other candidate,” Ms. Dawson said while introducing Mr. Sanders in Wilmington, Del. “Now, I’m with Monica Lewinsky with this. Bullying is bad. She has actually dedicated her life now to talking about that. And now, as a campaign strategy, we are being bullied, and, somehow that is O.K. and not being talked about with the richness that it needs.”
On Sunday, Jake Tapper of CNN questioned Mr. Sanders about Ms. Dawson’s comments. “One of your high-profile surrogates, actress Rosario Dawson, invoked Monica Lewinsky at one of your rallies,” Mr. Tapper said. “Do you think it’s appropriate for your surrogates to be talking about Monica Lewinsky on the campaign trail?”
Mr. Sanders, however, declined to speak about the reference to Ms. Lewinsky and instead expressed support for Ms. Dawson. “Rosario is a great actress, and she’s doing a great job for us,” he said. “And she’s been a passionate fighter to see that we increase the voter turnout, that we fight for racial, economic, environmental justice.”
He added: “What our job right now is to contrast our views compared to Secretary Clinton. That’s what a campaign is about.”
Bernie’s chances at the nomination are all but gone but he can and is destroying whatever goodwill and legacy he may have built. He’s getting a series of open letters written to him in newspapers begging him to stop self-destructing and begging him to stop doing Donald Trump’s “dirty work”. I suggest that he’s just ratfucking at this point in time. This from the op-ed by Michael Cohen at the Boston Globe.
But here’s the thing – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but maybe a little tough love is in order — you’re not going to win the Democratic nomination. This isn’t one of these “yeah, it’s a long shot, but maybe if I get lucky and everything goes my way” things. You’re not going to overcome Hillary Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates and you’re certainly not going to convince super delegates to vote for you over her. I mean, think about it: You’re trying to convince them to vote against the person who is almost certainly going to win in pledged delegates.
And even if you could win that way, would you really want to? In fact, if we’re really being honest here, the way your campaign has gone the past six weeks isn’t the way you want to win — or even the way you want to lose. Remember back in May 2015 when you said you didn’t want this campaign to be about Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders? Remember when you said you weren’t going to engage in character assassination and personal attacks?
Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries accuses Bernie of giving aid and comfort to Donald Trump. Bernie’s dodged every chance to disown the comment.
A Brooklyn congressman is accusing Sen. Bernie Sanders of providing “aid and comfort” to Donald Trump and the GOP after a top surrogate referenced Monica Lewinsky at a recent Sanders rally.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, said Mr. Sanders needs to “stop it” and disavow the comments made by Rosario Dawson, an actress.
“Bernie Sanders ran a scorched earth campaign in New York that personally attacked Hillary Clinton at every turn, and he was crushed by 16 points,” Mr. Jeffries said today, referring to Ms. Clinton’s triumph over Mr. Sanders in the April 19 New York primary. “Instead of learning from past failure, supporters of Bernie Sanders continue to play dirty pool in a desperate attempt to halt Hillary Clinton’s clear path to the Democratic nomination.”
A lot of us think that Charles Koch is ratfucking by joining Karl Rove and America First to turn Bernie voters against Hillary. Unfortunately, it’s working on some of them as I’ve seen from time lines and feeds. I’m going to close with this one from MSN and the Daily Beast: Trump, Sanders, and American Ignorance.
Civic participation is one of the most important responsibilities of being an American. I’m o
ld enough to remember when being selected to lead your homeroom class in the daily Pledge of Allegiance was a source of great pride. As kids, with our hands over our hearts, shoulders squared, we’d recite those venerable words, “…and to the republic, for which is stands…” with purpose. Unfortunately, the moral imperative of being a good steward of this great nation and understanding what it takes to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is an afterthought for many, if any thought at all.
Without question, the insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have jolted many Americans out of their normal political malaise. Bringing more citizens into the political fold is a good thing. But, what many of them are now realizing is that it takes more than just rolling out of bed to rage against the machine at big political rallies to select the next leader of the free world.
Surprise! There are rules involved. Rules governing the presidential election date back to our founding and the establishment of Electoral College. The Constitution also gives latitude to the states in how to structure their nominating process. Electing the president wasn’t necessarily meant to be easy. Nothing worth safeguarding usually is. The founders deliberately designed our constitutional republic that way to avoid the tyrannical pitfalls of past societies like ancient Greece or the monarchies of Europe.
The Framers wanted multi layered stakeholders invested in the best interest of the republic making it less vulnerable to the rash whims of a majority. They understood how pure democracy without checks and balances historically led to the subjugation of minority voices. It was true then and still rings true today. That’s why our constitution does not allow for direct voting to elect the president.
The best thing I’ve seen on the internet for days is this interview with Joy Reid and Sanders Reality Denier Jeff Weaver who was doing his usual Baghdad Bob routine on MSNBC. Go watch it as she makes this point to him: “You Only Win White Voters and White Caucuses”. It’s a hoot! The fact neither Trump, Nixon or Sanders can fool minority voters or most women just says something, doesn’t it?
That our country was designed to confound populist impresarios is the best thing to remember when all this craziness from populists goes down. They can scream about rules they don’t like and don’t know about. But, the rules basically come straight out of our Constitution and it’s to stop nonsense like this current round of ratfucking from creating a situation where the leader of the free world is a loud mouthed, egoist, know nothing. Oh, you can apply that label to which ever candidate you prefer or all of the above. Remember, the system eventually dealt with Richard Nixon who was everything but a know nothing. It just took some time.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
In less than two weeks, our nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently reading books and articles about the assassination and it’s aftermath. I have wanted to write a post about it, but I just haven’t been able to do it. For me, the JFK assassination is still a very painful issue–in fact, it has become more and more painful for me over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser and more knowledgeable about politics and history. Anyway, I thought I’d take a shot at writing about it this morning. I may have more to say, as we approach the anniversary. I’m going to focus on the role of the media in defending the conclusions of the Warren Commission.
I think most people who have read my posts in the past probably know that I think the JFK assassination was a coup, and that we haven’t really had more than a very limited form of democracy in this country since that day. We probably will never know who the men were who shot at Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, but anyone who has watched the Zapruder film with anything resembling an open mind, has to know that there was more than one shooter; because Kennedy was shot from both the front and back.
The reasons Kennedy died are varied and complex. He had angered a number of powerful groups inside as well as outside the government.
– Powerful members of the mafia had relationships with JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy, and at his behest had helped carry Illinois–and perhaps West Virginia–for his son. These mafia chiefs expected payback, but instead, they got Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General on a crusade to destroy organized crime. In the 1960s both the CIA and FBI had used the mafia to carry out operations.
– FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover hated Bobby Kennedy for “interfering” with the FBI by ordering Hoover to hire more minorities and generally undercutting Hoover’s absolute control of the organization.
– Elements within the CIA hated Kennedy for his refusal to provide air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion (which had been planned by Vice President Nixon well before the 1960 election), and for firing CIA head Allen Dulles.
– Texas oil men like H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison hated Kennedy for pushing for repeal of the oil depletion allowance.
– The military hated Kennedy because of the Bay of Pigs, his decision to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis by pulling U.S. missiles out of Turkey in return for removal of the missiles from Cuba instead of responding with a nuclear attack, his efforts to reach out to both the Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro of Cuba, his firing of General Edward Walker, and his decision to pull the military “advisers” out of Vietnam.
– Vice President Lyndon Johnson hated both Kennedys, and he knew he was on the verge of being dropped from the presidential ticket in 1964. In addition, scandals involving his corrupt financial dealings were coming to a head, and the Kennedys were pushing the stories about Johnson cronies Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes in the media.
What I know for sure is that after what happened to Kennedy (and to Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy), there is no way any president would dare to really challenge the military and intelligence infrastructure within the government. Richard Nixon found that out when a number of the same people who were involved in the Kennedy assassination helped to bring him down.
To long-term government bureaucracies, the POTUS is just passing through the government that they essentially control. Any POTUS who crosses them too often is asking for trouble. People who think President Obama should simply force the CIA, NSA, FBI and the military to respect the rights of American citizens should think about that for a minute. Can we as a nation survive the assassination of another president?
Read the rest of this entry »
Mona isn’t feeling well, but will try to get her scheduled post up later on today. Meanwhile here’s an open thread for early risers.
Famed British broadcaster Sir David Frost has died of a presumed heart attack while giving a speech on a cruise ship. He was 74. The Guardian reports:
Sir David Frost, the journalist and broadcaster whose lengthy career covered everything from cutting-edge 60s satire to heavyweight interviews and celebrity gameshows, has died of a heart attack on a cruise ship, his family said.
The 74-year-old, whose programmes included That Was The Week That Was and The Frost Report, was to have given a speech on board the Queen Elizabeth, which had set sail from Southampton on a cruise to Lisbon.
Frost, who was knighted in 1993, helped establish London Weekend Television and TV-am. He was famed for his political interviews, most notably with Richard Nixon in 1977, in which the US president conceded some fault over Watergate for the first time.
From BBC News:
Born in Kent, Sir David studied at Cambridge University where he became secretary of the Footlights club, and met future comedy greats such as Peter Cook, Graham Chapman and John Bird.
After university he went to work at ITV before he was asked to front the BBC programme That Was The Week That Was, which ran between 1962 and 1963.
Casting a satirical eye over the week’s news, the show boasted scriptwriters including John Cleese, John Betjeman and Dennis Potter.
The Frost Report brought together John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in a sketch show which would influence many comedy writers including the Monty Python crew.
Much more at the link.
Of course Frost was best known for his interviews with Richard Nixon after Watergate forced Nixon to resign the presidency.
He…conducted a series of interviews with Mr Nixon, who had resigned the presidency two years earlier, in which the former president came close to apologising to the public for his role in the Watergate scandal.
Their exchanges were eventually made into a film – based on a play – which saw Michael Sheen portray Sir David Frost to Frank Langella’s Nixon. Sir David himself appeared at the premiere of the film in 2008.
David was regularly scoffed at by fellow broadcasters for his allegedly non-aggressive style of questioning.
But he invariably had the last laugh because he almost always extracted more intriguing information and revealing reactions from his subjects than other far more acerbic broadcasters who boasted about their hard-hitting treatment of their “victims”….
But there were many other historic moments, including one when he suddenly introduced the word “bonkers” during a tense interview with the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict. She was furious.
A few clips from Frost’s long and illustrious career in broadcasting.
From That Was The Week That Was (TW3), 1963
I’m going to begin with an article I came across yesterday while reading the Guardian. It’s about a story from 2006 that I remembered and sometimes think about–a woman whose skeletonized body was found in her apartment three years after she died.
On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman’s body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.
How could such a thing happen? So often we hear sad stories like this and never get any answers to our questions. In this case, filmmaker Carol Morley decided to find out who Joyce Carol Vincent was, and she has made a documentary about her quest called Dreams of a Life. She writes:
In a city such as London, home to 8 million people, how could someone’s absence go unnoticed for so long? Who was Joyce Vincent? What was she like? How could she have been forgotten?
News of Joyce’s death quickly made it into the global media, which registered shock at the lack of community spirit in the UK. The story ran on in the British press, but still no photograph of Joyce appeared and little personal information.
Soon Joyce dropped out of the news. I watched as people discussed her in internet chatrooms, wondering if she was an urban myth, or talking about her as though she never mattered, calling her a couch potato, and posting comments such as: “What’s really sad is no one noticed she was missing – must have been one miserable bitch.” And then even that kind of commentary vanished.
But I couldn’t let go. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I decided I must make a film about her.
She began by placing advertisements in newspapers asking anyone who knew Joyce to come forward. It turned out that Joyce had lots of friends over the years. She had been engaged to be married before she died, and she had also spent some time in a battered women’s shelter. Eventually, Morley was able to talk to many people who had known Joyce. She describes her journey in the Guardian article. It’s an amazing story, and I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.
Follow me below the fold for some news and opinion…