Last night I was thinking about when Obama was president and we would have days when there was nothing earth shattering in politics to talk about. There would be quiet Fridays and weekends with no significant news about the government. Now there are terrifying crises in the government every single day, including weekends. If only we could go back to those relatively peaceful times! Instead we have Trump.
This morning, there are so many significant stories, that I can’t possibly get to all of them, so I’ll begin with this stunning headline from Wired: Trump Must Be a Russian Agent; The Alternative is Too Awful, by Garrett Graff.
The pattern of his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation are so consistent, that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader, that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers, compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.
In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.
At least the former scenario—that the president of the United States is actively working to advance the interests of our country’s foremost, long-standing, traditional foreign adversary—would make him seem smarter and wilier. The latter scenario is simply a tragic farce for everyone involved.
We’re left here—in a place unprecedented in American political history, wondering how much worse the truth is than we already know—after four days of fresh revelations in the public drip-drip-drip of the Russia investigation. The past two months have seen the public understanding of the case advance into almost unthinkable territory. Now we’re simply trying to figure out how bad things really are.
That’s about it. And will be eventually learn that a large proportion of Republicans in Congress are also either compromised by Russia or too stupid to see that their president is? After all, they did vote yesterday to lift sanctions on Paul Manafort’s buddy Oleg Derapaska’s businesses.
And did you see Rudy Giuliani’s meltdown on CNN last night? In case you missed it:
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Rudy Giuliani just contradicted nearly all the Trump team’s past collusion denials.
President Trump’s legal spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani on Wednesday night appeared to grant the possibility that members of Trump’s campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
And in the process, he contradicted dozens of previous denials that both the Trump team (and Trump himself) have offered.
“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, before getting cut off.
“Yes, you have,” Cuomo said.
Giuliani shot back: “I have not. I said ‘the president of the United States.’”
But while Giuliani himself might not have assured that nobody on the campaign colluded, others including Trump sure have. In fact, the Trump team has moved the goal posts on this question no fewer than 10 times after initially denying any contact at all with “foreign entities.” Trump has said dozens of times that there was “no collusion,” full stop. This appears to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the possibility that someone colluded without Trump’s knowledge.
Read the rest for a list of Rudy’s successive walkbacks on whether there was collusion with Russia in the Trump campaign. Is this just a response to the many revelations about Paul Manafort or is Trump getting ready to throw Don Jr. under the bus? From Raw Story:
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s stunning interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night is still making waves, and a CNN panel agreed on Thursday morning that it could spell big trouble for Donald Trump Jr.
While discussing Giuliani’s latest admission that there may have been some collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian government agents, host John Berman asked whether Trump Jr. should be worried that his father is preparing to throw him under the bus for potentially conspiring with a hostile foreign power.
“Would you be nervous if you’re Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner?” Berman asked. “Did Giuliani just send a signal that… the president’s legal defense team isn’t here for you?”
“That’s what I heard,” replied New York Times reporter Astead Herndon. “Everyone under [Trump’s] level can now be considered fair game, if we’re talking about the political signaling.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent discussed Giuliani’s meltdown with attorney Neal Kayal.
Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal told me that this appears to be a tacit admission of serious vulnerability — as well as an effort to lay the groundwork for a last-ditch defense of Trump, should more come out. It also makes the nonstop claims that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is leading a “witch hunt” look ridiculous.
“They’ve been saying for two years that this is a witch hunt,” Katyal told me. “As a lawyer, given the recent revelations, Giuliani now has to pivot and outline the next line of defense.”
“This is straight out of the organized-crime playbook,” Katyal continued. “The boss says, ‘There was no conspiracy.’ Then prosecutors prove there was a conspiracy between your subordinates and a criminal organization. Then the defense shifts to, ‘Okay, there was a conspiracy, but the boss didn’t know anything about it.’”
Sargent also asked Obama’s white house counsel Bob Bauer about Giuliani’s statements.
Bob Bauer, the White House counsel under former president Barack Obama, told me that Giuliani “must have some continuing hope” that Mueller cannot prove Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort attended in the expectation of gaining dirt on Hillary Clinton produced by the Russian government.
That seems unlikely, given the latest from The New York Times on Trump’s black box meetings with Vladimir Putin: Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery. The story recounts the meetings and phone calls Trump has had with Putin, beginning right after he was elected. But here’s the highlight of the story:
The inaugural meeting [in Hamburg, Germany] came at a sensitive time. Mr. Trump’s team learned that day that one of the biggest secrets of his presidential bid was about to become public: At the height of the campaign, his son, son-in-law and campaign chairman had met at Trump Tower with Russians on the promise of obtaining dirt on Mrs. Clinton from the Russian government. Mr. Trump’s team was scrambling to respond to a request for comment by The Times.
Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin that day lasted more than two hours. Afterward, Mr. Trump took his interpreter’s notes and instructed the interpreter not to brief anyone. Mr. Tillerson told reporters that the leaders discussed everything from Syria to Ukraine, but he also described “a very robust and lengthy exchange” on the election hacking.
A few hours later, Mr. Trump sought out Mr. Putin again during a dinner for all the leaders. Videotape later made public showed Mr. Trump pointing at Mr. Putin, who was seated across and down a long table, then pointing at himself and then making a pumping motion with his fist.
Mr. Trump later told The Times that he went over to see his wife, Melania Trump, who was sitting next to Mr. Putin, and the two leaders then talked, with Mr. Putin’s interpreter translating. No American officials were present, and the White House did not confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later, after it was independently reported.
Here’s the shocker:
The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. While he insisted most of the conversation be off the record, he later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides.
He said that he raised the election hacking three times and that Mr. Putin denied involvement. But he said Mr. Putin also told him that “if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.” Mr. Trump said: “I thought that was a good point because they are some of the best in the world” at hacking.
Asked how he weighed Mr. Putin’s denials against the evidence that had been presented to him by Mr. Comey; John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director; and James R. Clapper Jr., then director of national intelligence, he said that Mr. Clapper and Mr. Brennan were the “most political” intelligence chiefs he knew and that Mr. Comey was “a leaker.”
Later on the same flight Trump dictated a statement to the NYT about Don Jr.’s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.
Mr. Trump huddled with aides to decide how to respond to the emerging story by other Times reporters about the Trump Tower meeting. He personally dictated a misleading statement, saying the meeting was about Russian adoptions without admitting that it was actually intended to accept Moscow’s aid for his campaign, as emails obtained by The Times later documented.
You may have seen this footage from the dinner in Hamburg, in which Trump signals to Putin and then clenches his fist. Was he signaling that he needed to talk to Putin about the NYT story?
More stories to check out:
Michael McFaul at The Washington Post: Sorry, but Trump is not ‘tough on Russia’
The Wall Street Journal: Poll-Rigging for Trump and Creating @WomenForCohen: One IT Firm’s Work Order.
The Epoch Times: EXCLUSIVE: In Closed-Door Testimony, Papadopoulos Identified Alleged Spy in Trump Campaign.
The Washington Post: North Korean spy chief’s visit to Washington shrouded in mystery.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Hurricane Florence coverage is dominating the news as the storm approaches the Carolinas. Will the storm live up to the hype? For the sake of the people in it’s path, I hope it continues to weaken.
Hurricane Florence is making its final approach to the Carolinas, with landfall possible either overnight tonight or Friday, kicking off an agonizing crawl through the Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds.
As of Thursday morning, Florence’s eye was located about 160 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwestward.
Outer rainbands are already pushing ashore in eastern North Carolina, only the beginning of what could be a record wet siege from a tropical cyclone in parts of the Tar Heel State….
The National Hurricane Center noted Wednesday evening that while Florence has weakened some, “the wind field of the hurricane continues to grow in size. This evolution will produce storm surges similar to that of a more intense, but smaller, hurricane, and thus the storm surge values seen in the previous advisory are still valid.” [….]
“This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in its Tuesday evening area forecast discussion. A Wednesday morning forecast discussion said flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast South Carolina could be “unprecedented.”
The storm was about 145 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 195 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Thursday as of 8 a.m. EST. But with tropical force winds extending almost 200 miles from the center, Florence was a poised to bring havoc well before making landfall.
That could happen sometime Friday, probably somewhere near the states’ border. FEMA administrator Brock Long urged people in mandatory evacuation areas to get out. And he warned that the storm cleanup will take time and patience….
More than 1 million people were evacuated from coastal areas, and 10 million live within areas of hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches. Storm surge of up to 13 feet will be “life threatening” and rainfall of up to 40 inches will mean “catastrophic” flooding, he National Hurricane Center said.
“We want to continue to send the message that this monster of a storm is not one to ride out,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
Some folks still plan stay put, according to the article.
Meanwhile, we learned a couple of days ago that the Trump regime stole money from FEMA to pay for it’s child separation policy and immigrant concentration camps. But it turns out the situation is even worse than we thought.
The Trump administration this summer quietly redirected $200 million from all over the Department of Homeland Security to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, despite repeated congressional warnings of ICE’s “lack of fiscal discipline” and “unsustainable” spending.
The Department of Homeland Security asked for the money, according to a document made public this week by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. Of the $200 million, the document says $93 million will go to immigrant detention, a 3% budget increase that will fund capacity for an additional 2,300 detainees; and $107 million for “transportation and removal,” or deportations, a 29% budget increase.
The additional $200 million would put ICE’s budget for detention and transportation at more than $3.6 billion.
The money came from different parts of DHS, including FEMA, the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, cybersecurity office and Customs and Border Protection.
Read the rest at CNN.
The residents of the states in the Florence’s path should be very nervous. This morning Trump again attacked Puerto Rico on Twitter. CNN: Trump falsely claims nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico ‘did not die.’
Nearly 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. President Donald Trump denied this reality as a hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000,” he said in a tweet Thursday morning as Carolinians prepared to be pummeled by Hurricane Florence.
Earlier this month, the island’s governor formally raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at The George Washington University. CNN’s own reporting reflects similar numbers. The university study accounted for Puerto Ricans who succumbed to the stifling heat and other aftereffects of the storm and had not been previously counted in official figures. Much of the US territory was without power for weeks.
Trump has consistently denied any fault for his administration in the aftermath of the storm. In fact, the President has instead sought praise for his handling of Hurricane Maria, saying earlier this week that it was “an incredible, unsung success.” [….]
“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said Tuesday in the Oval Office, noting that the island location is “tough” during a hurricane due to the inability to transport vital equipment and supplies by truck. “It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
Whether or not FEMA is prepared and has the necessary funds, Trump will claim he did a fabulous job.
The Senate Intelligence Committee met this morning, and they decided to postpone the vote on Brett Kavanaugh until next Thursday, Sept. 20 at 1:45PM after Democrats successfully pushed for the
delay. CBS News:
Under the committee rules, any member can ask for a one-week delay on the vote of a nominee. After numerous Democrats deployed a strategy of holding up hearing business, citing lack of access to documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record, the minority pushed for another delay in the confirmation process.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, began the committee’s business by motioning to adjourn “to make sure we have the time and information we need, the documents, the facts, the witnesses in order to proceed on the Kavanaugh nomination.”
“This nomination is going to be tainted, it will be stained by process…broken the traditions of this committee.” He added the nomination was rushed through to judgement in a “highly partisan and unfortunately failed way.”
Blumenthal argued that there’s an “even more urgent and pressing duty to get those documents and having witnesses to enable us to evaluate serious concerns raised as a result of evasive and seemingly misleading answers given to us at the hearing.”
Read more at the link. At least they bought time for more public opposition to Kavanaugh. Susan Collins of Maine has been subjected to sustained pressure, and she hasn’t handled it well at all.
On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins accused political opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of attempted “bribery.” The charge itself is without any legal merit whatsoever. That complaints about the campaign finance effort came from Collins, Republican election lawyer Cleta Mitchell, and an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell make the episode almost too rich to be believed. Their cries of bribery, illegality, and lack of principle lay bare the bankrupt campaign finance system that Mitchell and McConnell helped create and that Collins has contributed to with previous Supreme Court votes and will supersize with her likely vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
Collins labeled as a “bribe” a fundraising plan by two progressive Maine groups, aided by the company Crowdpac, to raise funds for Collins’ eventual opponent in 2020. People are pledging to give money via Crowdpac to that unknown future opponent, but donors will only be charged for the donation if Collins votes “yes” on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. As of Tuesday night, the groups reported pledged donations of more than $1 million, with a $1.3 million goal. There were more than 39,000 individual pledges ranging from $1 to the maximum allowable donation to a candidate of $2,700.
Now we can argue about whether the political threat to Collins funded by tens of thousands of small donations should be illegal. But claims by Mitchell and others that the fundraising effort is illegal are wrong, in part thanks to the deregulated campaign finance system that Mitchell and others have helped to create through litigation and a sympathetic Supreme Court.
Read more at Slate.
For the past couple of days we’ve been hearing that Paul Manafort is negotiating for a plea deal to avoid having to go through a second trial. But it looks like he is still counting on a pardon from Trump once he’s finished with the legal process.
Today Politico reports that Trump and his legal team aren’t the least bit concerned.
At any time, Trump could wipe out Manafort’s earlier convictions and eliminate the need for the D.C. trial or a plea deal by pardoning Manafort. The president has sounded open to the idea, expressing deep sympathy for his former campaign chief….
Several aides and advisers have told POLITICO they believe Trump will grant clemency to Manafort, but Giuliani has said the president has agreed to put off any consideration of the issue until the Mueller probe concludes.
Asked Wednesday whether a plea deal would close the door on Manafort getting a Trump pardon, Giuliani replied, “No, it doesn’t. I can’t speak for his exercising discretion on a pardon. But I don’t see why it would foreclose it, no.”
Isn’t dangling a pardon obstruction and/or witness tampering? Giuiliani also revealed that Trump’s and Manafort’s attorneys are still in a joint defense agreement, so Trump is privy to everything Manafort is doing and vice versa.
Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.
“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time where as long as our clients authorize it therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”
Giuliani confirmed he spoke with Manafort’s lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing shortly before and after the verdicts were returned in the Virginia trial, but the former mayor wouldn’t say what he discusses with the Manafort team. “It’d all be attorney-client privilege not just from our point of view but from theirs,” he said.
It appears the fix is in. For all we know the attorneys already could have worked out how they will handle the pardon. Of courses that still would not get Manafort off the hook for state charges or for being forced by Mueller to testify before the grand jury. But Giuliani says they won’t act on a pardon until the investigation is over, so I guess until it happens, Manafort could still take the fifth and refuse to answer questions. I hope Mueller refuses any plea that doesn’t include cooperation from Manafort.
So . . . what else is happening? Let us know your thoughts in the comment thread below.
This has been a disastrous week for Trump. The Guardian summarizes: Trump’s terrible week: stunning news and whispers of impeachment.
…even by the standards of the Trump universe, this week has been a blur. And at its heart was a single, devastating hour on Tuesday 21 August that effectively turned the president of the United States into an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal crime….
…first, there was Rudy Giuliani. Trump’s lawyer, the former New York mayor, set the tone last Sunday with an Orwellian comment on the NBC network’s Meet the Press. Asked whether the president would give his version of events in testimony to Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Giuliani warned of a perjury trap and said: “Truth isn’t truth.”
Monday passed with just an embarrassing White House event to celebrate ICE during which Trump
…said that a border patrol agent, who is Latino, “speaks perfect English” as he beckoned him to the stage. He also misstated the acronym for US Customs and Border Protection at least eight times, referring to it as “CBC”, as in Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
On Tuesday, the shit really hit the fan.
But then came, to use primary election parlance, Super Tuesday. At around 4.30pm, in courtrooms 200 miles apart, a pair of Trump associates delivered a one-two punch that stunned the White House and revived whispers of impeachment.
In New York, Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen implicated the president in a crime to influence the 2016 presidential election. Pleading guilty to dodging taxes and campaign finance violations, he alleged that Trump directed him to pay hush money to prevent two women – a Playboy model and pornographic actor – speaking out about extramarital affairs.
In Alexandria, Virginia, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight tax and bank fraud charges and could now spend the rest of his life behind bars – unless Trump chooses to pardon him.
On Wednesday morning, Fox aired Trump’s interview in which he claimed that the campaign finance violations Cohen had pleaded guilty to were not crimes and that it should be illegal for people accused of crimes to turn states evidence in order to reduce their sentences. Then on Wednesday night he watched Tucker Carlson’s show.
There he saw a spurious Tucker Carlson report pushing a white nationalist conspiracy theory that white farmers in South Africa are being persecuted and murdered in Zimbabwe-style land grabs. Trump tweeted his outrage and promised to consult the state department, whose own human rights report on South Africa had made no mention of the issue.
It was one more white grievance dog whistle to add to all the rest. The South African government issued a swift rebuke and summoned US officials. Patrick Gaspard, the former US ambassador to South Africa, described the intervention as “astounding and deeply disturbing”. He said: “I can draw a line from the irresponsible statements he made in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and him lifting up tropes from white nationalists in South Africa.”
It emerged that David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc, which owns the pro-Trump National Enquirer, had been granted immunity to provide information about Cohen and Trump’s involvement with payments to the two women who allege sexual affairs. The Associated Press added fuel to the fire by reporting thatthe Enquirer kept such secrets locked in a safe, lending it extraordinary power.
That night, the New York Times reported that the Manhattan district attorney’s office was considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with one of the hush money payments.
The coup de grâce came with the news that Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization had been given immunity to testify against Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Clearly the news about Weisselberg is the most damaging to Trump, but it’s not clear exactly kind of immunity the long-time “financial gatekeeper” has. According the The New York Times, it’s limited to the case against Cohen .
The person briefed on the deal said that it was narrow in scope, protecting Mr. Weisselberg from self-incrimination in sharing information with prosecutors about Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to tax and campaign finance charges. The latter charges stemmed from payments during the campaign to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. It was not, the person said, a blanket immunity extending beyond the information he shared, and Mr. Weisselberg remains in his job at the Trump Organization.
Mr. Weisselberg figured into the charges filed against Mr. Cohen this week, having facilitated the processing of what prosecutors described as “sham invoices” at the Trump Organization, through which Mr. Cohen was reimbursed for the money he had paid to quiet one of the women alleging an affair with Mr. Trump, the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford.
It sounds like it’s use immunity, which protects Weisselberg from being prosecuted based on the specific information he provided about the hush money deals. It’s likely that Weisselberg indicated he would take the fifth and prosecutors used immunity to force him to talk. Weisselberg could still be charged with a crime if investigators find independent evidence that he was involved in criminal activities. If he’s eventually charged with a crime, Weisselberg might agree to cooperate fully with prosecutors, but so far that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Nevertheless, the fact that prosecutors have gotten testimony from the man who supposedly “knows where the bodies are buried” in the Trump Organization is huge. And some knowledgeable writers are claiming Weisselberg has agreed to cooperate fully and are speculating about what he could reveal about Trump.
On Twitter, Renato Mariotti says he would be surprised if Weisselberg only got use immunity.
Obviously he knows a hell of a lot more than I do.
Luppe B. Luppen (AKA @NYCsouthpaw) and Hunter Walker at Yahoo News: For Trump, Allen Weisselberg may be the man who knew too much.
Prosecutors investigating Trump’s inner circle reportedly now reportedly have a limited deal with Weisselberg, who has provided testimony against former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. If his cooperation expanded, it could play a crucial role in multiple ongoing investigations.
According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors granted immunity to Weisselberg in exchange for information about payments to Cohen, which were made to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign in order to suppress their stories of alleged affairs with Trump….
The Associated Press subsequently reported that the immunity deal was “restricted to Weisselberg’s grand jury testimony last month in the Cohen case.”
What could Weisselberg reveal if he were forced to cooperate fully?
If Weisselberg decided to fully open his kimono and reveal all he knows, the federal investigation in the Southern District of New York would be the most obvious potential beneficiary. However, in some ways, the nature of that office’s interest in Trump is the most mysterious. As of Friday afternoon, it is not known what other subjects that federal investigation is pursuing. If Trump Organization executives, or even the president, are in its cross hairs, then Weisselberg could offer key insights.
Special counsel Mueller’s investigation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is another potential beneficiary. For Mueller’s investigators, Weisselberg could detail the nature and extent of the financing the Trump Organization has received from sources connected to Russia. He could also offer them insight into any investments or potential investments Trump has made either in Russia or with Russian partners. A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story.
Weisselberg could also potentially be a valuable material witness in the New York attorney general’s state-level investigation into President Trump’s charitable foundation. In June, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation alleging a “pattern of illegal conduct,” including “willful self-dealing.” Weisselberg has long been the treasurer of the Trump Foundation. In preparation for its lawsuit, the attorney general’s office conducted a lengthy interview with Weisselberg and obtained his emails. The investigators allege that Weisselberg collaborated with Trump and campaign officials in advance of the 2016 Iowa primary to use the charity’s funds to benefit the campaign.
At The New Yorker, the very knowledgeable Adam Davidson has more:
As the C.F.O., Weisselberg tracked the money that came into the Trump Organization and the money that went out of it, former employees told me. I often found myself wondering what the Weisselberg part of the operation looked like. (I called and e-mailed him a few times, but, not surprisingly, never heard back.) Some told me he had a couple of bookkeepers, but that he personally handled most of the paperwork. Weisselberg knew who was paying or lending money to Trump, and he knew to whom Trump was giving money. When Trump became President, he placed his business interests in a revocable trust overseen by his son Donald Trump, Jr., and Weisselberg….
This summer…Weisselberg’s role in the organization came into sharper focus. In a recording that Michael Cohen made of a conversation he had with Donald Trump about a payment to keep secret an affair, Cohen described setting up a shell company to pay hush money during the 2016 campaign to Karen McDougal, a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. This week, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign-finance laws, in part by setting up this secretive payment. He said that he knew at the time that it was illegal to secretly make a payment for campaign-related activity, but he did so anyway at Trump’s direction. Strikingly, Cohen makes it clear on the tape that Weisselberg also knew about the shell company and payment. “I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” Cohen explains to Trump.
It is difficult to hear the tape and not wonder how Weisselberg developed this particular expertise and whether he had deployed it before.
Here’s what Davidson has to say about Weisselberg’s immunity deal:
The Journal story and other news coverage suggest that Weisselberg has narrow immunity, related, solely, to the payments that Michael Cohen made to silence two women with whom Trump had affairs. With evidence of that crime in hand, prosecutors can subpoena other records from the company. If they have a reasonable basis to believe another crime has been committed, they can ask Weisselberg about it. Weisselberg, fearing jail time himself, could broaden his coöperation. The fact that Weisselberg has “flipped”— and may flip further—could shift the calculus of other figures in the Trump orbit as well. Weisselberg is a big fish—perhaps the biggest fish of all. Fearing that Weisselberg might implicate them in a crime, any cronies, dealmakers, attorneys, and others who might want to exchange information for leniency from prosecutors, will now do so.
If you’re interested in what kinds of crimes Weisselberg might know about, I’d suggest reading the entire article as well as Davidson’s other New Yorker pieces about Trump’s business dealings.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Do you remember the good old’ days of last year when the likes of White House Mommy advanced the concept of ‘alternative facts’ and Sean Spicer announced “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period!” ?
Well, Gas Lighting never goes out of style in Drumpflandia. Rudy Giuliani has picked up where not even the Huckabeast dares go. And of course the Alt Facts Team at Faux News explored each conspiracy is with zest this morning with him. The bigger zesty bang came later on CNN. This is just psychologically exhausting. When will it end?
Zesty Rudy! Atta Boy!
It’s really hard to explain exactly how much Rudy just told us collusion doesn’t matter, isn’t a crime or whatever because you know, D’oh Hair Furor can’t even use a computer let alone hack one. This is pretty fresh off the keyboard of Aaron Blake of WAPO.
President Trump’s defense in the Russia investigation has been a study in goal-post moving — constantly watering down previous denials and raising the standard for what would constitute actual wrongdoing.
But rarely has it been so concentrated in one morning.
Trump’s lawyer/spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani appeared on Fox News’s and CNN’s morning shows on Monday to downplay the idea that colluding with the Russians would have even been illegal and to argue against strawmen.
The most notable portion of the interviews was when Giuliani rekindled the idea that collusion isn’t even a crime. Trump’s defenders have occasionally noted that the word doesn’t appear in the criminal code — which is a misnomer — but Giuliani took it a step further: He basically suggested Trump would have had to pay for Russia to interfere on his behalf.
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime — colluding with Russians,” Giuliani said on CNN. “Hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay for the hacking.”
Rudy Giuliani made two TV appearances this morning, one on Fox and one on CNN. Both are pretty convoluted and a bit hard to follow. So they’ve led to various interpretations. But there’s what I believe is one pretty big admission that is at least very new to me and I think a pretty big problem for Trump and Giuliani.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, one of the oddities of Giuliani’s rolling defense of Trump in response to Cohen’s accusations is this: Giuliani says that the meeting where Trump allegedly learned about the Russia meeting never happened and he (Giuliani) has talked to the participants and they agree it never happened and Trump didn’t attend the meeting or know about the Russian offer. Now, there’s sort of a problem here. Cohen never said just what meeting he was referring to. And how can you be a witness to a meeting that never happened about what was said in that meeting?
This makes no sense. But from the start, I’ve had the sense that Giuliani does know specifically what Cohen is talking about but is denying the specifics.
Now let’s get to what Giuliani said this morning. In a back and forth with CNN’s Alisyn Carmerota, he appears to say that two days before the meeting with the Russian lawyer there was a planning meeting to prepare for that meeting. This prep meeting would have been on June 7th, 2016. Giuliani says that meeting included Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort, Rick Gates and others.
Now, I’ve had some off the grid moments in the last ten days. But I don’t think I’d ever heard of this planning meeting. If nothing else, it suggests that the Trump team took the planned encounter with the Russian government emissary much more seriously than they’ve suggested to date. And then there’s Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy. As we know, Gates is now a cooperating witness. Big problem for the Trump Team, if he was at such a planning meeting.
Giuliani’s key aim throughout is to insist that Trump was not in that meeting. He seems to allow that Cohen was in the meeting, just that Cohen’s lying about Trump’s presence. But that point (Cohen’s presence) is less clear to me. Again, watch the video.
I’m getting tired of the obvious gaslighting and I’m not alone. Betsy Kaplan explores this for WNPR. Listen to the interview with Stephanie Sarkis whose book on gaslighting is due for release in October.
… it’s hard for people to cast informed ballots if President Trump is overtly and boldly lying without fear of repercussion. Some say he’s trying to gaslight us into believing the reality he wants more than the one that exists.
We saw it this weekend when New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger felt the need to correct the record after President Trump tweeted an inaccurate version of what was said in their off-the-record meeting.
Last week, President Trump asked people at a rally in Kansas City, MO to “…stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” He went on to say “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
An Op Ed at Teen Vogue explains the technique of gaslighting and argues that we should care about what’s happening to us. Here’s the term applied by Lauren Duca on what we’re being told on the Seperation of Familes policy.
Gaslighting is a tactic of psychological abuse in which the victim is made to doubt their own sanity, only here the abuser is the White House, and the victim is the American people. The Trump administration is sending up so many conflicting versions of reality that they make us doubt what is and is not real. The past week alone has provided one of the most gruesome examples of this, as it seeks to confuse and distract us from the plight of about 2,300 immigrant children separated from their families with no plan for being reunited. Those children are being held in detention centers, or flown across the country, with no guarantee that they will ever see their parents again. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order which he claimed would end family separation; it does so only in name. The so-called “zero-tolerance” policy will still be enforced, but now the Trump administration plans to hold families in detention centers together and indefinitely. They have made no statement on efforts for reuniting the families who have already been torn apart — but it doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.
This sort of opacity toward the press isn’t unusual for the Trump administration, nor is the internal, in-the-dark scramble exactly a novelty—Trump caught his entire communications staff off guard in March, when he almost unilaterally agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The more worrisome possibility is that the president, who has consistently and deliberately lied to the American public regarding Russia, is beginning to employ the same tactics with his own staff. A New York Timesreport published Wednesday reveals the extent of Trump’s obfuscation; per the Times, two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was presented with overwhelming evidence by former C.I.A. director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and former F.B.I. director James Comey, among others, that Russia had meddled in the presidential election, and that Putin himself had very likely ordered the attack. This evidence reportedly included texts, e-mails, and intel from a source close to Putin, as well as the contents of the controversial Steele dossier. According to those present for the briefing, Trump seemed “grudgingly convinced” of its veracity.
Of course, even if Trump was convinced, he’s shown no sign of it. Moreover, he’s repeatedly trashed the very people who briefed him that day, firing Comey months later, and criticizing Clapper and Brennan. He kept up the tirade as recently as Wednesday night, telling CBS’s Jeff Glor, “Certainly I can’t have any confidence in the past . . . I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he’s a total lowlife. I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice. And then, all of a sudden, he’s gone haywire because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn’t even mean.” He continued, “But no, I certainly don’t have confidence in past people. You look at what’s happened. Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.”
Trump also told Glor that in his meeting with Putin, he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling . . . I let him know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.” Whether or not—and to what extent—he was telling the truth, of course, is impossible to divine.
Now, we’re getting it on the economy. “Team Trump touts GDP growth with gaslighting and brazen lies.” This is from Think Progress’ Aaron Rupar.
President Trump on Friday morning held a press event that amounted to a victory lap for the Gross Domestic Product growing by 4.1 percent in the second quarter of this year.
Trump gave himself all the credit for economic growth, while discrediting the record of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“We have accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions,” Trump said. “Once again we are the economic envy of the entire world.”
Trump went on to tout jobs numbers in particular.
“We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” Trump said. “A number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it. Nobody would have even in an optimistic way projected it.”Trump was fibbing. Though he claimed to have “added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” 3.2 millions jobs have been created since his inauguration.And it is simply not the case that Trump’s jobs record would have been “unthinkable” during the campaign. In fact, Obama’s jobs record during the final 17 months of his administration — a period of time encompassing Trump’s campaign — outperformed Trump’s during his first 17 months.
While Trump attempted to gaslight people, his eldest son touted the GDP number with a brazen lie.
“Incredible numbers,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “I remember when ‘the experts’ laughed about breaking 3%. Just because Obama never broke 2% doesn’t mean that someone with great policies can’t. Let’s keep this going.”
What exactly does it mean when an entire Administration provides “alternative facts” and bobs and weaves to keep up with a continual series of lies and exaggerations?
Now for another random event which happened yesterday. The White House has said that it will no longer provide information about when the president holds conversations with foreign leaders, as it has always done hitherto.
The accounts of the chats may have been anodyne and terse, but they were a useful tool to keep track of foreign policy priorities. And it was always useful to compare and contrast what, say, the Kremlin would have to say about the conversation compared to the White House. Now we will no longer be able to do that.
And so to the final thing. Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Kansas City. And he came out with a memorable phrase that sounded as though it had been lifted straight from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He said: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”
Or it is. There is just a concerted – and sometimes it would seem – systematic effort to make you think otherwise.
Forget alternative facts. This is rewriting history.
“I’m so happy to be with you, you not crazy people,” Stephen Colbert said in his Late Show monologue Tuesday night. “Because you’ve got to remember that you’re not crazy, no matter what Donald Trump says.”
After playing the clip of Trump’s remark, the host feigned relief. “Oh good,” he said. “I was worried, because what I’m seeing and reading is that the president is a racist, horny old burger-goblin who literally steals children from poor people.”
“Oh, I’m being told he’s lying,” Colbert added, “which makes sense, because that’s another one of the things I’m seeing and reading.”
“Every day, just like that, Donald Trump gets a little more brazen,” the host continued, pointing to the announcement that the president wants to revoke the security clearances of several former Obama administration intelligence officials who have criticized him.
“Now, I don’t know if we’ve arrived at dictatorship,” Colbert said. “But we’ve definitely made it to dick.”
Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from all of this. It’s tiring to be continually told stuff that you know is not true and then watch the media go over it and over it. I need a Drumpfcation. I’m not sure if that means he goes some where and there’s a press black out for a week or so or I stay home and watch 1984 over and over and over …
I’m sure it’s not going to get any better when we start getting stuff coming out of the Manafort Trial. Buckle up Sky Dancers! It’s going to be a bumpy ride! Oops! Wrong movie reference! Or is it?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I woke up this morning and suddenly realized that today is my anniversary. It has been 36 years since I got sober on May 10, 1982. It has been a long, strange trip. I have a lot to be grateful for today. Everything is crazy in our world today, but I’d rather be dealing with this than dead.
And I have something else to be grateful for too: Michael Avenatti is on the case, and he has blown it wide open. I wonder where he learned how to get so much public attention?
Jack Schaeffer at Politico: Michael Avenatti’s Rules for Radicals. Where Stormy Daniels’ lawyer got his tricks.
Go ahead and joke about TV’s bright lights sunburning his bald head all the way to skin cancer. Avenatti won’t mind. All the world is his court and all the men and women in it merely jurors. Appearing on Anderson Cooper 360° on Tuesday night, where he was as poised as a fat cat taking a limousine to the airport, he explained his method.
“There’s been some criticism about our media strategy and how often I’ve been on CNN and how often I’ve been on your show and other networks,” Avenatti said. “Here’s the bottom line, Anderson. It’s working. OK? It’s working in spades. And one of the reasons, and one of the ways that it’s working, is because we’re so out front on this, people send us information. People want to help our cause. People contact us with information.”
They sure do, as we’ve learned over the past couple of days of wall-to-wall media coverage of Avenatti’s revelations about Michael Cohen selling access to Donald Trump. So what’s Avenatti’s secret?
Although Avenatti grew up in St. Louis and attended college and law school in Washington, D.C., his media politics owe much to the famous teachings of Chicago political organizer Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), who formulated a set of 13 “rules for radicals” that have gained devotees on both the left and right for several generations, including Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, for whom Avenatti worked while in college.
Appearing on TV, Avenatti wears down his opponents by deploying Alinsky’s Rule No. 5, one that Trump has long observed in his own battles: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” Avenatti routinely mocks Cohen as a “thug,” “beyond stupid,” legally “radioactive” and “not that bright.” and goes after Cohen’s attorney with an ack-ack of insults and slights. Wherever possible, Avenatti makes personal everything that is legal, perhaps because he figures that a temperamental opponent like Cohen will grow unsettled and erratic in the face of ridicule, unable to muster any real defense.
“Keep the pressure on. Never let up,” Alinsky’s Rule No. 8, has guided Avenatti’s nonstop, inventive TV campaign. Yesterday, for example, he broadened his attack on Cohen by releasing leaked financial documents that documented suspicious cash transfers from corporations to Cohen. What, if anything this new, damning information has to do with liberating Stormy Daniels from her NDA, isn’t readily apparent. But it fills the ditch that Cohen occupies with fast-drying concrete. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have,” Alinsky’s Rule No. 1, has piloted Avenatti’s moves from the beginning: He teased his Twitter audience by posting a picture of a DVD, implying that it contains smutty pictures of Trump and constantly hints that new, detrimental evidence against Cohen is about to emerge, such as his prediction that new hush payments will be revealed or that the Russians might have covered the $130,000 silence payment to his client. Overstatement is one of his favorite games. Staging media events that please the gallery is another area in which the Avenatti and Alinsky worlds intersect (Rule No. 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”).
Head over to Politico to read the whole thing. I wonder if Barack Obama is following all this?
At New York Magazine, Frank Rich compares Avenatti to Woodward and Bernstein: Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places.
With Michael Avenatti’s revelation that the shell company Michael Cohen used for the Stormy Daniels payoff also received money tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg (as well as payments from other companies with government business), it looks like the two main threads of Donald Trump’s legal troubles may be part of the same story. Has Avenatti found the “collusion” that Trump has spent so much energy denying?
Avenatti, whose revelations have since been verified by the Times and others, is doing exactly what Woodward and Bernstein did in Watergate — following the money. By doing so he has unveiled an example of collusion so flagrant that it made Trump and Rudy Giuliani suddenly go mute: a Putin crony’s cash turns out to be an essential component of the racketeering scheme used to silence Stormy Daniels and thus clear Trump’s path to the White House in the final stretch of the 2016 election. Like the Nixon campaign slush fund that Woodward and Bernstein uncovered, this money trail also implicates corporate players hoping to curry favor with a corrupt president. Back then it was the telecommunications giant ITT, then fending off antitrust suits from the government, that got caught red-handed; this time it’s AT&T. Both the Nixon and Trump slush funds were initially set up to illegally manipulate an American presidential election, hush money included. But the Watergate burglars’ dirty tricks, criminal as they were, were homegrown. Even Nixon would have drawn the line at colluding with Russians — or, in those days, the Soviets — to sabotage the Democrats.
I know some accuse Avenatti of being a media whore, but he’s the one media whore I can’t get enough of. He knows what he’s doing, he has the goods, and he is playing high-stakes poker, shrewdly, with what appears to be a winning hand.
I can’t wait to see what Avenatti will do next.
I can’t find any news reports on this yet, but last night Giuliani told USA Today that the Michael Cohen revelations have nothing to do with Donald Trump.
President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that his client is not affected by investigations into payments to longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen from several American companies and a firm tied to a Russian oligarch.
“I don’t see it,” Giuliani told USA TODAY. “This has nothing to do with us.”
If Trump had some kind of legal exposure, Giuliani said, Russia special counsel Robert Mueller would not have passed on the information to federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Cohen’s business dealings.
Giuliani also scoffed at a suggestion made by Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti that Russian money went to the adult film star to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
“I don’t see how that could be the case,” Giuliani said, noting that the entity cited by Avenatti is “not Russian; it’s an American company.”
There’s a lot that Rudy doesn’t see, like how Trump is likely to dump him next. Rick Wilson at The Daily Beast: Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump: This Will End Badly. And Probably Soon.
Like a bloated, portly fake billionaire rolling off a hooker after a hot 45 seconds of passionate sex, Donald Trump’s ardor for Rudy Giuliani seems to have cooled.
If the White House leaks are any barometer, it sounds more and more as if Donald wants Rudy to get his money off the nightstand and the hell out of his room at the No-Tell-Motel. This is what happens when you work for Trump, and Rudy is old enough, crafty enough, and knows Trump well enough to have known better.
Trump’s hiring of my old boss is a triumph of today’s Trump-right media bubble, where nothing matters but the coverage on Fox & Friends, Hannity, Sinclair stations’ nightly Two Minutes of Hate, and on the nut-site constellation that comprises conservative “news” sites. Trump didn’t hire Rudy for his skills as a litigator, or as a warrior in the high-speed low-drag social-media world of today. He was hired to break shit and make loud noises, and he’s damn good at it. Unfortunately for Rudy, that probably won’t be enough to save him from the Trump curse.
Trump has been mostly unable to hire and retain top-flight litigators because he destroys everyone around him. His record of stacking former staffers like cordwood as they are either fired, humiliated, shamed, permanently scarred, forced to cut off a finger by the Yakuza, morally compromised, or moved into the Witness Protection Program will go down in presidential history. It’s no secret that he’s a spectacular liar at all times and on all subjects, leaving his legal team constantly wary they have a client who combines a stubborn streak and a self-destructive nature with an endless capacity to lie to them about his marital, financial, and political lies.
Even though he’s a right-winger, Wilson has a way with words. Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
That’s is for me this morning. I may have a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following?
This post is illustrated with photos of women who were born before women’s suffrage and are voting for Hillary Clinton.
Just 5 more days until November 8. Then another day of waiting for the votes to be counted. After Hillary wins and we celebrate our first woman President and the ignominious defeat of the authoritarian fascist psychopath, there is going to have to be a major housecleaning at the FBI.
Before I get into the FBI news, some wisdom from 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
The Election Polls That Matter. You need to read the whole thing at the NYT, but here’s are some excerpts:
The best campaigns don’t bother with national polls — I’ve come to hate public polling, period. In the 2012 race we focused on a “golden report,” which included 62,000 simulations to determine Mr. Obama’s chances of winning battleground states. It included state tracking polls and nightly calls from volunteers, but no national tracking polls….
Today, campaigns can target voters so well that they can personalize conversations. That is the only way, when any candidate asks about the state of the race, to offer a true assessment.
Hillary Clinton can do that. To my knowledge, Donald J. Trump, who has bragged that he doesn’t care about data in campaigns, can’t….
in recent days, Mr. Trump has campaigned in New Mexico, a state he has no chance of winning. Candidates can get more money and adjust their message, but the one thing they can’t do is make more time; every wasted hour in a noncompetitive state is a grave error. Mrs. Clinton continues to go on the offensive in states like Arizona, where the race is close.
“Big data” is a buzzword, but that concept is outdated. Campaigns have entered the era of “little data.” Huge data sets are often less helpful in understanding an electorate than one or two key data points — for instance, what issue is most important to a particular undecided voter.
With “little data,” campaigns can have direct, highly personalized conversations with voters both on- and offline, like an ad on a voter’s Facebook page addressing an issue the voter is passionate about. In 2016, we see that online political engagement rates (especially for young voters) are at a historic high.
This is why campaigns no longer pay much attention to public polls, which often use conversations with just a few hundred people to make predictions about the entire electorate.
Now please go read the rest and have faith in Hillary’s sophisticated GOTV operation and the Obama coalition!
Positive news for Hillary from Latino Decisions: Latino Electorate On Track For Historic Turnout In 2016.
According to the latest data from our national tracking poll, Latino Decisions projects that between 13.1 million and 14.7 million Latinos will vote in 2016. This estimate represents a three percent to five percent increase over the 2012 Latino turnout rate which, coupled with the dramatic growth of the age-eligible Latino population, will yield between 1.9 million and 3.5 million additional Latinos voters in 2016 compared to the 11.2 million who voted four years ago.
Latino Decisions also projects that 79 percent of Latinos will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, 18 percent for Republican nominee Donald Trump, and the remaining three percent voting for other candidates. Clinton’s projected share is higher than both Latino Decisions’ estimated 75 percent Latino vote share and 71 percent exit poll share Democrat Barack Obama received during his 2012 re-election bid.
Over the past seven weeks, the Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll has demonstrated heightened enthusiasm for voting in 2016 and record-high levels of support for Hillary Clinton. Each week, the released poll has captured a rolling cross-section of 500 bilingual interviews conducted nationwide with Latino registered voters and has found little fluctuation either with respect to likely turnout or the proportion of the Latino electorate anticipated to vote for each presidential candidate. From a statistical modeling perspective, this stability is good and suggests more confidence in our model estimates for Election Day.
More details at the link.
Now for some reads about James Comey’s FBI and their efforts to elect Donald Trump.
Andrew Rosenthal at the NYT: James Comey’s Self-Righteous Meddling.
There are two possible explanations for James Comey’s decision to announce last week that he was examining emails that “appear to be pertinent” to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
One explanation, which I tend to believe, is that Comey, the director of the F.B.I., set out to interfere in the campaign on behalf of the Republican Party, a shocking act that would render him unfit for his powerful office.
(In that scenario, the aim may have not primarily been to help Donald Trump, but to preserve the Republican majorities in Congress, which suddenly seemed in danger this fall. Can you imagine how intense the pressure on Comey from the Hill must have been following his announcement this summer that the investigation was being closed?)
The other possible explanation is that he acted out of what you might charitably call a sense of moral rectitude. I think it’s better described as self-righteousness — a dangerous current in modern right-wing politics that has its roots in the rise of the Moral Majority, which aimed to make politics a choice between good values (the right’s) and bad values (the left’s) rather than a competition of ideas.
Certainly, Comey was not acting out of respect for protocol, ethics and procedure….
The idea that he wanted to help his political party is pretty terrifying. But the idea that he acted out of moral self-righteousness is not much more reassuring, given the immense powers of his office.
Read the rest at the NYT link.
Adele Stan at The National Memo: Is Reckless Comey Seeking Revenge On Critics Via FBI Twitter Account?
Something very dangerous is happening in the Federal Bureau of Investigation: The nation’s foremost law enforcement agency appears to be at war both within itself and with the Department of Justice, to which it belongs. The disagreements all involve our national politics and the FBI’s appropriate role in them, leaving the American people with yet another major institution on their do-not-trust list. The government is coming ever more undone, so much so that a recent Twitter post from an FBI account is raising questions about who’s behind it—the director of the FBI, or agents seemingly beyond his control….
Now comes word, via Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal, that agents who were investigating allegations of influence-peddling involving the Clinton Foundation were incensed when higher-ups at the Justice Department urged them to tread carefully so as to adhere to department guidelines against taking action that could influence an election, and that members of the Department’s anti-corruption unit didn’t think the FBI had a strong case.
No kidding. The “investigation” was based on right-wing news articles and the anti-Clinton propaganda tome “Clinton Cash.”
It seems as if whoever controls a Bureau Twitter account called @FBIRecordsVault has struck back against all those Clinton surrogates who are calling foul on Comey. The account, whose purpose is the posting of documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests, appears to have been dead for a year—no postings since Oct. 7, 2015. Suddenly, on Tuesday, it sprang to life with a handful of posts, one a nothing-burger on Fred Trump, father of the Republican standard-bearer; and another on an old investigation of the Clinton Foundation and President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, then a fugitive hedge-fund manager whose wife had donated to the DNC and the Clinton Foundation. It was Comey who brought the criminal case against Rich, Bloomberg News reports, and is said to have been “stunned” by Clinton’s pardon of the financier. The documents linked in the tweet don’t say much of anything (they’re heavily redacted), but the tweet itself does reinforce in the public mind the controversies advanced by Clinton’s enemies about the foundation. It’s not the fact of the tweet that’s at issue—the material was released via FOIA—but the timing of it from an account that was only reactivated Sunday.
Read many more details at the link.
Judd Legum at Think Progress: FBI launches internal investigation into its own Twitter account.
The account at issue, @FBIRecordsVault, had been dormant for more than a year. Then on October 30 at 4 a.m., the account released a flood of documents, including one describing Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump as a “philanthropist.” ….
But it wasn’t until two days later, when the account tweeted documents regarding President Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich that the account began to attract significant attention….
Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility will be referred back to the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”
Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.
Will was responding to a complaint from Jonathan Hutson, a former investigative reporter who now works in communication in Washington, DC.
Read more, and see the tweets at Think Progress.
Eli Lake at Bloomberg: The FBI Wants to Make America Great Again.
As Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman and Trump supporter, told me Wednesday, “The Marc Rich tweet is evidence of open warfare between the Justice Department and the FBI.” Corallo said this is largely because frustrated field agents believe the Justice Department has stymied the bureau’s investigations into Clinton’s e-mails and the Clinton Foundation.Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told me it was true that records requested from multiple people are supposed to be added to the government agency’s electronic reading room. “What undermines that explanation is that they were not just added to the reading room, they were broadcast on this rarely used Twitter account,” he said. What’s more, Aftergood said government agencies have great discretion when they respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. “There is always a bottleneck, because the resources to review FOIA requests are inadequate to the demand,” he said.
The move certainly appeared political. After all, former Attorney General Eric Holder was one of the first former officials to criticizeComey’s decision to update Congress on the e-mail investigation. Perhaps the tweet was a shot across the bow to Holder, who recommended the Rich pardon in 2000 as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton.
So what’s going on here? As the New York Times and the Washington Post are now reporting, and as my own sources confirm, many rank-and-file FBI officials are frustrated about the investigation into the Clinton Foundation and the way the e-mail probe was handled. Republicans too have wanted to see the FBI more robustly investigate the Clintons. So Comey has tried his best to split the baby.
Wayne Barrett at The Daily Beast: Meet Donald Trump’s Top FBI Fanboy.
Two days before FBI director James Comey rocked the world last week, Rudy Giuliani was on Fox, where he volunteered, un-prodded by any question: “I think he’s [Donald Trump] got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days. I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises.”
Pressed for specifics, he said: “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”
The man who now leads “lock-her-up” chants at Trump rallies spent decades of his life as a federal prosecutor and then mayor working closely with the FBI, and especially its New York office. One of Giuliani’s security firms employed a former head of the New York FBI office, and other alumni of it. It was agents of that office, probing Anthony Weiner’s alleged sexting of a minor, who pressed Comey to authorize the review of possible Hillary Clinton-related emails on a Weiner device that led to the explosive letter the director wrote Congress.
Hours after Comey’s letter about the renewed probe was leaked on Friday, Giuliani went on a radio show and attributed the director’s surprise action to “the pressure of a group of FBI agents who don’t look at it politically.”
“The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI about the original conclusion [not to charge Clinton] being completely unjustified and almost a slap in the face to the FBI’s integrity,” said Giuliani. “I know that from former agents. I know that even from a few active agents.”
Along with Giuliani’s other connections to New York FBI agents, his former law firm, then called Bracewell Giuliani, has long been general counsel to the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), which represents 13,000 former and current agents. The group, born in the New York office in the early ’80s, was headed until Monday by Rey Tariche, an agent still working in that office. Tariche’s resignation letter from the bureau mentioned the Clinton probe, noting that “we find our work—our integrity questioned” because of it, adding “we will not be used for political gains.”
Also check out this piece by Barrett at The New York Daily News: Peas in a pod: The long and twisted relationship between Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
As I wrote on Tuesday, Hillary is running against the Donald Trump, the GOP, the FBI, Wikileaks, and Vladimir Putin. And she’s still winning!
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below and have a terrific Thursday. Hillary will be our next POTUS!
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.
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:
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.
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.