Good Morning Sky Dancers!!
The Winter Solstice arrives tonight at 11:19 PM. Justin Greiser at The Washington Post: Winter solstice: There’s beauty in the darkest day of the year.
There’s something enchanting about the winter solstice, which arrives this weekend and marks our longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere.
Perhaps it’s the stark contrast between daylight and darkness that we experience when the winter sun is shining and not hiding behind a thick blanket of clouds. Or maybe it’s the fact that the sun hangs so low in the sky all day at this time of year that it almost feels as if our nearest star is within tangible reach, despite being 91 million miles away….
When astronomical winter officially begins, we’ll be less than halfway through our longest night of the year, which lasts more than 14 hours here in Washington. On both Saturday and Sunday, the sun will be up for just nine hours and 26 minutes, rising in the southeastern sky at 7:23 a.m. and setting to the southwest at 4:49 p.m.
I’ve always considered the winter solstice one of my favorite days of the year. Long before the dawn of modern technology, ancient cultures and civilizations have celebrated the winter solstice as a seasonal turning point, welcoming the inevitable return of the sun’s light.
Even in the modern age of technology and artificial lighting, the darkest day of the year forces us to ponder the importance of sunlight in our daily lives. It affects our moods, our productivity and even our sleep patterns. While the dark, gloomy days of winter can trigger seasonal affective disorder in many people, there’s something about the sun’s blinding, golden glow around this time of year that feels bizarrely uplifting.
In Icelandic folklore, there are Christmas monsters, one of which is the Yule cat. Smithsonian Magazine: Each Christmas, Iceland’s Yule Cat Takes Fashion Policing to the Extreme.
For most kids who celebrate Christmas, new clothes probably sit just above lumps of coal on the good present scale. But according to an Icelandic tradition, getting new socks before Christmas might just save your life. That’s because the Jólakötturinn, or Yule Cat, eats anyone who hasn’t received new clothes by the time Christmas rolls around, Matthew Hart writes for Nerdist.
The story of the Jólakötturinn likely dates back to the Dark Ages, though the oldest written accounts are from the 19th century. In any case, much like the Krampus, the Yule Cat has long been a Christmas-time enforcer of good behavior, Miss Cellania writes for Mental Floss. According to Icelandic tradition, anyone who finished their chores before Christmas would get new clothes as a reward. Meanwhile, lazy children who didn’t get their work done would have to face the Jólakötturinn.
For starters, the Jólakötturinn is no mere kitten—it towers above the tallest houses. As it prowls about Iceland on Christmas night, the Yule Cat peers in through the windows to see what kids have gotten for presents. If new clothes are among their new possessions, the big cat will move along. But if a child was too lazy to earn their new socks, the Jólakötturinn will eat their dinner, before moving on to the main course: the child herself, Hart writes.
Read more at the link.
I posted this story on the thread yesterday, but I’m doing it again just because: The mystery of the missing police station donation toys has been solved. The thief is very cute.
A Massachusetts police department has a thief in its midst.
Officers with the Franklin Police department had worked diligently to collect toys for needy children this holiday season, but noticed that some of those toys were disappearing, according to CNN affiliate WFXT.
Fortunately, the culprit was caught in the act and on camera. It was their own therapy dog, Ben Franklin.
“When Ben saw the toys, he thought they all belonged to him,” Deputy Chief James Mill told the station.
Among the stolen items was a baby doll.
Police were unable to recover the toys from Ben, due to an excess of slobber. Officers have instead replaced the stolen toys, the station reported.
He will likely not face charges, the station said, but he has been banned from the toy room.
I just love that Ben wanted to play with a baby doll.
I hate to have to post actual news today, but I’ll force myself.
A new story at The Daily Beast reveals that the White House is blacking out important information in documents it has been ordered by a judge to release: Trump Administration Officials Worried Halt to Ukraine Aid Violated Spending Law.
When President Donald Trump ordered a halt to aid to Ukraine last summer, defense officials and diplomats worried first that it would undermine U.S. national security. Ukraine is, as some of them later testified before Congress, on the front lines of Russian aggression, and only robust American support would fend off aggressive Moscow meddling in the West. This worry eventually helped galvanize congressional support for one of the two impeachment articles approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18.
But there was also a separate, less-noticed facet of the internal administration uproar set off by Trump’s July 12 order stopping the flow of $391 million in weapons and security assistance to Ukraine. Some senior administration officials worried that by defying a law ordering that the funds be spent within a defined period, Trump was asking the officials involved to take an action that was not merely unwise but flatly illegal.
The administration so far has declined to release copies of its internal communications about this vital issue—the legality of what Trump had ordered. On Friday, in 146 pages of new documents provided to the Center for Public Integrity under a court order, the Justice Department blacked out —for the second time—many of the substantive passages reflecting what key officials at the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget said to one another.
But considerable evidence is still available that those at key institutions responsible for distributing the Ukraine aid worried the halt potentially violated a 45-year-old law written to keep presidents from ignoring the will of Congress, according to public statements and congressional testimony.
Click the link to read the rest.
President Donald Trump says his impeachment trial should deliver on a goal he’s nurtured for months: unmasking the whistle-blower who started it all. But that would pose legal and ethical challenges that would be hard to overcome….
A Senate demand that the whistle-blower testify would probably be challenged in court as a violation of the law’s protections, and as a move that could put the unidentified person at risk while extracting only secondhand evidence of limited value. Lawmakers of both parties may share those concerns….
Experts on whistle-blower laws say disclosing the person’s identify, as Trump desires, would clash with protections from reprisal under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998.
“Everyone knows that the whistle-blower’s career will be devastated” if identified publicly, said Stephen M. Kohn, who has represented whistle-blowers for more than three decades. “There is no doubt that this whistle-blower will be attacked on social media vigorously and for years to come.”
I didn’t watch the debate, but reportedly one of the big issues was about the “progressive” candidates who have pledged not to hold fundraisers for big donors. Frankly, I think that’s silly as long as Republicans are raking in all the money they can. It only makes it harder for Democrats to compete. Anyway, a very generous donor is insulted. The New York Times: Democrats Sparred Over a Wine Cave Fund-Raiser. Its Billionaire Owner Isn’t Pleased.
To reach the wine cave that set off a firestorm in this week’s Democratic presidential debate, visitors must navigate a hillside shrouded in mossy oak trees and walk down a brick-and-limestone hallway lined with wine barrels. Inside the room, a strikingly long table made of wood and onyx sits below a raindrop chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals.
The furnishings drew the ire of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Thursday, when she chastised Pete Buttigieg for holding a recent fund-raiser in a wine cave “full of crystals” where she said guests were served $900 bottles of wine….
On Friday, the billionaire couple who owns the wine cave — wine is often stored underground because of the cool, stable temperatures — said they were frustrated that their property had set off one of the fiercest back-and-forths of the debate. Watching the contentious moment on television, they grew frustrated as Ms. Warren and other candidates used their winery as a symbol of opulence and the wealthy’s influence on politics.
“I’m just a pawn here,” said Craig Hall, who owns Hall Wines, which is known for its cabernet sauvignon, with his wife, Kathryn Walt Hall. “They’re making me out to be something that’s not true. And they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair.”
Mr. Hall said he had not settled on a favorite Democratic candidate, but that Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., was a leading contender. His positions on climate change, gun safety and immigration appealed to the couple, said Mr. Hall, who added that he wanted it to be easier for middle-class Americans to start successful businesses.
The Halls have given at least $2.4 million to Democratic candidates, committees and PACs since the 1980s, according to Federal Election Commission records. They have donated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Kamala Harris of California before she ran for president.
Of course Warren had no problem beginning her campaign with money she got from wealthy donors.
The Washington Post published a shocking immigration story yesterday: Under secret Stephen Miller plan, ICE to use data on migrant children to expand deportation efforts.
The White House sought this month to embed immigration enforcement agents within the U.S. refugee agency that cares for unaccompanied migrant children, part of a long-standing effort to use information from their parents and relatives to target them for deportation, according to six current and former administration officials.
Though senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services rejected the attempt, they agreed to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to collect fingerprints and other biometric information from adults seeking to claim migrant children at government shelters. If those adults are deemed ineligible to take custody of children, ICE could then use their information to target them for arrest and deportation.
The arrangement appears to circumvent laws that restrict the use of the refugee program for deportation enforcement; Congress has made clear that it does not want those who come forward as potential sponsors of minors in U.S. custody to be frightened away by possible deportation. But, in the reasoning of senior Trump administration officials, adults denied custody of children lose their status as “potential sponsors” and are fair game for arrest.
The plan has not been announced publicly. It was developed by Stephen Miller, President Trump’s top immigration adviser, who has long argued that HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement is being exploited by parents who hire smugglers to bring their children into the United States illegally. The agency manages shelters that care for underage migrants who cross the border without a parent and tries to identify sponsors — typically family members — eligible to take custody of the minors.
Read more at the WaPo.
That’s it for me. What stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’ve had a rough week trying to deal with the fall out from the extreme temperatures, snow, and ice here. It seems my cable box went because water pooled in the connections outside. My electrician discovered a few sockets that were acting up, we basically took them off line, and now I have my office and desk back. I also can watch news again which is something I haven’t been able to do for about a week now. What’s that they say about ignorance is bliss? As you can see, black activist James Baldwin had some other thoughts and I’m certain he couldn’t see far enough into the future to imagine the horror show today.
An ABC/Washington Post Poll shows that “Almost half of voters question Trump’s mental stability”. The other’s can’t be paying attention or are being deliberately obtuse.
Forty-eight percent of voters think Trump is mentally stable, versus the 47 percent of voters who think he is not.
Trump’s job approval rating at his one year mark is at 36 percent, while 58 disapprove. The next lowest approval rating from a president at one year was Gerald Ford in 1975 with 45 percent.
The president earlier this month defended his mental stability and his intelligence in a series of tweets following questions about his mental stability that were sparked by journalist Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury.”
The Government has been shutdown by Trump and his xenophobic and racist cronies. Well, from the sounds of it, it is mostly because of hard lines drawn by Kelly and Miller. The Senate will vote on the short down at noon.
Key senators are meeting ahead of a high-stakes vote at noon Monday on a bill to reopen the government and fund it for three weeks, though it remains unclear if this plan will win over enough Democrats to pass.
The vote comes several hours after the workday for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees was supposed to have begun, and comes three days after the government officially shut down Friday at midnight. Many of the shutdown’s full effects were less visible during the weekend, when much of the federal workforce would typically be off anyway.
“I don’t think this is the right way to get policy outcomes is to shut the government down. When we tried it, it didn’t work well for us,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters, appearing alongside GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona. “Here’s what I predict. Once we start talking about immigration and voting on immigration, we’ll find 60 votes to make sure these DACA recipients’ lives are not ruined by March 5.”
The Senate vote was moved from 1 a.m. ET Monday to noon after it became clear Democrats would block the spending bill over disagreements on a variety of issues, most notably what do about young people affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said he thought Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York agreed to push back the vote to give his caucus “a chance to chew” on a GOP proposal to break the impasse.
“It’s better to have a successful vote tomorrow at noon than a failed vote tonight,” Cornyn told reporters.
Stephen Miller continues to be the voice of white supremacy in the White House and appears to be one of the main obstacles to settling anything.
On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — whose doomed immigration compromise with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) was the target of that Trump tirade in the Oval Office — blasted Miller as a primary reason for the continuing standoff over border issues.
“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years,” Graham told reporters at the Capitol. “I’ve talked with the president; his heart is right on this issue. He’s got a good understanding of what will sell. And every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members.”
The reality, though, is arguably more complicated.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Trump has hawkish immigration views on a gut level but doesn’t necessarily understand all of the policy details and implications. He said Miller and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly — who also plays a crucial role in immigration policy — are “not so much yanking the president’s leash” as doing “the proper job of staff” by steering the president to his goals.
“There was a story line that people were developing in their own minds that Miller is the source of evil and without him everything would be great,” Krikorian said. “The truth is the president is committed to this general perspective on immigration, and Miller and Kelly are there to help him implement what he always wanted to do.”
Miller’s driving obsession is immigration, an area where he has long pushed hard-line positions going back to his days as a combative conservative activist at Duke University. In Washington, as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), he was instrumental in helping to kill a bipartisan effort in 2013 for a broad immigration deal. He and Sessions helped galvanize House conservatives to block the bill passed by the Senate, including distributing a handbook of talking points aimed at undercutting the compromise.
In an astounding, Orwellian move, the Trump Justice Department put out a completely false narrative on the source of terrorism in the US blaming those not born in the United States and inferring they were pretty much from Trump’s “shithole” countries. This was an end run around DHS analysts which have long determined that this is not the case.
The document didn’t mince words. It claimed three-quarters of “international terrorism” convicts were immigrants, an assertion meant to bolster Donald Trump’s cherished Muslim-focused ban on entering the country. And the report put the claim in the mouths of an agency assembled to keep Americans safe after 9/11: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Working off the 549 federal international-terrorism convictions tallied by the Justice Department, the document stated: “An analysis conducted by DHS determined that approximately 73 percent (402 of these 549 individuals) were foreign-born.”
But the Department of Homeland Security did not perform that analysis. DHS’ analysts did not contribute to the highly controversial report, The Daily Beast has learned.
According to a government source familiar with the episode, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office took charge of the report’s assemblage of statistics—which some terrorism analysts consider highly misleading—and sent it to DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen for her imprimatur after it was all but finalized.
“The Trump administration is trying to turn counterterrorism into an immigration issue,” said Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina, where he tracks Muslim-American involvement in terrorism.
Career professional analysts at DHS communicated to the Justice Departmentthat the data sought for the report simply did not exist within their department. DHS, multiple sources said, does not track or correlate international terrorism data by citizenship or country of origin, and have warned the Trump administration that doing so risks a misleading portrait of both terrorism and immigration.
Long before she donned a black judge’s robe, before she led a decades-long legal fight for gender equality, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a young, studious college kid taking a chemistry class at Cornell University.
One day, as she was preparing for a test, she told her professor she felt uncomfortable with some of the material.
“He said, ‘I’ll give you a practice exam,’” Ginsburg recalled in an interview Sunday with NPR’s Nina Totenberg at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
When Ginsburg went to class the next day, she discovered that the professor had actually just slipped her an advance copy of the real test. “And I knew exactly what he wanted in return,” she said. “And that’s just one of many examples.”
Ginsburg recounted the story in a roughly 90-minute discussion with Totenberg that touched on the 84-year-old justice’s experiences with sexual misconduct and her reaction to the #MeToo movement, as well as her career as a women’s rights advocate and her future on the high court. She was in Utah for the premiere of “RBG,” a new documentary about her life that was co-produced by CNN.
Bannon had seized on Mead’s work as part of his war on the other factions inside Trump’s White House, and especially the hyper-entitled family members like son-in-law Jared Kushner and “globalists” like national security adviser H.R. McMaster he viewed as selling out Trump’s “America First” vision to the more conventional course preferred by the Washington establishment. In the rumpled Mead and his writings about the “Jacksonian” tradition in American foreign policy, Bannon saw a populist kindred spirit—and a suitably rabble-rousing model for the antiestablishment course he hoped Trump would follow.
Trump agreed, which is why the Jackson portrait went up and the president was visiting Old Hickory’s Tennessee home within weeks of his inauguration, never mind the instant outcry that greeted Trump’s embrace of a slaveholding, Native American-fighting early 19th century predecessor as his role model. “That’s what Steve Bannon told me,” Mead recalled in a new interview for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs. “There was this Jacksonian moment.”
Even now, exactly a year after Trump’s inauguration, Mead says that while Bannon has been purged from the White House, Bannonism—and by extension the bowdlerized, 21st century version of Jacksonianism he was peddling—has not. If you want to understand Trump’s otherwise incomprehensible presidency, Mead argues, you need to understand America’s seventh president.
“The Steve Bannon side of the Trump presidency remains very Jacksonian. Bannon isn’t in the White House, and he’s not welcome I think, but his influence is still felt,” Mead says. “Trump’s base remains Jacksonian. And Trump knows how to play to this base. So even as Trump has kind of adjusted in some ways to the necessities of the Washington establishment and, you know, ‘Well, you can’t just completely reinvent American foreign policy,’ he continues to orient in this way.”
After all, Mead notes, Bannon may be gone, but as for the president, “He still has a portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office.”
A small cadre of politically prominent evangelicals inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that’s taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.
Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out. Shannon Royce, the agency’s key liaison with religious and grass-roots organizations, has also emerged as a pivotal player.
“To have leaders like Roger, like Shannon, it’s so important,” said Deanna Wallace of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that was frequently at odds with the Obama administration. “It’s extremely encouraging to have HHS on our side this time.”
But inside HHS, staff say that those leaders are steering their offices to support evangelicals at the expense of other voices, such as a recent decision to selectively post public comments that were overwhelmingly anti-abortion. “It’s supposed to be the faith-based partnership center, not the Christian-based partnership center,” said a longtime HHS staffer, referencing the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships led by Royce.
More than a dozen current and former HHS staffers, who requested anonymity to speak freely, spoke with POLITICO for this story. HHS declined to make top officials available for interviews.
Many police continue to react with violence against members of minorities. La Mesa police violently handcuffed and slammed a 17 year old girl to the ground at her school. The incident was caught on video.
Officers were called to the school when a 17-year-old student who had been suspended refused to leave the University Avenue campus, La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez said in a statement.
A school resource officer tried to get the girl to leave voluntarily, then ordered her to do so. When she didn’t cooperate, the officer handcuffed her and began walking her to the school’s office, Vasquez said.
“As they were walking, the student became non-compliant on two separate occasions and made an attempt to free herself by pulling away from the officer,” the chief said. “To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground.”
In video of the incident, the officer is seen throwing the girl over his shoulder onto the concrete sidewalk. He then used the weight of his body to pin her to the ground.
The officer forced her to the ground twice, witnesses said.
Vasquez said that after the student agreed to quit resisting or trying to escape, the officer helped her up and walked her to his patrol vehicle.
Police said that the student suffered minor abrasions during the incident and that she was evaluated by paramedics at the police station who determined she didn’t require treatment.
Aeiramique Blake, speaking on behalf of the girl’s family, said the incident has been mischaracterized by police.
Blake said the teen was assigned to in-school suspension for tardiness when the girl told an instructor she wasn’t feeling well. The student explained she was anemic and had experienced similar feelings before, but the teacher allegedly accused her of being on drugs, Blake said.
Is it really so difficult for people to see the underlying tribal hatred that’s leading to increased violence, denial of basic rights, dehumanization of so many of our citizens simply because they are not white, male, straight, and the right flavor of christian? We have always had the stain of slavery and patriarchy follow our country on its path to the future. How could so much ignorance come to such a place of power when we’ve made it through so much?
It’s good to be back with y’all but it’s certainly a day of highly disturbing news, policy, and stories.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today? Share the knowledge.
Look at the photo above with Trump standing next to Putin at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam. That is the closest thing to a genuine smile I have ever seen on Trump’s ugly face.
Trump is literally enraptured by the murderous dictator of Russia. And today Trump made it clear that he believes Putin’s denials a interfering in the 2016 election over the unanimous conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he believes Vladimir Putin’s denials about election meddling, and doesn’t want to press further because he thinks the U.S. and Russia can work together on issues that include North Korea, Syria and Ukraine. But the Kremlin reportedly said they did not discuss this issue during their brief conversation.
Axios provides the full transcript:
Trump: “He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”
Trump: “I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did.”
Reporter: Do you believe him?
Trump: “Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria, I would rather get to work with him on the Ukraine rather than arguing about whether or not… that whole thing was set up by the Democrats. Look at Podesta, look at all the things that they have done with the phony dossier. Those are the big events. But Putin said he did not do what they said he did. But we have a good feeling toward getting things done. If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing. In fact it would be a great thing, not a bad thing, because he could really help us on North Korea. We have a big problem with North Korea and China is helping us. And because of the lack of the relationship that we have with Russia, because of this artificial thing that’s happening with this Democratic-inspired thing. We could really be helped a lot with Russia having to do with North Korea. You know you are talking about millions and millions of lives. This isn’t baby stuff, this is the real deal. And if Russia helped us in addition to China, that problem would go away a lot faster.”
Trump: “Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says I didn’t do that. I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country. Because again, if we had a relationship with Russia, North Korea which is our single biggest problem right now, it would help a lot. I think they are doing very well with respect to China, they have cut off financing, they have cut off lots of oil and lots of other things, lots of trade and it’s having a big impact. But Russia on the other hand may be making up the difference. And if they are, that’s not a good thing. So having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing especially as it relates to North Korea.”
“Hillary had her stupid reset button that she spelled the word wrong, but she does not have what it takes to have that kind of relationship where you could call or you could do something. But this is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia. He says that very strongly, he really seems to be insulted by it and he says he didn’t do it. He is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”
Trump is a traitor to our country. There is just no way to deny it at this point.
Trump dismissed the meddling allegations as driven by Democrats, warning that the heavy focus on the issue threatens the United States’ ability to partner with Russia on key issues. He asserted that the allegations could fray the U.S.-Russia relationship so badly that the country could be less willing to cooperate on North Korea, Syria and other international crises — an outcome that would put lives at risk.
“This artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way and that’s a shame because people will die because of it,” he said. “And it’s a pure hit job.”
“Everybody knows there was no collusion,” he continued. “I think it’s a shame that something like this can destroy a very important potential relationship between two countries that are very important countries Russia could really help us.”
From the NYT, Here’s a full transcript of all of Trump’s remarks on Air Force One between Danang and Hanoi. It’s just unbelievable.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, there is plenty of news on the Russia investigation front.
At midday on March 24, 2016, an improbable group gathered in a London cafe to discuss setting up a meeting between Donald J. Trump, then a candidate, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
There was George Papadopoulos, a 28-year-old from Chicago with an inflated résumé who just days earlier had been publicly named as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign. There was Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic in his mid-50s with a faltering career who boasted of having high-level contacts in the Russian government.
And, perhaps most mysteriously, there was Olga Polonskaya, a 30-year-old Russian from St. Petersburg and the former manager of a wine distribution company. Mr. Mifsud introduced her to Mr. Papadopoulos as Mr. Putin’s niece, according to court papers. Mr. Putin has no niece.
The interactions between the three players and a fourth man with contacts inside Russia’s Foreign Ministry have become a central part of the inquiry by the special prosecutor, Robert S. Mueller III, into the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election. Recently released court documents suggest that the F.B.I. suspected that some of the people who showed interest in Mr. Papadopoulos were participants in a Russian intelligence operation.
The March 2016 meeting was followed by a breakfast the next month at a London hotel during which Mr. Mifsud revealed to Mr. Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” That was months before the theft of a trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee by Russian-sponsored hackers became public.
Please go read the whole thing. And there is further evidence that George Papadopoulos was not just a “low level” “coffee boy” in the Trump campaign (summarized from the NYT story quoted above).
The campaign aide who suggested that President Trump journey to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign was in regular contact with now-White House aide Stephen Miller, The New York Times reported Friday.
George Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Miller during the spring of 2016, a period during which Papadopoulos also helped edit a major foreign policy speech Trump delivered, according to the Times.
The speech in question was the one at the Mayflower Hotel, the one attended by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and at which Kislyak and Jeff Sessions discussed “campaign-related matters.” On July 21, 2017, The Washington Post reported:
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.
One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he had no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.
New this morning from Reuters: Investigators probe Trump knowledge of campaign’s Russia dealings: sources.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned Sam Clovis, co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, to determine if Trump or top aides knew of the extent of the campaign team’s contacts with Russia, two sources familiar with the investigation said on Friday.
The focus of the questions put to Clovis by Mueller’s team has not been previously reported.
“The ultimate question Mueller is after is whether candidate Trump and then President-elect Trump knew of the discussions going on with Russia, and who approved or even directed them,” said one source. “That is still just a question.” [….]
One of the sources described Clovis as “another domino” after former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over his own contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.“
The investigators now know what Papadopoulos was doing on the Russian front, which he initially tried to conceal, and who he told that to,” said the other source. “Now [they] want to know whether Clovis and others reported these activities and others related to Russia, and if so, to whom,” this source said.
Read the rest at Reuters.
One more before I wrap this up:
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Cambridge Analytica Denies Working With Russia, Unconvincingly.
There are several channels through which Donald Trump’s campaign apparently cooperated with Russian efforts to help him win the presidency. The first, and best known, is a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 to pursue Russian promises of providing dirt on Hillary Clinton. A second is Roger Stone, a frequent Trump adviser who had clear advance notice of the publication of stolen emails. A third is Trump himself openly asking Russia to obtain Clinton’s State Department emails. The final channel is the efforts by Cambridge Analytica, the campaign’s data firm. This channel is less well known to the public, in part because reporting about it has been dominated by The Wall Street Journal, and its stories hidden behind a paywall. But Cambridge Analytica’s role has come into much clearer focus.
Two weeks ago, the Journal reported that Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to help him better organize the stolen Democratic emails his site was publishing. On Friday, the Journal found that this contact came as Cambridge Analytica was joining the Trump campaign.
Nix denies the allegation: “We did not work with Russia in this election, and moreover we would never work with a third-party state actor in another country’s campaign.” But Nix also denies Russia had anything to do with the campaign at all. (“On Thursday, Mr. Nix called the notion that Russians “significantly interfered” in the U.S. election “frankly absurd,” the Journalnotes.) That second denial, which is silly, saps the other denials of some of their credibility.
Please go read the rest. It’s not long.
Now what stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’m trying not to count the days and ways our country has been held hostage by a Russian and NAZI installed madman. I really think we’re beginning to witness an implosion of the Republican party. They have so many niche interest groups that there are nothing but internecine battles between them. The only way they hold it all together is by a group gestalt of hating what they perceive as “other”.
Most of us fall into the group of other one way or another. People of color, people not practicing the right form of Christianity or not Christian at all, the GLBT community, the creative class, intellectuals and professors, recent immigrants from certain countries, any one not fixated on the second amendment to the exclusion of all others, or people not deemed symbolically patriotic enough all make the enemies’ list one way or another. It’s the season for attacking the wonderful work of Planned Parenthood too. Nothing like lies and strawmen to whip up the country’s basket of deplorables.
Here’s today’s news in Republican acts we despise. Let’s start with her ickinesss Marcia Blackburn. Blackburn specializes in being a gender traitor.
Twitter is barring a top Republican Senate candidate from advertising her campaign launch video on the service because a line about her efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood was deemed “inflammatory.”
GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker, launched her campaign last week with a video proclaiming herself “a hard core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.” In her announcement video, she boasts: “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts. Thank God.”
Twitter decided the line violated its ad policies, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. A Twitter spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for comment. The video is still on Twitter, but the campaign is barred from paying to promote it.
The line refers to her work leading a House select committee investigating Planned Parenthood following a 2015 controversy in which videos shot by undercover conservative journalists appeared to show the group profiting from the sale of fetal body tissue. Democrats have argued the panel’s inquiry was a waste of taxpayer funds, intended to concoct a reason to shut down the group.
Planned Parenthood consistently denied wrongdoing and never faced criminal charges.
Miller, a staunch immigration hawk, was conspicuously left out of the bipartisan dinner meeting where that DACA framework had been formed. By the morning after the dinner, Miller, sources say, was already in discussions with Capitol Hill offices about how to ensure conservative policy gains ended up in the final deal his boss might cut.
A hard-lined anti-immigration advocate, Miller strategized with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) about a more specific, more conservative, set of extractions the White House would demand in the deal. Cotton was the natural choice—he is one of the Senate’s most conservative members on the immigration issue, and the co-author of legislation, dubbed the RAISE Act, to significantly limit the number of legal immigrants to the U.S.
Whenever Donald Trump gives a speech and you find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe anyone could be this hateful,” there’s a good chance that the man behind that speech was Stephen Miller, the prematurely balding 32-year-old who must have made a deal with the devil at some point wherein he traded his youth and morals for power. Well, The New York Times has a new profile of Miller that gives us a glimpse of his youth in liberal haven Santa Monica, California. And it turns out that he’s always been just the absolute worst. Some of the anecdotes in the piece have circulated before. A young Stephen Miller running for student government and getting booed for complaining about having to pick up his own trash when they have janitors to do that for them? Absolutely gross, but we’ve heard it. Miller calling a classmate and telling him that they could no longer be friends because of, among other things, said classmate’s Latino heritage? Awful, but already part of the Miller narrative. But the stories in this profile we haven’t heard before? Oh god, they’re…something.
Like the story of his weird “striptease” for the school newspaper editor?
Mr. Miller set off on a patriotic semi-striptease before the editor of the student newspaper, according to the editor, Ari Rosmarin, theatrically removing a button-down to reveal an American flag T-shirt in protest of an article he found inconsistent with the national interest. (The White House denied any symbolic unbuttoning, though officials confirmed Mr. Miller’s fondness for the T-shirt.)
Who does that? What an odd and bizarre thing to do, especially over an article in a school newspaper. Really? You found an article in your high school paper “inconsistent with the national interest”? It’s high school! Didn’t Miller have high school things to do? Like go on dates or work for minimum wage at a video store? But in fairness to Stephen Miller (I know, I know, he doesn’t deserve it, but hear me out), this particular story is more weird than infuriating. But make no mistake, Miller has plenty of infuriating stories. And perhaps none more so than this next anecdote from the piece.
He jumped, uninvited, into the final stretch of a girls’ track meet, apparently intent on proving his athletic supremacy over the opposite sex.
This is obviously insanely disrespectful, and just such a gross “look at me” stunt, but it’s also just super dumb. If I wait at the last stretch of a marathon and, being well-rested, “beat” the people who have run the previous 26 miles, that obviously doesn’t make me athletically superior to them. Anyone who thinks that it does would have to be a complete moron
We all know that Trump’s on a daily search for his manhood and gets away with most of it because of his money and sheer audacity. Trump hates the narrative that makes him look like anything less than the superior master race. He’s such a nitwit he offered to prove the “moran” narrative wrong by taking an IQ test. Do we really believe he’d achieve a score above room temperature?
President Donald Trump, scorned by reports that Rex Tillerson called him a “moron” earlier this year, told Forbes in an interview released Tuesday that he has a higher IQ than his secretary of state.
The comment underscores the volatility between the two men after multiple reports that their relationship has frayed over the secretary of state’s comment. Trump and Tillerson, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will have lunch together at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests,” Trump said. “And I can tell you who is going to win.”
I really haven’t wanted to delve very deeply into this swamp but here’s a bit on sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. The Drumpf history of predation has been tough enough to read. This man is a nightmare waiting to happen. Most of the time women warn each other about the pussygrabbers. I was warned early in the 1980s to never get in the Senator’s elevator with Strom Thurmond. He was a notorious ass grabber. Hollywood is full of these kinds of stories. I really hope we can eventually rid ourselves of this but since we got the Pussy Grabber elected knowing what we know about him, I’ve given up all hope of any one treating any one with respect and kindness from the Republican Klan.
And now … “RNC chairwoman calls on Clinton to speak out about Weinstein”. Weren’t they just telling her to shut up and go away?
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel suggested on Saturday former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should speak out about the sexual assault allegations against former campaign donor and film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“Whose side is Hillary Clinton on: Harvey Weinstein’s or his victims?” McDaniel said in a tweet.
So, we just continue to learn that some people were just not raised right. Here’s yet another example and go read the byline from WAPO as well as the rest of the article.
Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.
In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.
In doing so, Trump is laboring to solidify his standing with his populist base and return to the comforts of his campaign — especially after the embarrassing defeat of Sen. Luther Strange in last month’s Alabama GOP special election, despite the president’s trip there to campaign with the senator.
Sen. Bob Corker’s brutal assessment of Trump’s fitness for office — warning that the president’s reckless behavior could launch the nation “on the path to World War III” — also hit like a thunderclap inside the White House, where aides feared possible ripple effects among other Republicans on Capitol Hill.
After a caustic volley of Twitter insults between Trump and Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, few GOP leaders came to the president’s defense Monday — though few sided openly with Corker, either. The most vocal Trump defender was the one under the president’s direction, Vice President Pence.
Trump in recent days has shown flashes of fury and left his aides, including White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, scrambling to manage his outbursts. He has been frustrated in particular with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was reported last week to have earlier called the president a “moron.” Trump’s Sunday morning Twitter tirade against Corker caught staffers by surprise, although the president had been brooding over the senator’s comment a few days earlier about Trump’s “chaos” endangering the nation.
One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. “I think we are in pressure cooker territory,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.
Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are dying and California is burning and people are missing and dying. Maybe Kremlin Caligula should take a lesson from Nero. Ah, I forget! He doesn’t read.
Powerful wildfires fanned by strong winds ravaged parts of Northern California’s wine country on Monday, killing at least 11 people and destroying some 1,500 structures.
More than a dozen blazes continued to burn across eight counties since the weekend, while over 20,000 people in the paths of the fast-moving infernos fled their homes, fire officials said.
With increased resources headed to the region to battle the wildfires, “hopefully we’ll start seeing some turnaround throughout the course of today and into tomorrow,” Scott McLean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said Tuesday on “TODAY.”
It’s autumn which is the time to reap what you sow.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Is anyone else getting the feeling that we’re living in an even crazier remake of “Dr. Strangelove?” Except in this version, the “president” is complete nincompoop who resembles a combination of Gen. “Buck” Turgidson and Brig. Jack D. Ripper.
Despite Trump’s appointment of Gen. John Kelly as WH chief of staff, the leaks are still streaming out of the place Trump calls “a real dump.”
Yesterday NBC News revealed that threw a tantrum in a meeting with generals because they haven’t been able to “win” the war in Afghanistan despite the fact that Trump has refused to sign off on a strategy to do so. I guess he thought a 15-year war could be wrapped up in his first few months in office simply because he was now in charge.
President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials
During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.
Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice….
Trump’s national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.
Here’s a reaction form Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Afghanistan Plan Killed Because ‘21’ Closed For Remodeling 30 Years Ago. This Is Not a Joke.
Trump chatted with a few soldiers who were unhappy about this and that—after all, it’s the God-given right of every buck private in the Army to know exactly how the brass are botching things up—and therefore decided to reject his generals’ plan. And before you all start yammering about how Trump said last year that he already had a plan ready to go, that was for Iraq. He never said he had a plan for Afghanistan. OK?
And now, for some more comic relief, here’s an inside look at how Trump comes up with these bright ideas:
To underscore his view that the veterans who fought in the war may be better positioned to advise him on an Afghanistan strategy, Trump compared the policy review process to the renovation of a famed New York restaurant in the 1980s, officials said. Trump told his advisers that the restaurant, Manhattan’s elite ‘21’ Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for a renovation. About renovation, aa remodels is known as one of the most trusted remodeling company. They’ve been operating over the years and if this interests you, see more work here at aaremodels.com. After a year, Trump said, the consultant’s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.
Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result.
The ‘21’ Club, which has been one of Trump’s favorite New York spots, closed for two months in 1987 while it underwent a full renovation and reopened to great fanfare.
Consensus reality is that the run-down 21 Club closed for two months after it changed ownership,¹ and then reopened after a big renovation. Trump reality is that his favorite haunt was closed forever and they didn’t even fix whatever petty gripe he probably had at the time. Because of this, he rejected the new Afghanistan plan. That’s quite the butterfly effect, isn’t it?
Actually the restaurant closed for three months, but definitely not a year. Poor Donnie really missed eating out in that place, and now it’s his metaphor for what’s wrong in Afghanistan. Maybe he should try actually visiting Afghanistan instead of golfing all the time. He could stop in Iraq on the way back to the dump. Trump claims he didn’t say that, but according to a witness, At least 8 people heard Trump call the White House a ‘dump.’
Alan Shipnuck told Golf Magazine that eight or nine people heard Trump call the White House a dump.
Shipnuck published a report about Trump’s golfing hobby in Sports Illustrated this week, which included the revelation that Trump called the president’s house a “real dump” compared to his New Jersey country club.
Shipnuck told Golf Magazine that a White House spokeswoman called him to demand a retraction for the statement, but that he would not do so because he heard it from multiple people and that he believes they are credible sources.
“It might be inconvenient for her boss and she might wish he didn’t say it, but it’s not a lie,” he said.
“They definitely don’t waste any time trying to be charming or friendly, these people in the White House communications department,” he added.
During the White House briefing yesterday, one of Trump’s white supremacist aides attacked the Statue of Liberty. Slate: Stephen Miller Doesn’t Care for Your Stupid Poem, Statue of Liberty.
White House senior adviser for policy Stephen Miller spoke at the daily press briefing on Wednesday to tout Donald Trump’s newly announced plan to cut legal immigration in half and make it harder for non-native English speakers or low-skill workers to enter the country
When he was challenged on this part of the proposal by CNN reporter Jim Acosta, Miller decided to explain who America’s real enemy was: The poem on the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty says “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer. Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?
I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world; it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to that was added later and is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.
(For those interested, here is a brief history of how that poem came to become synonymous with the Statue of Liberty and this country’s assimilation of immigrants.)
Acosta and Miller then got into a lengthy back-and-forth about what it means to be an immigrant to this country. Acosta accused the administration of attempting to limit immigration in a way that was “trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.” Miller responded that Acosta betrayed his “cosmopolitan bias” and “ignorance” by suggesting that the administration was trying to limit immigration to certain types of people.
By the way, “cosmopolitan” is term that was historically used to attack Jews. Charles Pierce: The Historical Significance of ‘Cosmopolitan’ as an Insult.
The way Miller leaned into the word “cosmopolitan” while answering Acosta has a long and ignoble history in 20th century authoritarianism, especially the anti-Semitic variety. During World War II, for example, the Soviet government under Stalin used to rail regularly at “rootless cosmopolitanism,” especially in the arts. The Nazis were fond of tossing it around, too. There is no context in which Miller’s use of the word against Acosta makes sense except as a historical signaling device.
Also, Miller doesn’t know dick about Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty. She wrote the poem, “The New Colossus,” from which the famous lines on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal were taken in 1883 for the purpose of raising funds for … wait for it … the Statue of Liberty.
How do you put this uninformed goon in front of the camera? Jesus, these really are the fcking mole people.
This morning we got more juicy leaks from The Washington Post. They somehow obtained transcripts of Trump’s January calls with Mexican and Australian leaders. You can read them at that link, and/or check out this article: Trump urged Mexican president to end his public defiance on border wall, transcript reveals.
From the Mexico call:
President Trump made building a wall along the southern U.S. border and forcing Mexico to pay for it core pledges of his campaign.
But in his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay.
“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said repeatedly, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call obtained by The Washington Post. Trump made clear that he realized the funding would have to come from other sources but threatened to cut off contact if Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continued to make defiant statements.
The funding “will work out in the formula somehow,” Trump said, adding later that “it will come out in the wash, and that is okay.” But “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”
A little more:
Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”
“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”
Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”
New Hampshire voters will love this from the call with Nieto. CNN: Trump argues he won New Hampshire because it is a ‘drug-infested den.’
During the call, according to the Post, Trump lashed out at Peña Nieto for the quantity of illegal drugs that come into the United States from Mexico.“We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump said.He later bragged that he won the Granite State because of the opioid epidemic.“I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den,” he said.
Trump doesn’t even know that drugs come into NH from Canada.
The Hill on the call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Trump to Australian prime minister: ‘Putin was a pleasant call, this is ridiculous’
Trump argued with Turnbull over an agreement on refugees he thought was unfair during their first conversation following his inauguration.
“I have had it,” Trump told his Australian counterpart during the Jan. 28 call, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post and published on Thursday. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”
Trump also told Turnbull that his conversation with the Russian leader was far more enjoyable. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said. “This is ridiculous.”
I’m going to work my way through these two transcripts, but I may wait awhile, because I spent a long time yesterday reading Trump’s insane interview with the Wall Street Journal, and I don’t want to have that Twilight Zone/Dr. Strangelove feeling all day today.
What stories are you following today?