Longest Friday Reads: So this old world must be still spinning around

Happy Longest Friday!

Summer solstice was two days ago so this makes today the longest Friday of the year!  The link over there goes to some pretty interesting photos of the Stonehenge Solstice Celebration!  Solstice images festoon our post today.  It’s nice to know that the sun is still rising, the moon is still rising, and the earth still spins on her axis even when everything else seems so upside down.

Today we have 16 hours of daylight unless you’re under a storm cloud or hiding from the T-Rumposaurus.

Information on Dan Coates’ testimony to House investigators has come out.  It appears the President is completely obsessed with the Russian probe.  Sure sounds like obstruction of justice to me.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told House investigators Thursday that President Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and repeatedly asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion, a U.S. official familiar with the conversation told NBC News.

Coats’ account is not new — it largely tracked with his story as previously reported by NBC News and other media outlets, the official said.

Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the NSA, has also told associates that Trump asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference effort.

Both Rogers and Coats declined to do that, saying it would have been inappropriate, a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter told NBC News. Rogers had his deputy write a memo about the conversation

Money laundering still appears to be the center of every one’s thoughts.  Here’s more on the connections between Felix Sater and a project he developed with T-Rump. Sounds like the Mango Mussolini has something to worry about.

  • Felix Sater was born in Russia and moved to the United States with his family when he was 8. His father Mikhail has connections to Russian organized crime and was once convicted of extortion. The younger Sater ended up working at a company called Bayrock, which had offices in Trump Tower and, beginning in 2002, partnered with Donald Trump on several development projects. Bayrock’s role in the projects involved soliciting outside investors.
  • Felix Sater also has a colorful criminal record. In 1991, he stabbed a man in the face with the stem of a broken margarita glass and went to jail for assault. In 2007, the New York Times reported that he had been accused in 1998 of securities fraud in a massive stock-scam case involving a number of New York mob families. It was later revealed that Sater pleaded guilty in that 1998 case, but that his involvement in it was kept secret, because he became a witness for the government and reportedly continued as such until 2008. Sater is known to have helped build cases against individuals involved in the stock scam and reportedly also cooperated in a case that involved attempting to secure missiles that were being sold on the black market in Afghanistan. (!)
  • Sater disassociated himself from Bayrock and the Trump projects after the 2007 Times story but popped back up in 2010, working for the Trump Organization as a “senior adviser.”
  • A former Bayrock associate of Sater’s filed a lawsuit against Sater which alleges, in the words of a new Bloomberg story by longtime Trump reporter Timothy O’Brien, that “Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering” and took money from Russian sources. At this point, the associate making the accusation does not appear to have any direct evidence to support his claim, but the lawsuit is ongoing.

 And here’s one more background fact:

  • Andrew Weissmann is a longtime federal prosecutor who has joined Robert Mueller’s Trump–Russia special counsel investigation. News stories have described Weissmann as an expert in “flipping” witnesses, i.e. getting them to testify against their co-conspirators.

Want to read more?  Follow this:

Now, go check the conclusion.  The White House is on eggshells with Trumpertantrums and his guilty conscious.

President Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia.

The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed enemies: the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the “fake news” media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president’s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud.

It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.

Trump’s grievances and moods often bleed into one another. Frustration with the investigation stews inside him until it bubbles up in the form of rants to aides about unfair cable television commentary or as slights aimed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.

Who’d want to be one of his lawyers anyway?

White House counsel Don McGahn has largely stepped back from managing Donald Trump’s response to the expanding Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped the president from lashing out at him about it anyway.

Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to quash the Russia probe early on.

The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which now includes the question of whether Trump himself tried to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey.

The Russia portfolio has been handed off to Trump’s longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, leaving McGahn to focus on the standard duties of the top White House lawyer: vetting political appointees, selecting judges for vacancies in lower courts, and giving legal advice on potential legislation and other White House policy decisions.

Trump’s willingness to lay into him for the escalation of the probe — largely the result of Trump’s own decision to dismiss Comey — illustrates McGahn’s falling stock in the West Wing, as well as Trump’s desire to find someone to blame for his legal predicament.

So, Kremlin Caligula thought he’d get away with firing Comey and he wants to blame every one else.  What a nitwit!

Regardless of the legal outcome, it’ll go down as one of the dumbest political mistakes in the modern era. One of the president’s outside advisers calls it the gravest political mistake since Richard Nixon decided not to apologize to the American people for Watergate, and instead proceeded with the cover-up.

 “The Russia investigation is now the central narrative of the Trump administration, no matter what he does,” the adviser said. “He wanted to be a disruptive force for change, and now he’s stuck in the quicksand of the swamp.”

Trump himself has suggested to friends that he understands the bind he created: By taunting Comey about tapes that the president admitted yesterday don’t exist, he hastened the chain of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Bob Mueller, who’s expected to delve into the business affairs of the president and his family.

In retrospect, if Trump had kept Comey and stopped obsessing about his investigation, his legal troubles might have blown over: No evidence of collusion has emerged. As David Brooks pointed out in one of the better columns of the month, it’s striking how little has surfaced on the collusion front, given the gush of anti-Trump leaks.

S0, what happy camper would tweet #FML? (“As in F*ck my life”)

But then, unprompted, he floated another possibility: U.S. intelligence or law enforcement officials might have his office bugged. “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” Trump wrote.

It was a bizarre suggestion that took some in the White House off guard. “No clue what the thinking was,” a White House staffer said of the tweets. “He could’ve just said there are no tapes. It’s baffling, frankly.”

Instead of putting the “tape” issue to rest and leave it at that, Trump’s statements threaten to embroil the White House in yet another round of politically inconvenient questioning about issues—Comey’s firing, the FBI’s probe into Russian election-meddling, and Trump’s reported efforts to hobble it—that the White House has tried, with little success, to move past.

Informed of the president’s denial that he had recorded his conversations with Comey, a senior administration official replied, “At least that’s behind us.” When alerted to his apparent suspicions of Oval Office surveillance, the official replied in a text message, “fml.”

That’s shorthand for “fuck my life.”

Trump’s tweets came just minutes before White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was scheduled to brief reporters. Asked about Trump’s vague allegations of a potential wiretap, Sanders suggested that law enforcement authorities would have to answer whether they have the President of the United States under surveillance.

 

Well, at least life’s not boring and complacent and calm and well, #FML, make him go away please!!  There’s a monster under our national bed!

So, Spicey is looking for a replacement for the podium of shame and lies.  Guess how that’s going?

The result is a toxic relationship between the White House, which thinks the press should be less adversarial, and the media, which believes its job is to be adversarial. Both sides believe the other side is acting in bad faith, and both are losing respect for one another. And the frayed relationship is occupying more and more of everyone’s time, creating a distraction from issues of greater concern to the general public.

This article is based on extensive conversations with three senior White House officials who requested anonymity, as well as several White House reporters who requested the same.

In a statement, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House’s goal was “to be accessible every day and answer questions from the media through a variety of formats, including the briefings, the gaggles and meetings in the press office.”

“Our goal is to communicate the president’s message to the American people as well,” she added, “and we do that through the President’s vast reach on social media on a daily basis.”

For the time being, White House-media relations are likely to get worse before they get better. With the approval of the president, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has been looking for a replacement press secretary so he can focus on broader strategy. But good replacements are hard to come by.

The White House has a shortlist of candidates it would like to bring on board, including, most notably, the popular conservative pundit Laura Ingraham. But so far, no one on this shortlist has accepted the invitation. Ingraham, who declined to comment, has given no public indication that she wants the job. She is already highly paid for her work as a right-wing radio host and Fox News contributor, and has said she might run for Senate from Virginia next year.

Meanwhile, there are people who might like to have the job but don’t have enough support from Trump’s inner circle.

At least we know that Melanoma Mussolini isn’t the meanest tweeter in the Administration.  Get a load of these.

Oy to the fucking vey!

A trove of deleted tweets written by senior Energy Department official William C. Bradford surfaced this week ― and it’s not pretty.

Bradford, whom President Donald Trump recently appointed to lead the department’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, was forced to issue an apology after The Washington Post revealed his disparaging remarks about women and various ethnic and religious groups on Thursday.

His tweets, written last year, attacked high-profile figures on the basis of their ethnic and religious heritage and defended the wartime incarceration of Japanese-Americans, among other things.

In a December 2016 tweet, Bradford referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Kenyan creampuff.” In another tweet, he dubiously claimed Obama might refuse to leave The White House at the end of his presidential term and suggested a “military coup” could be necessary to remove him.

In February 2016, responding to an article that claimed Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg had urged Iowans not to vote for Trump, Bradford called the tech leader an “arrogant self-hating Jew.”

They actually get worse … he’s like a full time hater and no one goes left unhated. Native Americans, women, Japanese Americans in internment camps … just about every one makes his list.

So, anyway, enjoy the day, the summer, and the brain clouds overtaking Trumperina’s little world.   Meanwhile, if you want to see his fat ass in tennis shorts looking like he’s busting out of his depends go here.   It cannot be unseen. I’m warning you now.  I promised you that the moon is still rising.  This one is YUGGGGEEEE.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Saturday Reads, Summer Solstice Edition: Dreaming of a Woman President, and Other News

Hillary

Good Morning and Happy Summer Solstice!!

Hillary is in the news this morning, so I thought I’d begin with her latest public remarks on the presidency. Claire McCaskill kicked off the Hillary talk on Tuesday when she said she was supporting a new superpac called Ready for Hillary.

“Hillary Clinton had to give up her political operation while she was making us proud, representing us around the world as an incredible Secretary of State, and that’s why Ready for Hillary is so critical,” McCaskill said in a statement released by the group. “It’s important that we start early, building a grassroots army from the ground up, and effectively using the tools of the Internet –- all things that President Obama did so successfully –- so that if Hillary does decide to run, we’ll be ready to help her win.”

McCaskill was one of the female Senators who abandoned Hillary to jump on the Obama bandwagon in 2008. Hillary gave her call after the announcement of support.

An early endorsement this week for a 2016 presidential run by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton merited a phone call from the potential candidate, according to Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Clinton made the call after the senator’s Tuesday announcement that she was endorsing a political action committee pushing a presidential run.

“She did call me after this all happened the other day,” the Missouri Democrat said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We had a great conversation. I’m not going to talk about what we said. But I think she’s got a big decision to make and I think she’s in the process of making it.”

McCaskill called the endorsement of Clinton an easy decision. “She is by far the strongest, most capable, most qualified candidate for President of the United States,” she said. “I am part of a lot of group of people, big huge group of people, that really wants her to run. And it seemed like coming out publicly and stating the obvious, that we all want her to run, was an important thing to do right now.”

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Naturally, the corporate media is *concerned* about Hillary’s ambitions. The Washington Post sees “worries” for her in the new superpac.

The upstart super PAC, called Ready for Hillary, is fast emerging as the quasi-official stand-in for potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton, scooping up advisers and gathering big donations more than three years ahead of election time.

But the group is also making some advisers in Clinton’s orbit decidedly nervous about its potential impact on her own efforts, which for now consist of philanthropic pursuits and remaining mum on a presidential bid. Some allies also fear a repeat of 2008, when an assumed air of inevitability contributed to Clinton’s loss to fresh-faced challenger Barack Obama….

“It’s hard to even know what’s what any more,” said John Morgan, an Orlando lawyer who served on Bill Clinton’s 1996 national finance committee. “It’s become a cottage industry. It’s like, ‘Who are you?’ Just because you put the name ‘Hillary’ at the end of your PAC — it could be a bait and switch. I want to make sure I can get the biggest bang for my buck.”

Ready for Hillary — launched in January by Clinton boosters Adam Parkhomenko and Allida Black — is getting help from a number of veterans from Hillary and Bill Clinton’s political operation. Former Bill Clinton strategist Harold Ickes, former Clinton White House political director Craig Smith and former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Jim Lamb are advising the group on strategy, while longtime confidant James Carville recently sent out a fundraising solicitation under his name.

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton poses with Jaden Szigeti, 9, for a snapshot before speaking to 5,000 at the Metro Convention Centre. (Toronto Star)

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton poses with Jaden Szigeti, 9, for a snapshot before speaking to 5,000 at the Metro Convention Centre. (Toronto Star)

So what does Hillary herself have to say? Well she made a speech at the “Unique Lives and Experiences” conference in Toronto on Thursday, and she expressed a desire that many American women share. She wants to see a woman president in her lifetime. From Politico:

“Let me say this, hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime,” Clinton said in Toronto, before a women-centered event Thursday. “And whether it’s next time or the next time after that, it really depends on women stepping up and subjecting themselves to the political process, which is very difficult.”

She added that President Barack Obama’s election was historic, and said, “I hope that we will see a woman elected because I think it would send exactly the right historic signal to girls, women as well as boys and men. And I will certainly vote for the right woman to be president.” [….]

Friends and supporters of Clinton say she is genuinely undecided about whether to run again, even if some of the moves she is making now, immersing herself in domestic policy on issues affecting women and children that have been the core of her life’s work, would certainly be helpful if she launches another national campaign.
Yet that argument — the historic nature of a female president, combined with a pent-up desire among women voters to break that barrier — is the one most often espoused by Clinton backers.

Here’s the video that was posted to YouTube after the event.

In an “intimate” setting with 5,000 other people, Hillary reminisced about her life:

In a verbal stroll through her life, Clinton mentioned her mother’s difficult early years as an abandoned and mistreated child, she recalled the first time she ever heard the voice of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, back when he was a student, drawling about “the size of watermelons” in Arkansas. She mentioned the “extraordinary sense of anxiety” that she and every other American felt after the attacks of Sept. 11.

And she spoke candidly about how she had learned to cope with sexist attacks and snippy criticism about her hair, her clothes and all the things that don’t really define her.

“My attitude is different than it was 20 years ago,” she said. “I don’t care.”
The crowd clapped its approval.

“I learned to take criticism seriously but not personally” Clinton told her audience.

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She is amazing. I so miss her as Secretary of State. In contrast John Kerry is so boring that he’s already become almost invisible. With Hillary as SOS, there were frequent stories about her travels with photos of her colorful outfits. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have her engaging personality, not to mention her valuable experience and brilliant mind in the White House?

In other news…

The news broke yesterday that Edward Snowden has been charged with three felonies. Most media outlets are reporting that has been charged with espionage, but so far that hasn’t been specifically stated by the government. From Politico:

Snowden was charged with conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information, and theft of government property.

The charges, which can carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison on each count, were filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va., last Friday….

The charges were first reported Friday evening by the Washington Post, which said the complaint against Snowden was sealed. It’s not immediately clear whether the charges were unsealed before or after the Post report.
A Justice Department official confirmed Friday evening that a complaint was filed in the case, but declined further comment on the matter.

The Washington Post reported this morning that the charges were conveyed to Hong Kong authorities a week ago, but so far they seem to be dragging their feet about arresting Snowden.

The reason for the hold-up is unclear. There could be delays in the legal process for issuing the warrant. Or, officials may still be looking for Snowden, who is believed to be in Hong Kong but could also have found a way to leave the semiautonomous region.

The U.S. government asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant June 14, the same day it filed criminal charges against him, including theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”

Under an extradition treaty between Hong Kong and the United States, a provisional warrant, as opposed to a regular one, is a faster way to detain suspected criminals since it does not require the initial approval of Hong Kong’s leader, currently Leung Chun-ying.

Instead, a judge can issue the warrant immediately. Simon Young, a legal professor at the University of Hong Kong said this means a warrant for Snowden’s arrest in theory could have been made as early as June 14, more than a week ago.

The Supreme Court justices are taking their own sweet time in announcing the most important decisions of this SCOTUS session. At The Daily Beast, Richard L. Hasan asks “What’s Taking the Supreme Court So Long?”

With everyone anxiously awaiting potentially blockbuster decisions on issues fromaffirmative action to voting rights to same-sex marriage, it is easy to criticize the Supreme Court for being too slow.

After all, Fisher, the affirmative-action case involving the University of Texas, was argued in Supreme Court back in October. By historical standards, the court is deciding very few cases: it issued 167 with opinions in the 1981 term, but is expected to decide only 77 this term. Why save all of the big calls for the end? Are the justices trying to create maximum suspense to get more attention?

These criticisms fundamentally misunderstand both the modern Supreme Court’s mission and the psychology of the justices. There may be a lot of reasons to criticize the court, but the end-of-the-term crunch is not one of them.Consider first the Supreme Court’s mission. Justices are unlike legislators, who simply vote to express their preferences. Justices are expected to give reasons for their decisions. Further, the court on some of the toughest questions is divided along strong ideological lines. For example, a majority opinion from a conservative justice can generate a dissenting opinion from a liberal justice. The dissenting justice won’t just say “I disagree,” but will offer reasons—reasons that the dissenting justice writes not only for history but in the hopes that one day a majority of justices will change their minds and adopt the dissenting view in a majority opinion. Both a majority and dissenting opinions will be circulated within the court, and each opinion will be modified numerous times to respond to the arguments of the other side, and to respond to the concerns of other justices who may join one or more of the opinions. Sometimes a justice will agree with the result but not with the reasoning of an opinion, and that justice will write separately, prompting another round of revisions.

We’re still waiting for decisions on 11 more cases, and those could be announced this week. It should be interesting.

Finally, today is the summer solstice, and people the world over celebrated the beginning of summer. Read about it at the the WaPo: Summer solstice observed at Times Square, Stonehenge, in D.C.

And tomorrow a unusual celestial even will take place, according to the Sydney Morning Herald: A Supermoon, when ‘people turn into lunatics’

ONLY ONCE a year Earth, Moon and Sun line up to create the perfect conditions for a so called ‘Supermoon’.
According to popular folklore, this is the time when “people turn into lunatics”, ships run aground and earthquakes rattle our planet.

According to NASA , it is the best opportunity to get a good look at Earth’s rocky satellite.
The distance between Earth and Moon varies between about 357,000km and 406,000km throughout the year, and depends on the moon’s elliptical orbit around Earth.

When the moon is on its farthest position from the earth, it is called Apogee while the closest encounter is named Perigee.

About once a year a full Moon occurs during the Perigee orbit, resulting in a 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter appearance.

Right wing nuts should stay indoors and avoid looking at the sky. They’re already lunatics; we don’t need them to go completely around the bend.

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about on this first day of summer?