Monday Reads: Hello Darkness, my old friendPosted: June 11, 2018 Filed under: 2016 elections, morning reads | Tags: Canada, G 6 plus 1, net neutrality, New Orleans Jazz funerals, Russia NRA collusion, Trump Russia Collusion, Trump Russia investigation 30 Comments
Well, it’s another day to find out how low the party and appointments of KKKremlin Caligula can go and it’s low. It’s about as low as the nadir of morality set by the monster himself. Today’s news isn’t pleasant at all from any vantage point. I’m reminded that death is a natural part of life and one that every one tries to ignore but must face. I’d like to give a jazz funeral for some of these items, but I’m having a hard time celebrating the life before the loss.
Today, is our first day without Net Neutrality. Any of us that have been on the internet a long time–1981 for me–will know that everything use to be much freer, less commercial, and less ridden with stalkers. I don’t miss the old modem that required a telephone ear/mouth piece. I don’t miss having to direct dial to most sites. I also do not miss that the only graphics you would ever see were in either gold and green and entirely composed of characters. I do miss the days before AOL let all their subscribers lose on the web and there is much we will miss with the death of Net Neutrality. This is from Slate.
Monday, June 11, is the first day of the post-net neutrality internet. In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era rules that prohibit internet companies from slowing down or speeding up access to certain websites, but it took about six months for the repeal to get a sign-off from the Office of Management and Budget and for the new rules to be published in the federal register. Beginning, well, now, your internet access could—emphasis on could—feel dramatically different than it did yesterday.
Under the new network neutrality rules, internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are allowed to throttle traffic that travels over their network or even block access to entire websites as long as the companies alert their subscribers in their terms of service that they reserve the right to do so. But since most people in the United States don’t have more than one or two internet providers to choose from for broadband service, that means if users don’t wish to accept those terms, many won’t have anywhere else to go for their internet. Without net neutrality rules stopping them, internet providers will also be able to charge websites a fee to reach users faster.
Those internet providers stand to win the most from the net neutrality repeal, since they’ll be able to operate what is essentially a two-way toll, collecting money from both subscribers and websites that want priority access to users. Already-powerful, deep-pocketed companies that can afford to pay for the fast-lane service, like Facebook or Yelp could wind up in a position to set the price, relegating smaller companies, nonprofits, or struggling news organizations to what is, in effect, a slower internet.
We’re seeing another nail in the coffin of voting rights. Today’s death blow came from the Supreme Court of the United States and yes, you know the ones that did it to us. This is from Buzzfeed‘s Court Reporter Chris Geidner:”The Supreme Court Just Upheld Ohio’s Aggressive Process For Purging Voters From The Rolls. The court split 5–4 on ideological grounds.”
The Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s system for purging inactive voters from the rolls — a decision that could lead other states to implement its aggressive procedure that can be triggered after a person fails to vote in one federal election.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote Monday’s 5–4 decision for the court, which was split along ideological lines.
Under Ohio’s system, voters who do not vote in a two-year period are sent a notice from the state. If they do not return the notice and then fail to vote for the next four years, their voter registration is canceled.
The Supreme Court held that the state’s process did not violate federal law.
Ohio had argued that its process was based on a provision of the National Voter Registration Act that allows states to remove people from voting rolls based on the grounds that they moved.
The A. Philip Randolph Institute, which sued the state, argued that the state, in fact, violated a different provision — which says that a person cannot be removed from voter rolls simply for failing to vote.
The court ruled that the state only uses the failure to vote “as a rough way of identifying voters who may have moved,” but that it actually begins the removal process by sending “a preaddressed, postage prepaid card to these individuals asking them to verify that they still reside at the same address.”
The court rejected the challengers’ argument that Ohio’s system violates the “Failure-to-Vote Clause.” The clause, Alito wrote, “simply forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant, and Ohio does not use it that way.”
Justice Stephen Breyer summed up the dissenting justices’ view that Monday’s decision was an exercise in circular reasoning.
Most of us are still swooning from the weekend that basically cut the United States away from its closest allies, friends, and countries that share the values of reason, justice, and modernity. Have we just witnessed the murder of the post-World War 2 coalition of the world’s greatest economic and democratic powers? From the keyboard of Jeffrey Goldberg writing for The Atlantic: “A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, Bitch’. The president believes that the United States owes nothing to anyone—especially its allies.”
Many of Donald Trump’s critics find it difficult to ascribe to a president they consider to be both subliterate and historically insensate a foreign-policy doctrine that approaches coherence. A Trump Doctrine would require evidence of Trump Thought, and proof of such thinking, the argument goes, is scant. This view is informed in part by feelings of condescension, but it is not meritless. Barack Obama, whose foreign-policy doctrine I studied in depth, was cerebral to a fault; the man who succeeded him is perhaps the most glandular president in American history. Unlike Obama, Trump possesses no ability to explain anything resembling a foreign-policy philosophy. But this does not mean that he is without ideas.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve asked a number of people close to the president to provide me with short descriptions of what might constitute the Trump Doctrine. I’ve been trying, as part of a larger project, to understand the revolutionary nature of Trump’s approach to world affairs. This task became even more interesting over the weekend, when Trump made his most ambitious move yet to dismantle the U.S.-led Western alliance; it becomes more interesting still as Trump launches, without preparation or baseline knowledge, a complicated nuclear negotiation with a fanatical and bizarre regime that quite possibly has his number.
Trumpian chaos is, in fact, undergirded by a comprehensible worldview, a number of experts have insisted. The Brookings Institution scholar (and frequent Atlantic contributor) Thomas Wright argued in a January 2016 essaythat Trump’s views are both discernible and explicable. Wright, who published his analysis at a time when most everyone in the foreign-policy establishment considered Trump’s candidacy to be a farce, wrote that Trump loathes the liberal international order and would work against it as president; he wrote that Trump also dislikes America’s military alliances, and would work against them; he argued that Trump believes in his bones that the global economy is unfair to the U.S.; and, finally, he wrote that Trump has an innate sympathy for “authoritarian strongmen.”
We continue to discover how deep Russian interference was in our election in 2016. This is horrifying and it shows how big money and big lobbyists are killing our democracy.
You should read the entire article but here’s the money line.
Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.
The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia’s largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.
Less we forget, Matt Ygelisias writing for Vox reminds us that: “There’s actually lots of evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. The untenability of the “no collusion” talking point.” We also need a jazz funeral for the truth. We’re victims of weaponized, industrial strength gaslighting.
“In all of this, in any of this, there’s been no evidence that there’s been any collusion between the Trump campaign and President Trump and Russia,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “Let’s just make that really clear. There’s no evidence of collusion. This is about Russia and what they did and making sure they don’t do it again.”
From Ryan’s perspective, it would be convenient if it were true that Robert Mueller’s investigation had turned up no evidence of collusion, but it simply isn’t.
Republicans from Donald Trump on down have made “no collusion” a mantra. The term itself is ill-defined in this context; you won’t find in the US code. But roughly speaking, the question is whether the campaign got involved with Russian agents who committed computer crimes to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.
The verdict on this is unclear. But there is certainly plenty of evidence pointing toward collusion; what you would call “probable cause” in a legal context, or what a journalist might simply consider reason to continue investigating the story. And the investigating thus far, both by special counsel Mueller and by journalists working on the story, has been fruitful. The efforts have continued to turn up contacts between Trumpworld and Putinland, cover-ups, and dishonesty.
Even as recently as Friday afternoon, we got new indictments charging Trump’s former campaign chair and his former GRU operative business partner with witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
It’s important, obviously, not to prejudge a case. It turns out that Saddam Hussein was acting like a man who was covering up a secret nuclear weapons arsenal because he didn’t want the world to know how weak his defenses really were.
By the same token, it’s certainly possible that the various Trump-Russia contacts never amounted to anything and that they’ve been consistently covered up for some reason otherthan an effort to hide collusion. But both the contacts that have been revealed so far and the deception used to deny their existence are certainly evidence of collusion — evidence that should be (and is being) pursued by the special counsel’s office and that should not be dismissed by the press or by elected officials.
Yglesias has documented a rather long list of fires and smoking guns. Go check it out. We definitely need to throw a jazz funeral for what’s left of the values the Republican party held and ran on for years. This is from NBC News: “The GOP once championed alliances and free trade. Why is it silent now?”
But after a weekend when President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak,” after he refused to sign the joint communique from the G-7 summit, and after a top Trump aide said “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door” — those same Republican leaders have been silent.
(What did Trudeau do, by the way, to earn that condemnation from Team Trump? He said that Canada would respond with reciprocal tariffs on the U.S. tariffs the Trump administration imposed on Canada — nothing he and his government haven’t said before, including on “Meet the Press” a week ago.)
The one exception to this GOP silence was Sen. John McCain, who tweeted: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.”
But other Republicans haven’t repeated that message, which is striking when free trade has been one of the GOP’s central tenets over the last few decades. And there’s only one explanation for that Republican silence: Trump has bullied the entire party into submission — well, at least those who will have to face voters again.
Today begins the frightening process of watching two madmen sit across the table to compare dick sizes. My money is on the North Koreans.
As Rick Wilson says: “Everything Trump touches dies.” We have not attended our last funeral but let’s try to find ways to comfort ourselves in the small celebrations of our daily lives. This includes all of my dear friends here on Sky Dancing who I consider the best of family.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Tuesday Reads: Trump Has Put American Foreign Policy Up For Sale.Posted: May 15, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, Ayman Sabi, China, Donald Trump, Ice Cube, Jed Shugarman, Jeff Kwatinetz, Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Quatar, Robert Mueller, Rosneft deal, Steele Dossier, Trump Russia investigation, Xi Jinping, ZTE 33 Comments
The corruption is right out in the open now. American foreign policy is for sale to highest bidder. On Sunday Trump posted a startling tweet:
EuroNews: Trump tells Commerce Department to help Chinese telecom ZTE.
President Donald Trump said Sunday he has instructed his Commerce Department to help get a Chinese telecommunications company “back into business” after the U.S. government cut off access to its American suppliers.
At issue is that department’s move last month to block the ZTE Corp., a major supplier of telecoms networks and smartphones based in southern China, from importing American components for seven years. The U.S. accused ZTE of misleading American regulators after it settled charges of violating sanctions against North Korea and Iran….
ZTE has asked the department to suspend the seven-year ban on doing business with U.S. technology exporters. By cutting off access to U.S. suppliers of essential components such as microchips, the ban threatens ZTE’s existence, the company has said.
During recent trade meetings in Beijing, Chinese officials said they raised their objections to ZTE’s punishment with the American delegation, which they said agreed to report them to Trump.
The U.S. imposed the penalty after discovering that Shenzhen-based ZTE, which had paid a $1.2 billion fine in the case, had failed to discipline employees involved and paid them bonuses instead.
Why is Trump suddenly so concerned about Chinese jobs? It’s not about U.S. national security; it’s about Trump’s business. HuffPost: Trump Orders Help For Chinese Phone-Maker After China Approves Money For Trump Project.
A mere 72 hours after the Chinese government agreed to put a half-billion dollars into an Indonesian project that will personally enrich Donald Trump, the president ordered a bailout for a Chinese-government-owned cellphone maker….
…on Thursday, the developer of a theme park resort outside of Jakarta had signed a deal to receive as much as $500 million in Chinese government loans, as well as another $500 million from Chinese banks. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, has a deal to license the Trump name to the resort, which includes a golf course and hotels.
Trump, despite his promises to do so during the campaign, has not divested himself of his businesses, and continues to profit from them.
“You do a good deal for him, he does a good deal for you. Quid pro quo,” said Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush and now a Democratic candidate for Senate in Minnesota.
It sure does look like a quid pro quo, doesn’t it? Or is it just that Trump is a bad deal-maker? We can’t be sure because Trump chose to maintain control of his businesses and refuses to release his tax returns. Read more about Trump’s Indonesia project at the South China Morning Post: Trump Indonesia project is latest stop on China’s Belt and Road.
Gordon Chang at the Daily Beast: Trump Cuts a Great Deal—For China.
The White House looks like it is prepared to give relief to ZTE Corp., the embattled Chinese telecom-equipment maker, in exchange for Beijing lifting tariffs on, and easing non-tariff barriers against, U.S. agricultural products. Moreover, China’s Commerce Department will restart its long-stalled review of Qualcomm’s proposed acquisition of NXP Semiconductors, the Dutch firm.
In addition, The Daily Beast has learned there will be either no penalties or only light ones imposed on China for stealing U.S. intellectual property.
This is a great deal—for China. China gets relief for ZTE for doing nothing more than what it should have been doing all along. And its massive theft of U.S. technology and intellectual property—undoubtedly in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year—goes mostly unpunished.
If the reports of the outlines of the impending agreement are correct, the Trump administration, which prides itself on deal-making, will have accepted one of the worst trade arrangements this century.
Josh Rogin at The Washington Post: China gave Trump a list of crazy demands, and he caved to one of them.
After top Trump officials went to Beijing last month, the Chinese government wrote up a document with a list of economic and trade demands that ranged from the reasonable to the ridiculous. On Sunday, President Trump caved to one of those demands before the next round of negotiations even starts, undermining his own objectives for no visible gain.
The Chinese proposal is entitled, “Framework Arrangement on Promoting Balanced Development on Bilateral Trade,” and I obtained an English version of the document, which is the Chinese government’s negotiating position heading into the next round of talks. That round begins this week when Xi Jinping’s special economic envoy Liu He returns to town.
Bullet point 5 is entitled, “Appropriately handing the ZTE case to secure global supply chain.”
So Trump agreed to reverse US policy, but was it really about rewarding China for funding the Trump project in Indonesia? I’d say that’s pretty likely, wouldn’t you?
Trump took a big step in that direction Sunday when he tweeted that he had instructed the Commerce Department to help get ZTE “back into business, fast,” only weeks after the Commerce Department cut off its supply of American components because it violated U.S. sanctions on sales to North Korea and Iran. Trump’s tweet set off a panic both inside and outside the administration among those who worry that Trump is backing down from his key campaign promise to stand up to China’s unfair trade practices and economic aggression.
As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pointed out Monday, the problems with ZTE go well beyond sanctions-busting. The Federal Communications Commission has proposed cutting ZTE and other Chinese “national champion” companies off from U.S. infrastructure development funds because the U.S. intelligence community views their technology as a national security risk.
Guess what folks? Trump doesn’t give a shit about U.S. national security. He cares about money for himself. Period.
Michael Avenatti has had a busy past few days, and I’ve been following the revelations pretty closely. On Sunday Avenatti posted some stills from a C-Span video of Trump Tower during the transition.
Later, he revealed that a Quatari official apparently met with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn on Dec. 12, 2016.
Mother Jones: Qatari Investor Accused in Bribery Plot Appears With Michael Cohen in Picture Posted by Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer.
Members of the Trump transition team appear to have met on December 12, 2016, with a group from Qatar that included Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, the former Qatari diplomat and current head of a division of Qatar’s massive sovereign wealth fund, who is accused in a recent lawsuit of scheming to bribe Trump administration officials.
On the lawsuit:
Ice Cube, the rapper and actor, and his business partner, Jeff Kwatinetz, recently filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit that includes an allegation that Al-Rumaihi and other Qatari officials who invested in the men’s BIG3 basketball league indicated interest in gaining access to people connected to Trump. “Mr Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Stephen Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,” Kwatinetz said in the court filing. Kwatinetz says he rejected the offer, which he viewed as a bribe.
In response, Kwatinetz claims, “Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me Buthat I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think Flynn turned down our money?’” That’s a reference to Michael Flynn, who was fired as Trump’s national security adviser after lying about his contacts with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
But it appears that other Quatari officials were also in the Dec. 12, 2016 meeting, according to knowledgeable people on Twitter.
Here’s the Wikipedia article on Quatari the foreign minister.
And a third person from Quatar who is also involved in the lawsuit filed by Ice Cube and Kwatinetz was also present.
What the hell is going on? A couple of useful reads:
Slate: Michael Cohen’s Meetings With Michael Flynn and a Qatari Diplomat Might Be the Key to Unlocking the Steele Dossier.
The founder of a three-on-three basketball league who claims he was offered a bribe by a one-time Qatari diplomat to arrange access to Steve Bannon said on Monday that the former diplomat is the same person photographed with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower in December 2016.
Big 3 basketball league co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz told Slate that he recognized Ahmed Al-Rumaihi in photos with Cohen that were tweeted Sunday by attorney Michael Avenatti.
“Yes, 100 percent,” Kwatinetz said when asked if he thought the videos and photos were of Ahmed Al-Rumaihi. Last week, Kwatinetz, who is a co-founder of Big 3 with Ice Cube, accused Al-Rumaihi in a sworn court declaration of making an attempted bribe and of suggestively boasting that Flynn had not refused “our money.” [….]
[Michael] Avenatti tweeted the images that appeared to show Al-Rumaihi entering an elevator in Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016, five days after news broke of the multibillion-dollar sale of 19.5 percent of the Russian fossil fuel giant Rosneft to Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign investment fund. (Glencore and Qatar sold off a major stake of Rosneft to China last year, but earlier this month Qatar bought back in to the Russian company for a total stake of 19 percent.)
The Rosneft deal features prominently in an investigative dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. A central claim of the Steele dossier was that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, during an alleged meeting with Rosneft officials in summer 2016, promised that a Trump administration would undo sanctions against Russia, in part, in exchange for brokerage of the Rosneft deal. In May 2016, Al-Rumaihi reportedly took over as head of a major division of the wealth fund ultimately involved in the Rosneft deal.
The allegations in the Steele dossier, made in October 2016, suggested a future quid-pro-quo deal between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has been conspicuously resistant to Russian sanctions despite widespread congressional support from both parties. As Jed Shugerman has noted in Slate, during congressional testimony Page acknowledged meeting with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft, during his July 2016 trip to Russia and acknowledged “briefly” discussing the sale of Rosneft as well as there being “some general reference” to sanctions. As Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand has reported, Page also acknowledged meeting with top Rosneft managers in Moscow on Dec. 8—four days before the apparent Cohen–Al-Rumaihi meeting and one day after the completion of the Rosneft deal.
Jed Shugarman has posted a detailed Russia/Qatar/Trump Timeline in a Google doc that will be updated with new information. On his blog, Shugarman posted this introduction to the timeline:
I have produced a Google Doc timeline, based on publicly available reports and documents, of the alleged bribery scheme between Russia and Trump associates, possibly through Qatar’s purchase of Rosneft….
Russia’s sale of Rosneft Gas is the key event in the Steele Dossier’s quid pro quo allegation. On June 2016, Russians allegedly offer Trump associates a massive payout derived from the commissions on Russia’s sale of 19.5% of state energy giant Rosneft ($11 billion), in return for lifting sanctions. Weeks after the election, Flynn and Kushner are in contact with Russian officials. Then Russia sells a 19.5% stake in Rosneft in a concealed deal, eventually revealed to be with Qatar. Immediately after the deal, a Qatari diplomat allegedly met with Cohen and Flynn at Trump Tower.
In January 2017, payments from Russian oligarch to Michael Cohen begin, and Flynn reportedly texts associates that Trump will lift Russian sanctions, opening up huge personal profits. But around this time, the Dossier is published. Kushner sought money directly from Qatar, because it is possible that Qatar was backing off of the deal, wary of its exposure. In April 2017, Kushner reportedly escalated a Gulf state crisis between Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar with a risk of regional war. A few months later, the Qatar-backed Apollo Group delivers $184 million to Kushner, who has been in financial crisis over a disastrous purchase of 666 5th Ave.
Remember, Robert Mueller and his investigators have likely known all this for a long time and they probably know many more details. Michael Flynn has been cooperating for months, and indictments involving Michael Cohen are very likely in the works.
What stories are you following today?
Monday Reads: The DrumpfmanovsPosted: March 5, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Steele Dossier, Trump Russia investigation 43 Comments
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Yesterday, I read up on the proposed tariffs and trade war. I even endured listening to Golly Gee Wilikers Ross. But, I have to save that and all the weirdness of Peter Navarro’s economics for later. It’s ALL Russia today.
This is the article you must read. It’s long but reads like a Le Carre novel. Jane Mayer–writing for The New Yorker–has profiled Christopher Steele and outlined a pretty strong case for calling the entire Drumpofski family a Russian asset. We even get a callback of the pee tapes!
This pretty much sums up any thing having to do with the Russian Oligarchs and Putin’s attack on the West.
“It was as if all criminal roads led to Trump Tower,” Steele told friends.
This part really is a stunning description of the all the original findings.
One question particularly gnawed at Simpson. Why had Trump repeatedly gone to Russia in search of business, yet returned empty-handed? Steele was tantalized, and took the job, thinking that he’d find evidence of a few dodgy deals, and not much else. He evidently didn’t consider the danger of poking into a Presidential candidate’s darkest secrets. “He’s just got blinkers,” Steele’s longtime friend told me. “He doesn’t put his head in the oven so much as not see the oven.”
Within a few weeks, two or three of Steele’s long-standing collectors came back with reports drawn from Orbis’s larger network of sources. Steele looked at the material and, according to people familiar with the matter, asked himself, “Oh, my God—what is this?” He called in Burrows, who was normally unflappable. Burrows realized that they had a problem. As Simpson later put it, “We threw out a line in the water, and Moby-Dick came back.”
Steele’s sources claimed that the F.S.B. could easily blackmail Trump, in part because it had videos of him engaging in “perverted sexual acts” in Russia. The sources said that when Trump had stayed in the Presidential suite of Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, in 2013, he had paid “a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him,” thereby defiling a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in during a state visit. The allegation was attributed to four sources, but their reports were secondhand—nobody had witnessed the event or tracked down a prostitute, and one spoke generally about “embarrassing material.” Two sources were unconnected to the others, but the remaining two could have spoken to each other. In the reports Steele had collected, the names of the sources were omitted, but they were described as “a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” a “member of the staff at the hotel,” a “female staffer at the hotel when trump had stayed there,” and “a close associate of trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow.”
More significant, in hindsight, than the sexual details were claims that the Kremlin and Trump were politically colluding in the 2016 campaign. The Russians were described as having cultivated Trump and traded favors with him “for at least 5 years.” Putin was described as backing Trump in order to “sow discord and disunity both within the U.S.” and within the transatlantic alliance. The report claimed that, although Trump had not signed any real-estate-development deals, he and his top associates had repeatedly accepted intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton and other political rivals. The allegations were astounding—and improbable. They could constitute treason even if they were only partly true.
If you’d like the cliff notes version, try this link to the Daily Beast which is headlined: “2nd Steele Memo: Russia ‘Blocked’ Mitt Romney as Secretary of State.” This is the latest WTF?
According to the report, in late November 2016, Steele relayed information from his Russian sources that senior Kremlin officials had intervened to block Mitt Romney as President-elect Trump’s choice for secretary of State. Reporter Jane Mayer writes that Moscow had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be willing to lift sanctions related to Ukraine and cooperate with Russia’s involvement in Syria. Romney, long a vocal hawk on Russia, declined to comment for the report.
Mueller is like a heat seeking missile at this point. The entire first family and a good deal of its associates are clearly in the path. The more we find out, the more obvious is that we’re under a hostile take over action akin to what happens on Wall Street.
What Mueller is asking for: Mueller is subpoenaing all communications — meaning emails, texts, handwritten notes, etc. — that this witness sent and received regarding the following people:
- Carter Page
- Corey Lewandowski
- Donald J. Trump
- Hope Hicks
- Keith Schiller
- Michael Cohen
- Paul Manafort
- Rick Gates
- Roger Stone
- Steve Bannon
The subpoena asks for all communications from November 1, 2015, to the present. Notably, Trump announced his campaign for president five months earlier — on June 16, 2015.
It’s really difficult these days to accept that we’re not even achieving Banana Republic status. We’re a failing oligarchy with a crime syndicate in charge blessed by people that want to live in a Margaret Atwood Handmaid’s reality.
In one of many inimitable utterances that Michael Wolff reports, Donald Trump seems to come close to achieving what might almost be described as self-awareness:
Once, coming back on his plane with a millionaire friend who had brought along a foreign model, Trump, trying to move in on his friend’s date, urged a stop in Atlantic City. He would provide a tour of his casino. His friend assured the model that there was nothing to recommend Atlantic City. It was a place overrun by white trash.
“What is this ‘white trash?’” asked the model.
“They’re people just like me”, said Trump, “only they’re poor.”
Fire and Fury contains many such scenes. When asked with whom he talks before he decides to act, Trump responds: “Me. I talk to myself.” When pressed by Steve Bannon and others early on to fire James Comey, the president said: “Don’t worry, I’ve got him” – meaning he was confident he could charm the formidable FBI chief into supporting him. Women, Trump believes, understand and get on with him better than men; at the same time he can refer casually to his female employees as “tail” or “cunt”.
When they meet in Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi tells him: “You are a unique personality capable of doing the impossible.” Trump replies: “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man…” Settling reluctantly into the White House, he reproves housekeeping for picking his shirt up from the floor – “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor”– and instructs them not to touch anything, especially his toothbrush. Wolff cites a report in the New York Times that had the president, two weeks into his term, wandering around the White House at night in his bathrobe, unable to work the light switches – an image former chief strategist Bannon suggested was reminiscent of the ageing, near-senile movie star Norma Desmond in the film Sunset Boulevard.
i don’t know what we want to call this all but it’s sure not good old American Democracy.
What’s on your reading and blogging list these days?
Tuesday ReadsPosted: December 12, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Alabama special election, Donald Trump, Doug Jones, Kirstin Gillibrand, Mika Brzezinski, misogyny, polls, Robert Mueller, Roy Moore, Sexism, Trump Russia investigation 42 Comments
Trump began the day with another Twitter meltdown, attacking the Special Counsel’s investigation and then railing against Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton.
Gillibrand “would do anything for” campaign contributions? Referring to Hillary as “Crooked,” and what’s the meaning of “USED?”
Senator Gillibrand responded:
About 90 minutes later, Trump tweeted his usual lying attack on Doug Jones and once again endorsed a man who sexually abused young women and wants to return the U.S. to the days of slavery.
This is how degraded the U.S. presidency is in 2017.
I first saw Trump’s tweets when I turned on MSNBC at about 8:30. It amazed to see Mika Brzezinski’s response about the sales marketing automation. She even told men on the panel to stop interrupting her, and interrupted Joe Scarborough. Watch her rants at MSNBC. (You have to sit through remarks from other people on the panel to get all of what Mika had to say).
Tonight we’ll find out whether Mitch McConnell is going to have to deal with Roy Moore representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Some Republicans must be hoping that somehow Democrat Doug Jones can win. No one really knows what is going to happen. The polls are all over the place. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?
What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however. There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.
Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.
But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.1
These differences are significant, according to Silver, because automated polls cannot call cell phones and may have less representative samples because so many people just hang up on them.
Last night a heartbroken Alabama father spoke outside Roy Moore’s final rally before the election. The Washington Post reports:
Perhaps it was the man’s strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign’s final night, condemning the Republican candidate’s past comments lambasting homosexuality.
Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too, had harbored some of the same anti-gay feelings.
Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.
Whatever it was, the two-minute video of Nathan Mathis struck a nerve, traveling far and wide as a sort of emotional coda to a wrenching U.S. Senate race in Alabama that has captivated the country.
And here’s an energized Doug Jones voter speaking this morning:
Interesting tweets this morning from former Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene:
Here’s the link Alene responded to:
A couple of weird things happened during Moore’s closing argument.
New York Magazine: Roy Moore’s Wife: We’re Not Anti-Semitic, ‘One of Our Attorneys Is a Jew’
Roy Moore’s stance on Jewish people probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of reasons not to vote for the Alabama Senate candidate. Yet on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife, Kayla Moore, attempted to shoot down one of the lesser-known allegations against her husband.
“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said Monday night while introducing her husband at a rally in Midland City, Alabama.
“I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said, gesturing to members of the media.
“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.
“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”
Um . . . okay . . .
Another speaker “joked” about how he and Roy Moore “accidentally” ended up in a brothel full of underage girls in Vietnam. Think Progress:
One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle, it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.”
Moore and Staehle agreed. According to Staehle, they didn’t expect there was anything untoward going on at the “private club” because “there were legitimate private clubs” in Vietnam. The third man drove them to the club in his Jeep.
Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel. The third man, Staehle suggested, essentially tricked them. “I could tell you what I saw but I don’t want to,” Staehle said mischievously.
“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.
They asked the third man to leave with them but he didn’t want to. So Staehle and Moore took his Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage. The man returned to base the next morning on the back of a motorcycle, Staehle said with a grin.
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan must be so proud.
Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, the “president’s” men are plotting against Robert Mueller.
Mike Allen at Axios: Trump lawyers want second special counsel appointed now.
President Trump’s legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.
The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.
More at the link.
At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky asks: Will the Senate Still Protect Robert Mueller From Donald Trump’s Ax?
Remember the first round of gossip about whether President Trump would fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, back during the summer? Republican senators were quick to say what a grave error this would be. Susan Collins said in June it would be “an extraordinarily unwise move” back. In July, Lindsey Graham said that “any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.”
Most of them chimed in along similar lines. Consequently we were all assured: Yes, maybe they’ve been in the tank for Trump up to now, but surely they would never tolerate that. That is the moment when they’d say enough.
Well. We may find out about that very soon.
People keep saying “we’re close to a crisis.” No we’re not. We’re in it. We have a president who already obstructed justice on national television…..
A former national security adviser copped a felony plea. Three former campaign officials are under indictment. This has never happened in the first year of a modern presidency. Probably any presidency. And that’s just the legal stuff. Then there are all the lies. Obama spied on Trump (this one still has legs among the creatures of the black-ops lagoons of the far right). Trump has no Russia ties. Hillary sold our plutonium to Putin.
And finally, there’s the madness, which is slightly different from lies. The current madness is that Russia is great and can do no wrong, while the FBI is suddenly a subversive and un-American organization. And Robert Mueller is a partisan, pro-Clinton, Never-Trump pawn of the liberal order….
We have never been here. Richard Nixon and his henchmen subverted the law. They did not attempt to subvert reality itself. Nixon did not go around saying that in fact it was George McGovern who belonged in prison. A news network did not exist to scream on a daily basis that McGovern should face indictment, peddling false “scandals” about him. In the summer and fall of 1973, before Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, influential congressional Republicans and prominent former congressional Republicans did not go around saying that there wasn’t one honest investigator on Cox’s staff or that Cox was corrupt.
Please read the rest at the link.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
Lazy Saturday ReadsPosted: December 9, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Alcee Hastings, Bears Ears Monument, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, FBI, Fox News, Hope Hicks, Jeff Sessions, Peter Strzok, Planned Parenthood, Robert Mueller, snow, Trump Russia investigation, Uranium One, winter weather 20 Comments
The snow has finally begun falling here, and now they say it will continue all night and into tomorrow. We expect around 6-8 inches. That still may not be as bad as what happened down where JJ lives in Georgia and other parts of the South. The LA Times reports: Snowmen in Alabama? Sledding in Mississippi? From Texas to Georgia, snow blankets the South.
Snow blanketed a vast swath of the Deep South on Friday, triggering a flurry of winter weather warnings that closed businesses and schools, canceled hundreds of flights and caused traffic gridlock. It also unleashed a flurry of snowman construction and sledding in places more accustomed to sunshine than snow.
The storm dropped a rare coating of snow as far south as Brownsville, Texas — near the border of Mexico — up through southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the southern Appalachians.
“This is an unusual event — to see snow falling this early in the season all the way from Texas and the Gulf Coast region to Georgia,” said Laura Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta/Peachtree City office. “It has happened before, but not often.”
More than 200,000 customers across the region lost power as snow downed branches and power lines.
Since I can’t go out, I plan to escape into a good book. I finished reading Luke Harding’s excellent Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and I’ve begun reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.
Fraser is a brilliant writer, and so far the book is fascinating. She adds context to the sentimental version of Wilder’s life portrayed in the “Little House” books. Of course in many ways it’s a tragic story of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans as well as the hardships suffered by poor people like the Ingalls family who were lured west by promised of free or cheap land. Anyway, I’m glad to have a good book to help me escape from our dreadful current reality.
As the mainstream media continues to demonstrate the tremendous progress the Mueller investigation has been making, the Trump state media made up of Fox News, Breitbart, and other right wing outlets has turned up the heat with their fake news.
Please read this excellent piece by Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger. Chait opens by describing the process by which the GOP first claims to be shocked by bad behavior (e.g. the Access Hollywood tape), but within begins denying and finally excusing that same behavior. We’ve seen this again and again, and now it’s happening with Roy Moore. Here’s the gist of Chait’s argument:
The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.
The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.
The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller.
His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.
It’s happening, folks. Yesterday we learned that Hope Hicks was interviewed by Mueller’s team all day Thursday and Friday. Hicks knows everything that has happened. There is no way Trump is going to sit still while she either tells the truth or may get caught in a lie and have to cooperate with Mueller. The investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump and his family.
The New York Times: F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives.
F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.
The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers….
After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.
The meetings with Ms. Hicks, what the F.B.I. calls a “defensive briefing,” went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.
Meanwhile, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Justice Department has announced “investigations” into fake scandals like Planned Parenthood supposedly selling fetal body parts and the Uranium One non-scandal. And the GOP Congress is going to turn the sexual harassment scandal into a Democratic problem. The Democrats pushed Al Franken out without due process for minor accusations that may have been orchestrated, and now more Democrats are going to be revealed as abusers so the public will forget about Trump and Moore.
Roll Call: Exclusive: Taxpayers Paid $220K to Settle Case Involving Rep. Alcee Hastings.
The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.
Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.
Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.
“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”
Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.
“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.
Will another member of the Black Caucus be forced out now?
Sarah Kendzior issued a stark waning this morning in response to this tweet:
Here’s a Trump scandal; will it gain any traction? The New York Times: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.
A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.
“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.
In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”
There is soooo much news today. I’ll have to add some links in the comment thread, but I’ll end this post with the latest NYT gossipy insider report on Trump’s defensive maneuvers: Inside Trumps Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.
Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.
Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.
As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.
For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.
Read more about the madman in the White House at the NYT link.
What stories are you following today?