The Trump books just keep on coming. This week and next week we’re getting two very significant releases. A new book by Tim Weiner came out today. Weiner is a historian of both the FBI and CIA. His latest is The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945–2020. The Washington Post published an op-ed by Weiner yesterday: The unanswered question of our time: Is Trump an agent of Russia?
The FBI faced a national security nightmare three years ago: It suspected that the new president of the United States was, in some unknown way, in the sway of Russia.
Was an agent of a foreign power in the White House? Should they investigate Donald Trump? “I can’t tell you how ominous and stressful those days were,” Peter Strzok, then the No. 2 man in FBI counterintelligence, told me. “Similar to the Cuban missile crisis, in a domestic counterintelligence sense.”
But the Cuban missile crisis lasted only 13 days — and it had a happy ending. This crisis has no end in sight. Despite the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, despite the work of congressional intelligence committees and inspectors general — and despite impeachment — we still don’t know why the president kowtows to Vladimir Putin, broadcasts Russian disinformation, bends foreign policy to suit the Kremlin and brushes off reports of Russians bounty-hunting American soldiers. We still don’t know whether Putin has something on him. And we need to know the answers — urgently. Knowing could be devastating. Not knowing is far worse. Not knowing is a threat to a functioning democracy.
The FBI’s counterintelligence agents wondered: Why did Trump invite the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister into the Oval Office on the day after he keelhauled FBI Director James B. Comey — and brag about it? “I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told them in confidence. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Like the rest of America, the FBI learned about that conversation only from a Russian government readout. But then Trump went on television and said he had fired Comey over the FBI’s probe into ties between Team Trump and Team Putin during and after the 2016 election.
Unfortunately the counterintelligence investigation seems to have been short-circuited by the firing of Andrew McCabe and the failure of Robert Mueller to seriously investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. Here’s Weiner’s chilling conclusion:
There’s a classic story about an American agent of influence that predates the Cold War — and might presage the strange case of Donald Trump, if these questions about his relationship with Russia go dormant. Samuel Dickstein was a member of Congress from Manhattan, elected in 1922, and chairman of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee in the 1930s. He walked into the Soviet Embassy in 1937 and offered the ambassador his services for $25,000 a year — three times his congressional salary. In exchange, he sold fake passports to Soviet spies. And he held headline-grabbing public hearings investigating Joseph Stalin’s enemies in the United States. Dickstein served 11 terms in Congress. His file lay locked up in the KGB archives for 60 years. Today, if you go down to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to the intersection of Pitt and Grand streets, you’ll be standing in Samuel Dickstein Plaza. He got away with it.
A related opinion piece from today’s Washington Post by Josh Rogin: Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.
On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in the November election in an internal, highly classified report called the CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review, the sources said. CIA analysts compiled the assessment with input from the National Security Agency and the FBI, based on several dozen pieces of information gleaned from public, unclassified and classified intelligence sources. The assessment includes details of the CIA’s analysis of the activities of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach to disseminate disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.
“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the first line of the document says, according to the sources.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Treasury Department have identified Derkach as a Russian agent, but it has not been publicly reported that the CIA, NSA and FBI believed Putin may be personally directing the campaign. Derkach has denied working on behalf of Moscow.
The CIA assessment described Derkach’s efforts in detail and said that his activities have included working through lobbyists, members of Congress and U.S. media organizations to disseminate and amplify his anti-Biden information. Though it refers to Derkach’s interactions with a “prominent” person connected to the Trump campaign, the analysis does not identify the person. Giuliani, who has been working with Derkach publicly for several months, is not named in the assessment.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Another book that is getting much more attention than Weiner’s is Andrew Weissmann’s inside account of the Mueller investigation, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The book will be released next Tuesday.
George Packer interviewed Weissmann at The Atlantic: The Inside Story of the Mueller Probe’s Mistakes.
Andrew Weissmann was one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the special counsel’s investigation of the 2016 election, and he’s about to publish the first insider account, called Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The title comes from an adapted quote by the philosopher John Locke that’s inscribed on the façade of the Justice Department building in Washington, D.C.: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”
Weissmann offers a damning indictment of a “lawless” president and his knowing accomplices—Attorney General William Barr (portrayed as a cynical liar), congressional Republicans, criminal flunkies, Fox News. Donald Trump, he writes, is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong.” But in telling the story of the investigation and its fallout, Weissmann reserves his most painful words for the Special Counsel’s Office itself. Where Law Ends portrays a group of talented, dedicated professionals beset with internal divisions and led by a man whose code of integrity allowed their target to defy them and escape accountability.
“There’s no question I was frustrated at the time,” Weissmann told me in a recent interview. “There was more that could be done that we didn’t do.” He pointed out that the special counsel’s report never arrived at the clear legal conclusions expected from an internal Justice Department document. At the same time, it lacked the explanatory power of last month’s bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election. “Even with 1,000 pages, it was better,” Weissmann said of the Senate report. “It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, ‘You could say this and you could say that.’”
The Mueller inquiry was the greatest potential check on Trump’s abuse of power. The press gives the president fits, but almost half the country chooses not to believe the news. Congress will protect Trump as long as his party controls at least one chamber. Local prosecutors and civil plaintiffs are severely limited in pursuing justice against a sitting president. Public opinion is immovably split and powerless until the next election. Only the Special Counsel’s Office—burrowing into the criminal matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and the president’s subsequent attempts to block an investigation—offered the prospect of accountability for Trump. Mueller couldn’t try the president in court, let alone send him to prison, but he could fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing for a future prosecutor, using the enforceable power of a grand jury subpoena. The whole constitutional superstructure of checks and balances rested on Mueller and his team. As their work dragged on through 2017 and 2018, with flurries of indictments and plea deals but otherwise in utter silence, many Americans invested the inquiry with the outsized expectation that it would somehow bring Trump down.
Read the rest at the Atlantic link.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Mueller’s Team Should Have Done More to Investigate Trump-Russia Links, Top Aide Says.
The team led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, failed to do everything it could to determine what happened in the 2016 election, shying away from steps like subpoenaing President Trump and scrutinizing his finances out of fear he would fire them, one of Mr. Mueller’s top lieutenants argued in the first insider account of the inquiry.
“Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” wrote the former prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, in a new book, adding, “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more.”
The team took elaborate steps to protect its files of evidence from the risk that the Justice Department might destroy them if Mr. Trump fired them and worked to keep reporters and the public from learning what they were up to, Mr. Weissmann wrote in “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation,” which Random House will publish next week.
While he speaks reverently of Mr. Mueller, he also says his boss’s diffidence made him ill-suited for aspects of shepherding the politically charged investigation. He saw Mr. Mueller and his deputy, Aaron M. Zebley, as overly cautious.
Mr. Weissmann also defended against accusations by the president and his allies that he and other investigators were politically biased “angry Democrats”; Mr. Weissmann said his personal views had no bearing on the crimes that Russian operatives and Trump aides committed.
And he elevates particular details — for example, emphasizing that the same business account that sent hush payments to an adult film star who alleged an extramarital affair with Mr. Trump had also received “payments linked to a Russian oligarch.” The president has denied the affair; his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen controlled the account. Mr. Mueller transferred the Cohen matter to prosecutors in New York.
More Reads, links only:
The Washington Post: Mueller prosecutor says special counsel ‘could have done more’ to hold Trump accountable.
Book review by Jennifer Szalai at The New York Times: A Prosecutor’s Backstage Tour of the Mueller Investigation.
The American Independent: Trump says coronavirus ‘affects virtually nobody’ as death toll reaches 200,000.
The New York Times: Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time.
Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: A Young Kennedy, in Kushnerland, Turned Whistle-Blower.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Master Trumpers has been on a spiral of ever increasing psychosis so it’s only natural that the news cycle should be caught up in a cyclone of chaos. I figured today would be one of those news days but it’s one of Those NEWS DAYS raised to some kind of crazy large exponential blaze of a number.
This is mostly a live blog that may break into many threads through out the day because the breaking news is coming at us faster than I can keep up.
By the time I first checked twitter then walked the dog and grabbed the first cup of coffee, BB had called to tell me there is a 4th Judge Gang Rapist victim that’s evidently gone to the police in Mississippi. I saw a Howard Dean tweet suggesting that Rod Rosenstein may have resigned or been fired or something and the full interview of the guy who set up the Russian meeting rather indicated that he thought Trumpers Junior committed some form of treason.
So, I will dump some headlines and will continue to add as the day wears on.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expects to be fired following the reports about his early tenure within the Justice Department — but had not actually stepped down as he traveled to the White House on Monday morning for a meeting.
A source close to Rosenstein said he believes he will lose his job following the New York Times report on Friday that described him discussing secretly recording President Trump and enlisting other Cabinet officers to remove Trump from power under the 25th Amendment.
Some news organizations reported that Rosenstein had submitted a verbal resignation to White House officials. The situation was confused and unclear.
Trump was not at the White House; he traveled to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly.
From ABC: “Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s deputy attorney general, expected to be fired: Sources”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House Monday morning with the expectation that he will be fired, sources told ABC News.
he news came on the heels of reporting that at a May 2017 meeting between Rosenstein and then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Rosenstein suggested that McCabe or others wear a wire when speaking with the president, according to memos McCabe made of the conversation, sources familiar with them told ABC News. The meeting took place a week after President Donald Trump had fired James Comey as director, the sources said.
Additionally, sources told ABC News that, according to the memos, Rosenstein told McCabe he could recruit members of the president’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office for being unfit. Rosenstein believed he would be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kellyto sign on, according to the sources.
After Comey’s firing, ABC News previously reported that Rosenstein was so upset with the White House for pinning Comey’s dismissal on him that he was on the verge of resigning.
Rosenstein remained on the job and a week later assigned Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into allegations that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Okay, that’s still just out there … so watch this space.
We just knew from the Blasey-Ford allegation that the rape team of Cavanaugh and Judge had to have a history that would come out sooner or later. First, Ronana Farrow and Jane Meyer came out with the story of Deborah Ramirez yesterday in the New Yorker. Then, Michael Avenatti tweeted a cryptic charge that insinuated a gang rap. This morning we get a 4th story and this one includes law enforcement in Maryland,
Investigators in Montgomery County confirmed Monday they’re aware of a potential second sexual assault complaint in the county against former Georgetown Prep student and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
While investigators weren’t specific and spoke on background, they said they are looking at allegations against Kavanaugh during his senior year in high school after an anonymous witness came forward this weekend.
This would potentially bring the number to four women accusing Kavanaugh of wrongdoing and comes after Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale college student, stepped forward this weekend to accuse Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her in college, and after attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted out a message saying he represents a woman with “credible information regarding Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge.”
In an email to Mike Davis, the chief counsel for nominations for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Avenatti said he had evidence that at house parties in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and his friend Judge and others plied women with alcohol and drugs, “In order to allow a ‘train’ of men to subsequently gang rape them.”
Investigators say it is unclear if Avenatti’s tweet and email is in regards to the same woman they’ve interviewed.
Judge is a writer who wrote a fictional account of his time at Georgetown Prep and was allegedly involved in the sexual assault of Professor Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s first accuser who is set to testify this Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
From Raw Story: “Montgomery County investigators are ‘looking at’ allegations from potential fourth Kavanaugh accuser: report”
A new report from the Montgomery County Sentinel claims that investigators in Maryland are looking into allegations from what could be a potential fourth accuser against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Specifically, Montgomery County investigators say that an anonymous witness came forward over the weekend to level charges against Kavanaugh that date back to his senior year in high school.
However, the Sentinel’s sources would not describe the specific nature of the charges, and would only say that they were examining them at this time.
If the allegations are credible, they would mark the fourth woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Okay, final wow moment this morning has to do with Rob Goldstone and setting up the Trump Tower Russia Meeting for Trumpers Junior, Manafort, and Kushner. Goldstone has been hauled before a grand jury and I’m pretty sure this means Trumpers junior is in deep do do.
The AP reports that there are arrests happening on the Hill of Kavanaugh Protesters.
The British-born music publicist who helped arrange that infamous meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Democrats now believes the meeting could have been a set-up by Russian intelligence, he told NBC News in an exclusive television interview.
“I’m willing to believe that I don’t know who wanted this meeting,” Rob Goldstone told NBC’s Cynthia McFadden in a wide-ranging interview, in which he also discussed Trump’s behavior in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.
Asked if he had conveyed a “dirty offer” to the Trump team in brokering the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Goldstone said, “Yes. That is true.”
“That [dirt] didn’t materialize,” said Goldstone, but he believes the apparent willingness of campaign officials to accept dirt is what drew the scrutiny of congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.
The entire interview is at the link.
When asked whether he regrets his role in the meeting, Goldstone said he did and wished he had not set it up.
“I regret not listening to the little voice in my head,” Goldstone said. “The same one that made me say to [his client, Russian pop star] Emin, ‘No good can come from this and this is a bad idea.’ ”
Goldstone acknowledged to the news outlet that he conveyed a “dirty offer” to members of the Trump campaign when discussing the possible June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, but noted that the damaging information that was promised on Hillary Clinton “didn’t materialize.”
The publicist told NBC News that he believes its possible the meeting may have been a set-up by Russian intelligence officials.
“I’m willing to believe that I don’t know who wanted this meeting,” Goldstone said.
The Trump Tower meeting has become a flashpoint in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Goldstone says he discussed the details of the meeting with Mueller in March. He also told NBC that he discussed his time with Trump during a Moscow visit in 2013.
President Trump admitted on Twitter last month that the meeting was intended to gather information on Clinton, despite his son’s previous claims that it was focused on Russian adoption policy related to American sanctions.
Donald Trump Jr., who welcomed the offer of the meeting and later attended it, has downplayed its significance and called it a “waste of time.”
So, these are the THREE main things today but hang on to your hats. It’s likely getting more newsy and stormy as the day progresses.
I admit it. I’m obsessed with the Trump/Russia investigation, and I think my posts have become boring because of my obsession; so today, I’m going to try avoiding the subject and hope I’ll get more readers. This post is illustrated with “selfies” from before we had cell phones, just because. I hope you enjoy them.
Have you been getting a lot of annoying calls lately? I have. I usually don’t answer calls that come in from people I don’t know or area codes where I don’t know anyone; but once in awhile, I’ll pick up a call and it’s usually a recorded message. It turns out you can find out which numbers are robocalling your area.
From the Arlington Patch: Here’s Who Keeps Robocalling Your Area Code.
If you think you’re receiving robocalls now more than ever, you’re not wrong. According to the robocall blocker YouMail, pre-recorded phone messages are at an all-time high.
There were 3.36 billion robocalls last month in the U.S., 6.5 percent higher than the previous record and a whopping 34 percent higher than April 2017….
Here are the states that received the most robocalls, as well as how many they received:
- California, 384.4 million
- Texas, 363.3 million
- Florida, 261.1 million
- Georgia, 213.6 million
- New York, 207.8 million
- Illinois, 134.6 million
- Ohio, 115.8 million
- Pennsylvania, 115.4 million
- North Carolina, 111 million
- Louisiana, 97.6 million
- Michigan, 89.7 million
- Tennessee, 88.3 million
- New Jersey, 84.3 million
- Virginia, 83 million
- Maryland, 79 million
- Alabama, 77.9 million
- South Carolina, 64.4 million
- Arizona, 60 million
- Missouri, 51.7 million
- Indiana, 51 million
Atlanta received the dubious honor of most robocalled city in America for the 29th straight month. People in that city received nearly 148 million robocalls last month and three Atlanta area codes cracked the top 20 most robocalled area code list.
Here are the top 10 most robocalled cities:
- Atlanta, GA
- Dallas, TX
- New York, NY
- Los Angeles, CA
- Chicago, IL
- Houston, TX
- Baltimore, MD
- Philadelphia, PA
- San Francisco Bay Area, CA
- Newark, NJ
The company says 47 of the 50 most robocalled cities in the country saw a higher robocalling volume in April. The increase comes even as lawmakers, consumer groups, telecommunications carriers and device makers pay closer attention to illegal calls.
“Despite the best efforts of regulators, industry groups, service providers, and app developers, we are warning consumers to remain vigilant by not picking up any calls from unfamiliar numbers, using robocall blocking apps, and researching numbers before calling them back,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said in a release.
Click here and enter an area code to see the full results.
I’m glad to know it’s not just me getting all these annoyance calls. Unfortunately, I’ve found that even when I block the numbers, they just call back from slightly different ones.
The media is currently obsessed with lecturing Democrats about how we need to be kinder and more understanding of Trump voters. Here’s a response to that from Osita Nwanevu at Slate: Liberals, It’s Not About Being Nice.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “Liberals, You’re Not As Smart As You Think.” In it, University of Virginia political science professor Gerard Alexander accuses American liberals of arrogance and warns them against making broad negative generalizations about large swaths of the population. “Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be,” he writes. “In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.” Alexander cites a few particular examples of recent annoying and repulsive liberal behavior, including comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but the heart of the piece is a broad indictment of identity politics as practiced by liberals and the left. “Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully,” Alexander writes. “Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans—specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump. In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.”
The piece was the latest in an unending stream of commentary attributing Democrats’ electoral misfortunes to conservative cultural backlash—a variation on a theme in punditry that was old hat long before Hillary Clinton made the supposed mistake of calling Trump supporters “deplorables.” Alleged gaffes like that, the story goes, form part of an imperious posture Democrats take on questions of identity politics that alienates simple folk who haven’t caught up with the progressive consensus on social questions.
This argument has very little to do with the actual state of American public opinion on those questions. Survey data suggests that identity politics as practiced by Democrats and the left has been quite successful and persuasive. Take racial issues, for instance. According to Pew, the percentage of white people in America who believe that the country “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites” has grown by 18 points since the beginning of the decade. Most of this can be attributed to white Democrats moving left on the question, but the numbers show change on the right as well: The number of Republicans and Republican leaners who believe this has grown by six points to 36 percent over the same period. The percentage of Republicans and Republican leaners who say that “racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days” has also jumped about five points to 14 percent. These are, of course, still small minorities on the right, but given talk about how liberal arrogance and piety have alienated those who disagree with Democrats on racial identity politics into a backlash, one would expect the numbers to show … well, a backlash. Instead, they suggest that post–Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Black Lives Matter, rhetoric and activism may be working quite well on a broad cross section of Americans.
It’s a lengthy, thoughtful piece. Read the rest at Slate.
What’s the “nice” response to a “president” who says things like this?
President Trump used extraordinarily harsh rhetoric to renew his call for stronger immigration laws Wednesday, calling undocumented immigrants “animals” and venting frustration at Mexican officials who he said “do nothing” to help the United States.
“We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said.
“These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Trump’s comments came in a freewheeling, hour-long White House meeting with local California leaders opposed to so-called “sanctuary city” policies. “California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women, and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals,” he said.
I can’t think of anything nice to say about that or about people who support the man who said it.
Will John Bolton destroy Trump’s dreams of a deal with North Korea? Politico: Trump’s North Korea Nobel buzz could die with John Bolton.
Donald Trump wants a deal with North Korea. His national security adviser thinks the North Koreans can’t be dealt with. And North Korea thinks he’s “human scum.”
North Korea’s latest diatribe against the United States — and specifically a “repugnant” national security adviser, John Bolton — spotlights a core tension within the Trump administration as the president seeks a nuclear deal with North Korea that he hopes might earn him a Nobel Peace Prize.
Bolton is famously contemptuous of what he considers naïve U.S. diplomacy with foreign adversaries who can only be trusted to cRheat and lie. Prominent on his list is North Korea itself, which he has written “will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily,” calling past U.S. diplomatic forays with the country “embarrassments.”
Trump, too, believes America has struck “terrible deals” for decades. And he shared Bolton’s intense animus for the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump torpedoed last week. But in the case of North Korea, even some Trump supporters worry the president is too eager for a deal that could dazzle the world and reap him huge political rewards.
The question now is whether Trump and Bolton can strike a constructive balance — or whether they might wind up at cross-purposes on one of the most important diplomatic experiments in U.S. history.
Read the rest at Politico.
May it would be a good thing if North Korea backs out of the summit, because Trump thinks he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time getting ready for the meeting. Time: President Trump ‘Doesn’t Think He Needs’ to Prepare Much for His Meeting With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea’s leader, President Donald Trump hasn’t set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents.
“He doesn’t think he needs to,” said a senior administration official familiar with the President’s preparation. Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn’t been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit.
Even with North Korea threatening to scrap the meeting over long-planned U.S.-Korean military exercises, Trump’s aides in the White House and State Department are continuing to prepare briefing material in advance of the June 12 summit in Singapore. When asked Wednesday if he thinks Kim is bluffing, Trump responded, “We’ll see what happens.” He told reporters he still plans to insist on North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
So briefing materials are being prepared, but Trump isn’t going to bother to read them. Big surprise.
I’m going to end with just one article related to the Russia investigation. Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: New York Times acknowledges it buried the lead in pre-election Russia-Trump story.
The upside of the New York Times’ aggressive coverage of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling is that the American public is learning more and more about recent history. The downside is that the newspaper keeps bumping into its archives.
In a massive article Wednesday on the FBI’s 2016 snooping into the possible nexus between Russians and the Trump presidential campaign, reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos include these two paragraphs:
In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”
The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.
That’s one heck of a concession: We buried the lead! In their book “Russian Roulette,” authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn report that editors at the New York Times “cast the absence of a conclusion as the article’s central theme rather than the fact of the investigation itself,” contrary to the wishes of the reporters.
The article in question was published on Oct. 31, 2016, and it has received a great deal of hindsight-aided scrutiny for the role it may have played in easing voters’ concerns about ties between Donald Trump and Russia. Under the bylines of Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers, the story, headlined “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” hit the public sphere just as other outlets — Slate and Mother Jones — published reports that began poking at the outlines of possible collusion.
But will the Times apologize to Hillary Clinton and the American people?
Those are my offerings for today; what stories are you following?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
How many of us are really surprised by the content of the Comey Memos? Any one? Surprised the Republicans would release detailed accounts of Trump’s most bizarre moments? Yeah. That last one is a bit confusing. So, we now have more on hookers and jailing journalists and blatant lies, and just about every other lurid example of the multiple personality disorders that comprise the raw id of the Kremlin’s potted plant in the US oval office.
Let’s just get straight to the dishonesty, obsession, and ickiness of the Madness of KKKremlin Caligula. This first read isn’t from Comey but if you want to read up on one of Trump’s lying self-promoting alter egos then read this in WAPO by Jonathan Greenburg: ‘Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes.’ Yes, here there be tapes.
In May 1984, an official from the Trump Organization called to tell me how rich Donald J. Trump was. I was reporting for the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual ranking of America’s richest people, for the third year. In the previous edition, we’d valued Trump’s holdings at $200 million, only one-fifth of what he claimed to own in our interviews. This time, his aide urged me on the phone, I needed to understand just how loaded Trump really was.
The official was John Barron — a name we now know as an alter ego of Trump himself. When I recently rediscovered and listened, for first time since that year, to the tapes I made of this and other phone calls, I was amazed that I didn’t see through the ruse: Although Trump altered some cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent, it was clearly him. “Barron” told me that Trump had taken possession of the business he ran with his father, Fred. “Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump,” he said. “You have down Fred Trump [as half owner] . . . but I think you can really use Donald Trump now.” Trump, through this sockpuppet, was telling me he owned “in excess of 90 percent” of his family’s business. With all the home runs Trump was hitting in real estate, Barron told me, he should be called a billionaire.
At the time, I suspected that some of this was untrue. I ran Trump’s assertions to the ground, and for many years I was proud of the fact that Forbes had called him on his distortions and based his net worth on what I thought was solid research.
But it took decades to unwind the elaborate farce Trump had built to project an image as one of the richest people in America. Nearly every assertion supporting that claim was untrue. Trump wasn’t just poorer than he said he was. Over time I have learned that he should not have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all. In our first-ever list, in 1982, we included him at $100 million, but Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million — a paltry sum by the standards of his super-monied peers — as a spate of government reports and books showed only much later.
It’s just hard to grok that level of need for recognition. But, Comey’s memos outline the same behavior about 40 years later. From CNN and Stephen Collinson: ‘Comey memos renew questions over Trump’s behavior.’
The Comey memos suggest Trump has a scattershot and self-obsessed mindset, brooding about his subordinates, leaks, his campaign and his inaugural crowd size and not appreciating or caring about protocol boundaries that separate the White House and the Justice Department.
Furthermore, the conversations with Comey soon after Trump moved into the White House paint a picture of a new President more concerned with own fortunes than the burden of his new responsibilities.
CNN obtained the documents, which offer a staggering insider account, after they were sent to Congress by the Justice Department on Thursday in response to requests from three GOP House committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.
Trump responded to the release of the memos on Twitter in an apparent attempt to direct conversation away from the embarrassing substance of the documents.
“So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Hours earlier, he insisted the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?”
The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing. Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about allegations involving Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.
The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Late Thursday night, Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”
The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.
In a February 2017 conversation, for instance, Trump told Comey how Putin told him, “we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” even as the president adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation concerning him and prostitutes in Moscow, according to one memo. Comey says Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment.
In another memo, Comey recounts how Trump at a private White House dinner pointed his fingers at his head and complained that Flynn, his embattled national security adviser, “has serious judgment issues.” The president blamed Flynn for failing to alert him promptly to a congratulatory call from a world leader, causing a delay for Trump in returning a message.
The foreign leader’s name is redacted in the documents, but two people familiar with the call tell the AP it was Putin. They were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Josh Marshall of TPM writes that the memos show clear indications of Trump’s lying about his trip to Moscow. He’s traced and documented the inconsistencies between words and actions.
There’s ample evidence that Trump stayed not one but two nights. In July 2017, Bloomberg News’s Vernon Silver and Evgenia Pismennaya reported out a detailed reconstruction of the trip based on FAA records, social media postings and interviews. They showed clearly that Trump flew from North Carolina to New York on the evening of November 7th (Thursday) and then proceeded on to Moscow overnight and arrived sometime early on November 8th (Friday). He overnighted in Moscow. He was in Moscow all of November 9th (Saturday), the day of the pageant, and departed for New York early November 10th. For the details of how we know these facts, see the Bloomberg article. It is forensic in its detail.
Clearly, Trump lied about not spending the night in Russia. It’s conceivable that he forgot he’d spent the night. But again, the whole idea is wildly implausible. He said he’d discussed the details of the trip with others. Surely they would have reminded him. And he stayed not one but two nights. Clearly, Trump was lying about this. He lied about it repeatedly to Comey. And Priebus’s presence during one of the encounters strongly suggests he’d told this same lie to his senior staff.
In other Trump Crazy news there’s this: ‘Trump sex scandals turn a harsh spotlight on this Beverly Hills lawyer’via the LA Times.
Most Beverly Hills lawyers are seldom accused of extortion.
For Keith M. Davidson, however, it’s not so rare: He is fighting three civil suits by television personalities alleging extortion.
Davidson is the attorney who negotiated payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential race to keep them quiet about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
Both wound up firing Davidson and hiring new lawyers to get their nondisclosure deals voided.
Via the NY Times we hear about a recently filed lawsuit: ‘Democratic Party Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy in New Lawsuit’. Yes, it is just breaking!
The Democratic National Committee opened a new legal assault on President Trump on Friday by filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the organization was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.
The 66-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, assembles the publicly known facts of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling to accuse Mr. Trump’s associates of illegally working with Russian intelligence agents to interfere with the outcome of the election.
“The conspiracy constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery: the campaign of the presidential nominee of a major party in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” the D.N.C. wrote in its lawsuit, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
And from that WAPO link:
The lawsuit argues that Russia is not entitled to sovereign immunity in this case because “the DNC claims arise out of Russia’s trespass on to the DNC’s private servers . . . in order to steal trade secrets and commit economic espionage.”
The lawsuit echoes a similar legal tactic that the Democratic Party used during the Watergate scandal. In 1972, the DNC filed suit against then-President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee seeking $1 million in damages for the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building.
The suit was denounced at the time by Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, who called it a case of “sheer demagoguery” by the DNC. But the civil action brought by the DNC’s then-chairman, Lawrence F. O’Brien, was ultimately successful, yielding a $750,000 settlement from the Nixon campaign that was reached on the day in 1974 that Nixon left office.
The suit filed Friday seeks millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks. The DNC argues that the cyberattack undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats.
Rachel Maddow interviewed Comey last night on her show. You may watch here.
The Cook Report lists risk factors for Republicans in the upcoming elections. Toss ’em out!
Multiple indicators, including generic ballot polls , President Trump’s approval ratings and recent special election results, point to midterm danger for Republicans. But without robust race-by-race polling, it’s trickier to predict individual races six months out. Are Democrats the favorites to pick up the 23 seats they need for a majority? Yes, but it’s still not certain which races will materialize for Democrats and which won’t.
Our latest ratings point to 56 vulnerable GOP-held seats, versus six vulnerable Democratic seats. Of the 56 GOP seats at risk, 15 are open seats created by retirements. Even if Democrats were to pick up two-thirds of those seats, they would still need to hold all their own seats and defeat 13 Republican incumbents to reach the magic number of 218. Today, there are 18 GOP incumbents in our Toss Up column.
That Toss Up list is likely to grow as the cycle progresses. Out of the 65 GOP incumbents rated as less than “Solid,” 49 were first elected in 2010 or after, meaning more than three quarters have never had to face this kind of political climate before. And, Democrats have a donor enthusiasm edge: in the first quarter of 2018, at least 43 sitting Republicans were out-raised by at least one Democratic opponent.
Well, that’s it for me today.
What’s on your reading and blogging list?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
There were many things to admire about Muhammed Ali. He was tenacious, strategic, clever, and principled. His invention of the ‘Rope a Dope ‘was tactical brilliance. A boxer will pretend to be trapped against the ropes but what said boxer is actually doing is “goading the opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches”.
Can the Democratic members of Congress and the Mueller investigation ‘Rope a Dope’ KKKremlin Caligula? He appears to be in endless pursuit of ridding himself of the meddlesome G-Man. This is not in the best interest of our democracy or global stability. The Republican members of Congress–from top to bottom–have refused to do their constitutional duties sending hopes for timely justice to the ropes. It’s time to ‘Rope a Dope’ the lot of them. They need to protect the Mueller Investigation. Bills to do so have stalled in the Senate.
Back in January (when news broke that the president had—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller last summer), Republicans asked about the legislation suggested that McGahn’s refusal proved why these bills weren’t necessary. That was baloney then, and it’s an even more alarming abdication now, with the president seemingly poised to go after Mueller directly. And yet, for all of the talk about Mueller over the past few days, nary a Republican has come out in support of passing these bills—including their Republican co-sponsors.
If the hitherto-silent Republicans really have constitutional objections to these bills, let’s hear them (per the above, I’m skeptical). If they have policy objections, let’s hear those, too. But for those who actually want to ensure that the special counsel’s investigation continues unimpeded and don’t just want to look good to their constituents, there’s an easy way to do more than just threatening the president in tweets and talk-show interviews:
Pass this legislation.
The weekend Twitler meltdown is rattling nerves as are the comments from Trump’s legal team.
Within hours of McCabe’s firing, Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to kill the Justice Department’s Russia probe. (Rosenstein has direct authority over the Mueller probe.)
Dowd, in an email to reporters, linked McCabe to the Russia investigation and blamed Comey for making up a case:
I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.
Dowd had initially told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of Trump as his “counsel,” only to backtrack after his statement was published and say he was actually speaking for himself. That matters because Trump has repeatedly denied that he’s trying to get rid of Mueller, largely relying on Republican allies to make the case for him.
Dowd is a longtime Washington lawyer, having helped Sen. John McCain confront the Keating Five banking scandal as far back as 1990. He joined Trump’s team to combat the Mueller probe in June, taking the lead as Trump’s chief outside lawyer (Trump is also represented by White House counsel Don McGahn and Ty Cobb, who handles the White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation).
It’s not the first time Dowd’s comments about Mueller have sparked a political controversy. In December, Trump tweeted that he “had to fire” Flynn, the former national security adviser, because Flynn had lied to the FBI.
The Mueller and Trump teams are hoping to work out the specifics of a presidential interview within the next few weeks.
The big question they’re debating is whether it’ll be in person, in writing, or some combination of the two.
After a weekend of increasingly personal and vocal battles with Mueller, the White House extended an awkward olive branch on Sunday night, with White House lawyer Ty Cobb issuing this statement:
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
But that’s too late. Veering from the White House legal strategy of cooperating with Mueller, Trump attacked him by name on Twitter, seeking to discredit the eventual findings with Republican supporters.
Someone familiar with the process said that was presidential frustration, and that the Trump team continues its ongoing dialogue with Mueller.
Trump’s team has more than signaled a new willingness to attack Mueller directly.
The president, those close to him say, is determined to more directly confront the federal probe into his campaign’s potential role in alleged Russian election interference, even if it means exacerbating his legal standing amid an investigation that has already ensnared some of his most senior campaign and White House aides.
Two sources who speak regularly with Trump said they had noticed an uptick in recent months in the frequency of the annoyance the president would express regarding Mueller and his team, and the irritation at the deluge of negative news stories regarding the probe.
Last week, for instance, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, some pertaining to Russia—a demand for personal financial details that the president famously said would be crossing a “red line” in an interview with the Times last year.
Still, on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blasted out a statement to reporters that simply assured, “in response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
Folks are calling this weekend the “pre-Saturday Night Massacre.”
By laying the foundation for this fresh, orchestrated case for the end of the Russian investigation, Sessions appears to have abrogated a commitment, made to the Senatein June 2017, that he would take no step toward firing Mueller.
Sen. Mark Warner: Will you commit to the committee not to take personal actions that might not result in director Mueller’s firing or dismissal?
Sessions: I can say that with confidence…
Warner: You would not take any actions to have the special investigator removed.
Sessions: I don’t think that’s appropriate for me to do.
Did Sessions’s rush to fire McCabe fall under the umbrella of any “action to have [Mueller] removed?” If Sessions had any knowledge that the president and his counsel were prepared to seize on the dismissal to call for Mueller’s firing, then he would have lent support to the plan in a manner inconsistent with his pledge to Warner. Certainly Sessions knew weeks ago that the president was singling out McCabe in his denigration of the “corrupt” FBI leadership. He also must know that McCabe is a witness in the special counsel’s obstruction investigation. These considerations alone should have been sufficient to alert the attorney general to the risks of taking an active part in firing McCabe—especially hurriedly, to beat his retirement date, under public pressure from the president.
But even if Sessions missed all of this, he now understands how the president and his counsel used the firing of McCabe. This may not have been another Saturday Night Massacre, but it may turn out to have been the prelude. And Sessions is—or he has been made—a party to it.
In the massacre of Watergate fame, the attorney general at the time, Elliot Richardson, discovered that the president and White House advisers were maneuvering to force out the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox and “induce [Richardson] to go along.” As Richardson wrote in an Atlantic piece in March of 1976 (titled “The Saturday Night Massacre”), Nixon’s plan was to have him help unwittingly with the ouster of Cox and yet not feel he had to resign.
A new report on Trump’s state of mind from the New York Times underscores why this should worry us a great deal. Relying on numerous people close to Trump, it says he decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.”
“For months, aides were mostly able to redirect a neophyte president with warnings about the consequences of his actions, and mostly control his public behavior,” the Times says. But some of his recent actions — his decisions to go ahead with tariffs and a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — have persuaded him that such warnings are overblown. Make sure not to miss this sentence:
Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.
This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).
This is the problem. Republican members of Congress are not fighters like Ali. They will not fight for their supposed convictions, country, or even the future of their own party. There are repercussions for this blatant attack on our rule of law and Constitution. Republican silence is damning.
President Donald Trump’s direct assault on Robert Mueller over the weekend renewed fears he’s preparing to fire the special counsel as Republicans mostly remained silent on the threat.
Just a few Republicans strongly warned Trump against firing Mueller — Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it could lead to the end of Trump’s presidency. Most avoided taking a stand.
The lack of clarity from the majority party in Congress about potential repercussions may embolden Trump, who last week fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and is said to be contemplating a bigger shakeup of his Cabinet and inner circle. The president’s attacks on the FBI, the Justice Department and Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling — and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it — channeled a long-running narrative on conservative news outlets.
On Sunday evening, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement saying Trump “is not considering or discussing the firing” of Mueller. But Trump already had made clear his growing impatience at the special counsel and his probe. He continued to do that on Monday morning, saying in a tweet: “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”
Here are the few Republicans speaking out. The term milquetoast comes to mind. Yup Milquetoast Republicans.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he expects his colleagues in Congress, including GOP leadership, to push back on the President’s comments and any potential move to force the end of the probe.
“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” Flake said.
I’m not holding my breath on that action part. We’re no longer hearing about the roaring markets from them either because this:
U.S. stocks pulled back on Monday as a decline in Facebook pressured the technology sector. Wall Street also paid attention to Washington after a Twitter meltdown from President Donald Trump.
Oh, and what’s plaguing Facebook?
Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information.
Everything Trump touches dies.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?