Monday Reads: Crossfire Hurricane and other Master Trumpers’ Disasters

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.

From NPR: “Rosenstein, Expecting To Be Fired, Heads To White House For Meeting On Tense Morning”

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.

From NBC:

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.

Here’s the nasty bits via The Hill.

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.

Please share!!!

 


Thursday Reads

Gustave Courbet, Le Desperere,1845

Good Morning!!

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….

Mary Cassatt, Self portrait

Here are the states that received the most robocalls, as well as how many they received:

  1. California, 384.4 million
  2. Texas, 363.3 million
  3. Florida, 261.1 million
  4. Georgia, 213.6 million
  5. New York, 207.8 million
  6. Illinois, 134.6 million
  7. Ohio, 115.8 million
  8. Pennsylvania, 115.4 million
  9. North Carolina, 111 million
  10. Louisiana, 97.6 million
  11. Michigan, 89.7 million
  12. Tennessee, 88.3 million
  13. New Jersey, 84.3 million
  14. Virginia, 83 million
  15. Maryland, 79 million
  16. Alabama, 77.9 million
  17. South Carolina, 64.4 million
  18. Arizona, 60 million
  19. Missouri, 51.7 million
  20. 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:

  1. Atlanta, GA
  2. Dallas, TX
  3. New York, NY
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Chicago, IL
  6. Houston, TX
  7. Baltimore, MD
  8. Philadelphia, PA
  9. San Francisco Bay Area, CA
  10. Newark, NJ

M.C. Escher, Hand With Reflecting Sphere, 1935

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.”

Jean Cooke, self portrait, 1972

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?

USA Today: Trump ramps up rhetoric on undocumented immigrants: ‘These aren’t people. These are animals.’

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.

Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, Facing Death, 1972

“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.

Lee Krasner self portrait, 1930

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.

Paul Gaugin self portrait with halo and snake 1889

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?


Friday Reads: TMI addition (I’m shocked! Shocked!)

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?”

Here’s the latest from the AP wire.

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.

 

Woman-Laying-on-Green-Fainting-Couch-ImagesJosh 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?

 

 


Monday Reads: Justice on the Ropes

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 . 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.

Mike Allen of Axios writes on Mueller’s endgame.   Does Trump fear the interview or the targeting of the targeting of the Trump org?

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.

27th May 1963: Supremely confident American boxer Cassius Clay holds up five fingers in a prediction of how many rounds it will take him to knock out British boxer Henry Cooper. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

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, in 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.

This new belligerence comes from you-know-who according reports from inside sources.

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?


Monday Reads: Going to the Dogs!!!!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re in full throttle Mardi Gras mode down here and I’m laid up in bed with sinus crud. I’m a second-hander atm who is viewing all the Tu Deaux through the lens of friends. Meanwhile, I sniffle and cough on.

One of the big questions I had back in 2016 is the subject of a Politico feature featuring former diplomat Victoria Nuland. Why didn’t President Obama set off more alarms about the Russian Hacking?

By the summer of 2016, Victoria Nuland’s “Spidey sense” told her something was very wrong.

That spring, Nuland, the top State Department official charged with overseeing U.S. policy toward Russia, was one of those who had “first rung the alarm bell” inside the Obama administration, warning that Russia appeared to be trying to “discredit the democratic process” in the United States as part of a concerted 2016 strategy.

Now, the Russian campaign was turning out to be even more serious than she had imagined. She had known since late 2015 that the Democratic National Committee’s email servers had been hacked; all these months later, the stolen DNC emails were being publicly released by websites known to be Russian conduits right on the eve of the Democratic convention, and the hack would soon be confirmed as a Russian operation by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“That’s when the hairs really went up on the back of our necks,” she recounted in an interview with The Global Politico, her first extensive public comments about what it was like to spend months in the middle of the U.S. government’s halting, frustrating attempts to understand the Russian attack on the U.S. electoral system — and then try to figure out how to respond to it.

While the broad contours of that response are known, hearing it viscerally described by one of those who tried to stop it is bracing. Nuland is now confirming publicly that she pushed Obama to respond more aggressively to the hacking before the election and acknowledging that she and others at the State Department were informed by “sometime in late July” about the inflammatory findings of former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele apparently linking the Russian effort to Republican candidate Donald Trump. Unbeknownst to her, the FBI, also in July 2016, had begun a secret investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the issue of whether the Steele report, paid for by Democrats, helped fuel that investigation is now the subject of heated partisan dispute on Capitol Hill.

It’s an interesting read so go check it out.

It’s clear that the Republican party has become unhinged. There is a Holocaust denier/NAZI running as the sole Republican for a suburban Chicago Congressional Seat.

Arthur Jones — an outspoken Holocaust denier, activist anti-Semite and white supremacist — is poised to become the Republican nominee for an Illinois congressional seat representing parts of Chicago and nearby suburbs.

“Well first of all, I’m running for Congress not the chancellor of Germany. All right. To me the Holocaust is what I said it is: It’s an international extortion racket,” Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Indeed, Jones’ website for his latest congressional run includes a section titled “The ‘Holocaust Racket’” where he calls the genocide carried out by the German Nazi regime and collaborators in other nations “the biggest blackest lie in history.”

Jones, 70, a retired insurance agent who lives in suburban Lyons, has unsuccessfully run for elected offices in the Chicago area and Milwaukee since the 1970s.

He ran for Milwaukee mayor in 1976 and 13th Ward alderman on Chicago’s Southwest Side in 1987.

Since the 1990s to 2016, Jones has jumped in the GOP 3rd Congressional District primary seven times, never even close to becoming a viable contender.

The outcome will be different for Jones in the Illinois primary on March 20, 2018.

To Jones’ own amazement, he is the only one on the Republican ballot.

Trump voters have all the appearances and characteristics of a cult. They’ve totally run the traditional party off the rails.

Rarely has a president changed his party as fast and profoundly as Donald J. Trump. Love him or hate him, you can no longer argue his ability to bend an entire party to his will.

In the two and a half years since he announced his candidacy, he has moved the party away from decades of orthodoxy on trade, Russia, deficits and more — and has helped make the law-and-order party skeptical of FBI leadership.

Perhaps the most profound thing Trump has done is show how many movement leaders and Republicans in Congress are out of touch with Republican voters:

  • There’s a massive cohort of Republican voters who are socially conservative and culturally reactionary but fiscally liberal, even if they don’t know it.
  • The base is very skeptical of trade deals — convinced that ordinary Americans have lost at globalization.
  • Huge swaths of Trump Country are dependent on Social Security, Medicaid and other government programs.

While much of the GOP donor class is passionate about issues like criminal justice reform and expanded high-skilled immigration, many GOP voters want the exact opposite:

  • The ratio between the number of Republicans who think that way, versus number of conservatives who talk that way on cable TV or at the Capitol, is way out of whack. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were their lonely on-air champions.
  • If Trump has tapped into a silent majority, it’s those voters — the opposite of Paul Ryan voters, the opposite of Rubio, the opposite of Jeb.
  • The source close to GOP leadership said: “All evidence in the last two years points to the fact that the R base was never as ‘conservative’ on economic policy as we portrayed them during the Obama years.”

What will Trump’s brand of reactionary populism continue to let him get away with?

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

Of course, lots of people vote a straight ticket. Some do so because they are partisan. Others do so because of a particular policy position: Many pro-lifers, for example, will not vote for Democrats, even pro-life Democrats, because they see the Democratic Party as institutionally committed to the slaughter of babies.

We’re proposing something different. We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their policy views. They should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.

For us, this represents a counsel of desperation. So allow us to step back and explain what drove us to what we call oppositional partisanship.

Is the current SpokesSisterWife for the Trump Family Crime Syndicate on her way to an obstruction of Justice charge? A FOIA request shows internal memos from FBI Agents reacting to the Comey firing. It’s not the one portrayed by Huckabee or Trump.

In a , the same day McDermott was asking her staff to make sure one another were “doing OK,” then-Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president had “lost confidence in Director Comey” and that “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” She stated that the president had “had countless conversations with members from within the FBI” in the course of making his decision to fire Comey. , Sanders stated that she personally had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision” and that the president believed “Director Comey was not up to the task…that he wasn’t the right person in the job. [Trump] wanted somebody that could bring credibility back to the FBI.”

Trump himself blasted Comey too, stating that the former director was “a showboat. He’s a grandstander” and that the FBI “has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil—less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.” A few days later, the New York Times that Trump had told Russian officials visiting him in the Oval Office the day after Comey’s firing that Comey was a “nut job.”

Over the next few days, to suggest that Trump and Sanders were playing fast and loose with the truth. But we now have the documents to prove that decisively. Their disclosure was not a leak but an authorized action by the FBI, which released to us under the Freedom of Information Act more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff dealing with the firing. This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI’s reaction to the Comey firing—but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition.

Within a few days of the firing, both current and former FBI officials began pushing back against the White House’s claims. Then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI” and that “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

Yes, that’s me up there in 1999 with Honey and Karma parading in 007: From Barkus with Love. Good grief that was a long time ago!! We were “Bondage” Girls!!! and clearly on the side fighting the Russians!!

Meanwhile, Trump still finds Presidential life to be a combination of spending time at Trump properties on the Tax Payer dime. This weekend it was back to Florida for Super Bowl Party. Then, it’s time spent twitting and elimination shit.

President Donald Trump traded insults with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Monday, a day after Democrats and Republicans said Trump was wrong to assert that a GOP-produced classified memo on FBI surveillance powers cleared him in the Russia investigation.

Trump’s attack on California Rep. Adam Schiff came before a planned meeting of the House intelligence panel Monday, where the committee is expected to consider whether to release a Democratic rebuttal memo. Democrats are seeking to push back on the Republican document, which questions the FBI methods used to apply for a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate.

On Twitter, Trump called Schiff “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” adding that he “must be stopped.”

Schiff quickly shot back: “Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or … really anything else.”

Trump also praised Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on Twitter, calling him a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!”

Meanwhile, Trump is “poo-pooing” the bipartisan effort to give Dreamers legal permanent status.

The White House is dismissing an immigration deal brokered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as a non-starter just hours before it is expected to be formally introduced in the Senate.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons are slated to introduce a bill Monday that would grant eventual citizenship to young undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2013 and came to the US as children, but it does not address all of the President’s stated immigration priorities, like ending family-based immigration categories — which Republicans call “chain migration” — or ending the diversity visa program

It also would not immediately authorize the $30 billion that Trump is seeking to build the border wall, instead greenlighting a study of border security needs. The bill would also seek to address the number of undocumented immigrants staying in the US by increasing the number of resources for the immigration courts, where cases can take years to finish.

The bill is a companion to a piece of House legislation that has 54 co-sponsors split evenly by party.

A White House official rebuffed the effort, telling CNN that it takes “a lot of effort” to write up a bill worse than the Graham-Durbin immigration bill, but somehow “this one is worse.”

An update on a story from New Orleans that captured many hearts prior to the end of the Football Season.

Oh, and this about sums up my thoughts about the latest pannem et circenses event. Well, that and WTF did Justin Timberlake think he was doing with Prince. White people! Wake the fuck up! Black people, black culture, black history, and black labor is not yours to co-op!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list?

This is an open thread! I’ll check in as the sniffling allows!

Oh, and BB!! Here is something special for you!

It has often been claimed that humans learn language using brain components that are specifically dedicated to this purpose. Now, new evidence strongly suggests that language is in fact learned in brain systems that are also used for many other purposes and even pre-existed humans.

And something for JJ

Scientists studying brain scans of people who were asked to come up with inventive uses for everyday objects found a specific pattern of connectivity that correlated with the most creative responses. Researchers were then able to use that pattern to predict how creative other people’s responses would be based on their connections in this network.

And something from me to Everyone:

It may sound like sci-fi, but mind reading equipment are much closer to become a reality than most people can imagine. Researchers used a magnetic resonance machine to read participants’ minds and find out what song they were listening to. The study contributes to improve the technique and pave the way to new research on reconstruction of auditory imagination, inner speech and to enhance brain-computer interfaces for communication with locked-in syndrome patients.

 

 


Monday Reads

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Pop Culture generally trolls political figures with good reason. Will Ferrell’s George Bush on SNL was always a treat as the word garbling, incurious George who bumbled us into two wars. Ferrell’s recent performance filled up twitter for at least a day and is still a subject of discussion.

“Saturday Night Live” opened last night with a hilarious sketch of Will Ferrell reprising his role as President George W. Bush. Having worked on SNL’s production staff for most of the Bush years, I can say that this was one of the best Bush sketches the show has served up in terms of laughs. But I have to disagree with SNL’s implication that Bush was as bad, if not worse, of a president as Donald Trump. It’s no comparison — Trump is far worse.

SNL’s Bush cold open kicked off with a few jokes that reminded us of the way the iconic comedy show portrayed the 43rd President as a bumbling but likable guy. There was Will Ferrell as Bush telling us: “You might remember, the W stands for wassssup!” and adding that lately he had been working on his oil paintings and earning an online MFA from the University of Phoenix.

The show then turned to the politics of today. “Bush” boasted that his approval ratings are at an all-time-high, referring to recent news that his favorability has drastically increased since he left office. (When Bush left office, he was saddled with a dismal 33% favorability rating.) Ferrell then joked, “That’s right. Donny Q. Trump came in, and suddenly I’m looking pretty sweet by comparison. At this rate, I might even end up on Mount Rushmore, right next to Washington, Lincoln and I want to say, uh, Kensington?”

But then SNL pivoted to remind us how bad Bush was as President, with Ferrell laughingly reminding us: “I was really bad — like historically not good.”

“Don’t forget: We’re still in two different wars that I started,” he added. Ferrell then paused before delivering a killer line: “What has two thumbs and created ISIS? This guy!” and pointing at himself.

“Bush” also highlighted how awful the economy was when he left office. He held up a chart that showed the stock market tanking and joked: “Now I’m no ‘economer’ but even I know that was ‘no bueno.'”

SNL was right that Bush had earned his horrible approval ratings. But what SNL missed — perhaps even intentionally to spark a debate — is how horrific Trump is in terms of trying to divide us by race, religion and even immigration status as compared to Bush.

For example, during Trump’s presidential campaign he despicably ginned up hate against Muslims with his comment that he thinks “Islam hates us” and his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And as President, he has tried to implement an immigration ban primarily directed at a number of Muslim majority nations.

What a contrast to Bush and his words only weeks after the 9/11 terror attack committed by Al Qaeda. With the nation watching, Bush didn’t try to stoke hate against Muslims. Instead, he declared: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” Bush then added about Islam, “Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.”

Then, the Grammys trolled Trump with celebs reading excerpts from “Fire and Fury”. Hillary Clinton was the surprise ending for this gag reading the part about Trump’s obsession with being poisoned and trusting that won’t happen with a Big Mac.

Bruno Mars beat Jay-Z for the top Grammy Awards on Sunday, but the surprise star of the night was former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reading from Michael Wolff’s controversial book “Fire and Fury.”

A taped parody sketch saw Grammy Awards host James Corden audition celebrities, including John Legend, Cher, Cardi B and Snoop Dogg. They read excerpts from the deeply critical book about President Donald Trump’s first year in office, ostensibly as contenders for a spoken word Grammy.

The Twitter erupted with all kinds of things including upset tweets from Nikki Haley and Drumpfling Jr.

This raises a concern in my mind. Granted, Smothers’ Brothers or SNL or any myriad of Talk Shows have always done sketches on Presidents. Some of the parodies and bits probably bothered them because they were generally unflattering but we’ve not had a President that’s such a toddler and so narcissistic that it makes me wonder if we’re not playing into it and feeding the monster? Toddlers generally find any attention to be worth doing whatever to get it. KKKremlin Caligula seems to find a way into everything media oriented this day to the point I just want to shut it all off. I’m beginning to not be entertained by this stuff at all. I’d just like them to ignore him for awhile. This man is a bottomless pit of ego needs. I’d like to hear about just about any one else for a change!

Except, the stuff like this that should be EVERYWHERE!!!

Today, all Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to issue a subpoena to finally compel the Department of Homeland Security to produce documents it has been withholding from Congress for months relating to Russian government-backed efforts to monitor, penetrate, or otherwise hack at least 21 state election systems in the 2016 election.

and this from Politico: “Mark Warner: ‘We’ve Had New Information That Raises More Questions’. The top Democrat on the Senate’s Russia investigation says he’s worried about what he’s just learned.”

Congress late last year received “extraordinarily important new documents” in its investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign’s possible collusion with the 2016 Russian election hacking, opening up significant new lines of inquiry in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of the president, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says in an exclusive new interview.

Warner, the intel committee’s top Democrat, says “end-of-the-year document dumps” produced “very significant” revelations that “opened a lot of new questions” that Senate investigators are now looking into, meaning the inquiry into Trump and the Russia hacking—already nearly a year old—will not be finished for months longer. “We’ve had new information that raises more questions,” Warner says in the interview, an extensive briefing on the state of the Senate’s Trump-Russia probe for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs.

and this which the placeholder in the oval office has twitted as a good idea.

Congress is in disarray too. Are they really prepared to go down the road of an oncoming constitutional crisis?

The 115th Congress owes its historic turnover to the confluence of two events, one normal and one abnormal. First, there’s the start of a new presidential administration. Five of the first six members to resign this session1 did so to accept jobs in President Trump’s administration. That’s not unusual. It’s similar to the seven members who resigned in 2009 to join the Obama administration2 and the five members who left in 1993 to join Bill Clinton’s.

But in addition, three of the four most recent members to resign from the 115th Congress did so because they were accused of unwanted sexual advances: John Conyers, Trent Franks and Al Franken. (Ruben Kihuen, Blake Farenthold and Pat Meehan have announced they will not run for re-election for the same reason. However, a retirement from Congress at the end of one’s regularly scheduled term is not the same as a mid-session resignation, which is what we’re looking at here.)

The extraordinary string of sexual misconduct allegations over the past few months has led many people to conclude we are in the midst of an unprecedented cultural moment. In the political world, at least, the data bears that out. There has never been a concentration of sexual misconduct allegations that has caused as much public fallout before: The number of resignations over non-consensual sexual overtures in the last two months (three) has nearly matched the number in the preceding 116 years (five).3And it seems to be a recent phenomenon — the first member to resign for this reason was Bob Packwood in 1995. Admittedly, the data may be skewed; we’re relying partly on news reports for divining members’ reasoning, and sexual misconduct wasn’t exactly a big topic of media coverage for most of the 20th century. Even so, it shows a public reckoning like never before.

We have a midterm election coming up. Can we be certain that the Russians won’t be actively hacking key states again? Has social media gotten to the problem of the Russian Bots? Here’s something from UK’s Independent.

Russian bots retweeted Donald Trump nearly 500,000 times in the 10 weeks leading up to and directly following the US presidential election – 10 times more than they retweeted his rival, Hillary Clinton.

The findings come from Twitter’s latest report to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Congress attempts to assess the effect of Russian social media activity on the 2016 election.

Twitter found that Russia-connected, automated accounts sent more than 2m election-related tweets between 1 September and 15 November 2016. The tweets came from more than 50,000 Russian bots, and accounted for approximately one per cent of all tweets sent at the time.

The bots engaged more heavily with Mr Trump than his opponent, accounting for more than 4 percent of the retweets he received. They accounted for less than 1 per cent of retweets received by Ms Clinton.

The bots also engaged heavily with Wikileaks, the organisation that first released emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Russian bot accounts retweeted Wikileaks some 200,000 times over the 10-week timespan. They were responsible for nearly 5 per cent of tweets using #PodestaEmails.

I think it’s time we get more serious about these ongoing threats to our country and to democracy. It’s easy to laugh at the Reality Star occupying the White House but that part of him is the side show. The real threat is out there. It just needs more attention.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Karma catching up to Kremlin Caligula

Good Morning Sky Dancers!! 

8b7f314d00a0b415139aaadac632d43c--montgomery-clift-gene-kellyDoesn’t time fly these days!  It’s beginning to look a lot like Impeachment Season!

NBC news reports that Trump’s going to face plenty of evidence from the Mueller probe for Obstruction of Justice. 

Justice Department officials who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity said they had expected the White House to fire Flynn on Jan. 26 upon learning that he had lied to the vice president.

Instead, Trump fired Yates on Jan. 30, citing her refusal to enforce his executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the U.S. Before she left, however, she made available, at McGahn’s request, evidence she had that Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with Kislyak, according to her congressional testimony.

Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Yates’ warning, according to two people familiar with the probe. He appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said.

If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and his legal team has disputed any notion of the president obstructing justice.

Be sure to got to twitter and read all of Seth Abramson’s extended tweets.

Then, there is this from Politico: “As Russia probes progress, one name is missing: Bannon’s. People close to the probe say the former campaign and White House strategist will be a key witness for prosecutors and Hill investigators.”

Bannon was a key bystander when Trump decided to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with foreign officials. He was among those Trump consulted before firing FBI Director James Comey, whose dismissal prompted Mueller’s appointment — a decision Bannon subsequently described to “60 Minutes” as the biggest mistake “in modern political history.”

And during the campaign, Bannon was the one who offered the introduction to data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO has since acknowledged trying to coordinate with WikiLeaks on the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state.

Yet Bannon hasn’t faced anywhere near the degree of public scrutiny in connection to the probe as others in Trump’s inner circle, including son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner — who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team — or Donald Trump Jr., who was interviewed on Capitol Hill last week about his own Russian connections.

The women accusing Trump of Sexual Assault held a joint presser and appearance this morning. They were interviewed by Megyn Kelly.

Samantha Holvey, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks all shared their past experiences with Mr. Trump jointly at Monday’s event, which was held by the organization Brave New Films, a non-profit that creates media and film campaigns surrounding social justice issues.

The president of Brave New Films Robert Greenwald said that the 16 women featured in a video that share similar stories of sexual misconduct by the president now demand action.

“We know better, we know a lot better, predators and harassers must be held accountable,” said Greenwald.

He added that Mr. Trump should be investigated and that “elected officials no matter what party affiliation should act.”

One accuser, Rachel Crooks, called for Congress to “put aside party affiliations and investigate Trump’s history of sexual misconduct.” She called the actions carried out by the president “serial misconduct and perversion.”

Accuser Jessica Leeds said she hopes with the popularity of the “Me Too” movement, it will fuel further pressure on the president.

“I am hoping that this will come forward and produce enough pressure on Congress to address it more than just for their own members but to address it with the president,” said Leeds.

Samantha Holvey echoed that sentiment, saying a “non-partisan” effort to investigate Mr. Trump was imperative.

“They’ve investigated other Congress members so I think it only stands fair he be investigated as well,” said Holvey.

She added, “A non-partisan investigation is important not just for him but for anybody that has allegations against them, this isn’t a partisan issue, this is how women are treated everyday.”

My favorite quote is this one from the Kelly interview:  ‘Let’s Try Again to Prove He’s a ‘Pervert’.

“We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try to show America who this man is, and especially how he views women, and for them to say, ‘We don’t care,’ It hurt,” Holvey described to host Megyn Kelly. “And so, you know, now, it’s just like, all right, let’s try round two. The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”

That new “environment” Holvey described is one that, fueled by the #MeToo movement this year, has held powerful men accountable for sexual misconduct—from media moguls Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes, to actors like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., to a bipartisan swath of elected officials like Al Franken and Trent Franks.

In the hopes that now Americans might reconsider their nonchalance toward the president’s 16-plus accusers, each woman told their stories one by one in unrelenting detail.

After listening to a soundbite of Trump bragging to Howard Stern on his radio show about how he “gets away with” going backstage at the Miss USA pageant to check out the women, Holvey told Kelly: “[It’s] just so gross… [he thinks] he owns the pageant, so he owned us.”

Trump’s accusers still cannot believe he was elected and frame election results as ‘heartbreaking’.

It was “heartbreaking” for women to go public with their claims against President Trump last year, only to see him ascend to the Oval Office, said Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant who in October 2016 said Trump inappropriately inspected pageant participants.

“I put myself out there for the entire world, and nobody cared,” Holvey said on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” show, appearing for an hour alongside Jessica Leeds, a New York woman who said Trump groped her on a plane, and Rachel Crooks, who said Trump kissed her on the lips after she introduced herself to him at Trump Tower.

The women also called for Congress to investigate the allegations against Trump, highlighting the dramatic shift happening nationwide in response to charges of sexual misconduct. Claims have erupted across industry after industry, against lawmakers and movie stars alike, while the country has shown a sudden, newfound willingness to take such accusations seriously.

Tomorrow is reckoning day for the state of Alabama.  A Fox Push poll shows Moore behind Jones but democrats should not be complacent.

A top newspaper group in Alabama is urging the state’s voters to write in another Republican in Tuesday’s special election rather than vote for embattled GOP nominee Roy Moore.

“Voting for Roy Moore just because he has an ‘R’ next to his name, ignoring his record of personal and official misconduct, is neither wise nor careful,” reads an editorial published Sunday on AL.com, which is home to three leading state newspapers, including The Birmingham News.

The deaths and mishaps mount as Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem continues to negatively impact the country and world. A would be suicide bomber has been taken into custody after injuring 3 NYC commuters at the Port Authority. 

The would-be suicide bomber who detonated an explosive device underground near the bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal, is a former New York City cab driver who told investigators that he carried out the attack for revenge, law enforcement sources said.

Akayed Ullah, 27, who is believed to be from Bangladesh and was living in Brooklyn, told authorities in sum and substance from his hospital bed: “They’ve been bombing in my country and I wanted to do damage here,” sources said.

Ullah, who officials say is a former city cab driver, whose license has lapsed, set off a “low-tech” homemade pipe bomb strapped to his mid-section at around 7:20 a.m. inside the subway passageway between W. 42nd Street and 8th Avenue and W. 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.

Ullah, who had the explosive device affixed to him with Velcro and zip ties, suffered burns to his hands and abdomen, along with lacerations, and injured three others who were in close proximity to him. He was quickly taken into custody and transported to Bellevue Hospita

 I frankly believe he’s been whipping up circumstances to create terrorist attacks and he’s getting them. There’s no US diplomacy any more. There is on Trump’s raw, angry id.

If ever there were a triumph of domestic politics and presidential ego over sound policy calculation, Trump’s Jerusalem decision was it. And it was indeed a fitting tribute to the end of Trump’s first year in office where politics on so many issues—pardon the pun—trumped policy (see the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the Paris climate agreement, NAFTA negotiations and even Iran decertification).

These days, all presidents are locked into the permanent campaign, which typically begins the day after an election. But rarely on foreign policy has a president—like a moth to a flame—been drawn so inexorably toward his own political needs. If you believe Sen. Bob Corker, Trump was ready to start the ball rolling on moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem within 24 hours of his inauguration. And we know his national security team barely convinced him to use his power to invoke national security considerations to avoid a congressional mandate to move the embassy last June.

With the end of the year approaching, Steve Bannon’s white board to-do list of campaign promises beckoned. And with a public approval rating in the 30s, when it came to choosing between Evangelicals, Jews and donors like Sheldon Adelson on one hand and Palestinians, Europeans and much of the world on the other, well … there really wasn’t much of a choice, was there? Eager to say, “I am delivering,” and thrilled at the prospects of once again presenting himself as the anti-Obama, President Trump took great relish in butchering yet another sacred cow, overturning decades of U.S. policy.

How much of what Trump does is related to what Putin wants?  Julie Iofe writes a great answer at The Atlantic today.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a political consultant who helped Putin win his first presidential campaign, in 2000, and served as a Kremlin adviser until 2011, simply laughed when I asked him about Putin’s role in Donald Trump’s election. “We did an amazing job in the first decade of Putin’s rule of creating the illusion that Putin controls everything in Russia,” he said. “Now it’s just funny” how much Americans attribute to him.

A businessman who is high up in Putin’s United Russia party said over an espresso at a Moscow café: “You’re telling me that everything in Russia works as poorly as it does, except our hackers? Rosneft”—the state-owned oil giant—“doesn’t work well. Our health-care system doesn’t work well. Our education system doesn’t work well. And here, all of a sudden, are our hackers, and they’re amazing?”

In the same way that Russians overestimate America, seeing it as an all-powerful orchestrator of global political developments, Americans project their own fears onto Russia, a country that is a paradox of deftness, might, and profound weakness—unshakably steady, yet somehow always teetering on the verge of collapse. Like America, it is hostage to its peculiar history, tormented by its ghosts.

None of these factors obviates the dangers Russia poses; rather, each gives them shape. Both Putin and his country are aging, declining—but the insecurities of decline present their own risks to America. The United States intelligence community is unanimous in its assessment not only that Russians interfered in the U.S. election but that, in the words of former FBI Director James Comey, “they will be back.” It is a stunning escalation of hostilities for a troubled country whose elites still have only a tenuous grasp of American politics. And it is classically Putin, and classically Russian: using daring aggression to mask weakness, to avenge deep resentments, and, at all costs, to survive.

I’d come to Russia to try to answer two key questions. The more immediate is how the Kremlin, despite its limitations, pulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history, turning American democracy against itself. And the more important—for Americans, anyway—is what might still be in store, and how far an emboldened Vladimir Putin is prepared to go in order to get what he wants.

So, there’s a lot going on and some of it makes 2018 look a bit more promising. But, let’s see what happens in Alabama and how the elections next year shape up.  Don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with the fanciful idea of a double impeachment ceremony for Pence and Trump!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?