Saturday, July 21, 2018

Leave


On Thursday, Politico's Eliana Johnson reported

President Donald Trump’s disastrous performance since his news conference alongside Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has sent West Wing morale to its lowest level since the Charlottesville fiasco almost a year ago.

As happened last August, when the president refused to condemn neo-Nazi demonstrators, Trump’s attempts to tamp down outrage have backfired. Stilted statements followed by ad-libbed remarks left even his allies feeling that while the president was technically acknowledging a mistake, he actually meant what he’d said on the first go-round — that he believed Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“People are just depressed,” said one Republican close to the White House. “Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now, but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they’d leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable.

There always is a "however" with this group of guys and gals, and so we learn

But the president’s usual defenders, many of whom have been critical of him in public and almost all of whom are privately disappointed by his performance, say the following: While Trump’s statements are regrettable, they have few if any policy consequences. And it’s for that reason that senior-level officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton — those with the most impact on policy — are unlikely to step down...

President Trump has been encouraging hatred and violence since before he was "President Trump." Johnson continues

Last summer, days after sparking a media conflagration for condemning people on “both sides” of the rally in Charlottesville, the president emerged at Trump Tower for a press conference ostensibly intended to tout his infrastructure agenda and declared, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Behind him, his newly appointed chief of staff, John Kelly, could be seen rubbing his temples with a look of misery that ping-ponged across the Internet. Cohn, then Trump’s chief economic adviser, drafted a resignation letter. But not a single member of the White House staff resigned over it — though Cohn eventually left, amid a fight over tariffs.

Monday’s events have sparked renewed demands for resignations-en-masse from presidential aides.

“Assuming Mike Pompeo and John Bolton still have their own senses intact, they ... should resign following the epic disgrace of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday. So should their senior staff,” wrote New York Times columnist Bret Stephens on Thursday, noting that he knows and respects both men.

Nonetheless, they won't, and here comes the rationalization:

But others have called for those already inside to stay. “Please don’t resign,” wrote Kori Schake, head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in the Atlantic. “We should not want the moral satisfaction and practical devastation of clearing out people of conscience and allow the president to replace them with more malleable or compromised people.”

"People of conscience?" They have forfeited that description by their continuing service to an individual who consistently makes clear his authoritarian impulses and intend. They lend their credibility and prestige to an Administration which should have neither and which rules by threat and intimidation.

Possibly replaced by "more malleable or compromised people? Their very presence assisting a demagogue demonstrates they are "malleable and compromised."

They may be frightened by the prospect of being twitterized by Donald Trump is they leave. However, the aforementioned Gary Cohn left the Administration unscathed and has not been reduced to a pillar of salt.

Pompeo, Kelly, Bolton, and the others remain serving the regime because they want to be there.  They are careerists who assume there will be professional benefits once they leave. Meanwhile, they bask in their prestige.

Yet, the period between this date and November 6, 2018 is put up or shut up time. "Better to have him inside the tent pissing out,than outside pissing in," President Lyndon B. Johnson once said of J. Edgar Hoover.

Though Hoover was a really bad guy, the analogy holds, wherein an agency head or adviser inside the tent may have little effect. Once outside the tent, the individual is unleashed and can oppose the President with virtual impunity.

They can remain and continue to enable a President who puts the interests of his country last. Or they can leave, sending Trump and voters a message, and help lead their party and the country away from its destructive path (video from late June).







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Friday, July 20, 2018

NRA Hell


The Associated Press reports

Eight people were injured in an attack on a busy bus in the northern German city of Luebeck, and a suspect has been arrested, police said Friday. Local daily Luebecker Nachrichten reported, without giving a source, that a suspect had attacked passengers with a knife.

Police spokesman Duerk Duerbrook said the attack occurred in the Kuecknitz district of Luebeck, northeast of Hamburg. He told The Associated Press that authorities were still trying to determine the circumstances of the attack.

German news agency dpa quoted police as saying that three people received "medium serious" injuries in the incident, while five others received minor injuries.


"The passengers jumped out of the bus and screamed," another eyewitness told LN. "It was terrible, and then the injured were taken away.”

The suspect, believed to be in his 30s, fled the bus, but was soon arrested by police.

There was a violent attack upon a mass of people in Germany today, and "state police tweeted: “Nobody was killed. The perpetrator was overpowered and is now in police custody.” It does not happen this way in the USA, and we know why.

Trailing only the USA, Switzerland, and Finland, Germany has the fourth highest rate of gun ownership per capita in the world. However, the nation has unusually strict gun control laws, in which residents

do not have fundamental rights to bear arms, unlike Americans do under the Second Amendment, and the country’s violent past including the Nazi era has certainly helped to shape the current strict regulations.

To get a gun, Germans must first obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) - and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy - or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

Applicants for a license must be at least 18 years old and undergo what’s called a reliability check, which includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have mental illness or any other attributes that might make them questionable to authorities.





And so eight people in Germany were injured in an incident which, had it occurred in the USA, probably would have been far more lethal- especially if "a good guy with a gun" had been there.




Thursday, July 19, 2018

This Guy Is Good.


We knew Donald J. Trump lies almost as often as a normal person winks. Moreover, we now have been informed by the New York Times' Sanger and Rosenberg

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

At the meeting at Trump Tower, Trump

was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command....

According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.

They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.

And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role....

The same Russian groups had been involved in cyberattacks on the State Department and White House unclassified email systems in 2014 and 2015, and in an attack on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They had aggressively fought the N.S.A. against being ejected from the White House system, engaging in what the deputy director of the agency later called “hand-to-hand combat” to dig in.

The pattern of the D.N.C. hacks, and the theft of emails from John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, fit the same pattern.

The disinformation from the election victor began even before he took office. Sanger/Rosenberg note

After the briefings, Mr. Trump issued a statement later that day that sought to spread the blame for the meddling. He said “Russia, China and other countries, outside groups and countries” were launching cyberattacks against American government, businesses and political organizations — including the D.N.C.

Still, Mr. Trump said in his statement, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

There is unintentional humor in the article:

In the run-up to this week’s ducking and weaving, Mr. Trump has done all he can to suggest other possible explanations for the hacks into the American political system. His fear, according to one of his closest aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.

This is not the reason Donald Trump has implicitly denied that Russia interfered with the election. Charlie Pierce argues that it comes down to the business empire:

I don’t know if I buy this entirely, although it seems to be the spin du jour from the anonymous voices inside the West Wing. I don’t think the president* gives a damn about the legitimacy of his presidency. I don’t think he’s given it a second thought. I certainly don’t think he’s afraid of it. He’s grabbing all he can for as long as he can and the Constitution be damned.

He might care about the legitimacy of his victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. I could believe that—Winning!—but, even if I did, I can’t see that as motive enough to sell out to Putin and Russia as obviously as he has. No, there’s still something in Putin’s whip hand that the president* fears. As always, I think it’s something to do with the Russian money that’s kept his empire afloat, and his reputation as a shrewd businessman from going completely to tatters.

Realistically, it probably is, though we won't know for sure until and unless the tax returns probably possessed by Special Counsel Mueller are released.  Still, refutation of the notion that Trump is worried about the perception of the legitimacy of his election victory is not dependent upon his financial entanglements with Russians.

It may be simply that once voters uniformly recognize that the Kremlin interfered with the election, they will believe that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government, though absent hard evidence indicating election results were changed, the election was legitimate.

Moreover, even if the election is widely considered illegitimate, the President is still President, and the election will not be redone. However, if there was conspiracy between the campaign and outside actors, there are serious legal ramifications extending all the way to the White House.

The notion "that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency" is a diversion. It may be, as Pierce suggests, the spin du jour; it may even be the spin de la mite or the spin dela'nnee. Having in general circulation the notion that Trump worries that his election will be viewed as illegitimate is critical to the "the Democrats are trying to take the election away from us" whine.

But aides may even believe that this is Trump's motivation because he may be telling them this, and they may be buying it.   Consider that Sanger/Rosenberg write

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

This may be yet another example of Donald Trump conning the people he speaks with, insofar as intelligence officials left confident not only that the President-elect believed them, but also that he would act accordingly. He is very persuasive- and would be consistently believed were that much of what he says is objectively and undeniable false.

When the video below was aired, few voters believed Donald Trump would be spending most of his weekends playing golf.





Now ignore facts well known and all common sense.  Pretend you're a "make America great again" kind of guy or gal and make of your mind a blank slate. Watch candidate Donald Trump, serious and focused, explain that he has someone investigating the birthplace of Barack H. Obama. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that seven years later he is yet to have produced the super sleuth he claimed to have sent to Hawaii.





The star of "The Apprentice," who spent years playing to an audience convinced that he was a successful, resolute businessman who could fire someone without blinking an eye, is an exceedingly good actor.  Having fooled his old fans and enough others to become President, the actor is now embarked on another difficult- but winnable in the short term- campaign to convince people that his apparent stubborness about Russian election interference has a benign motivation.




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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Catch Me If You Can


Look carefully at the posted time: July 17, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

The time is critical because it would have been easy for Amanda Marcotte to write "Donald Trump wants you to know he's getting away with it: Helsinki gloating fits a long pattern" after President Trump's hostage tape seen in the afternoon of July 17.

Marcotte could have left it at recounting events of the past few days in which Trump has been seen "defiantly rubbing our noses in his undeniable support for Vladimir Putin's efforts to undermine democratic states and international peacekeeping efforts."   Instead, she reminds us

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," Trump gloated on the campaign trail.

"My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy," Trump exalted at another campaign event. "I’ve grabbed all the money I could get."

During a presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton accused Trump of hiding his history of not paying taxes, he sneered, "That makes me smart."

Marcotte noted there are "hundreds of other examples" in which Trump makes little effort to conceal "unethical and criminal behavior" or, as I've noted, an offensive religious perspective.

There was the time in the summer of 2015 that he told Iowa evangelicals “When I drink my little wine … and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘Let’s go on and let’s make it right.’ ” In the space of two sentences, he succeeded in ridiculing communion and displaying ignorance about sacrament.

At a church in Council Bluffs, Iowa the following January he "dug several bills out of  his pocket when the communion plate was passed." Everyone loses attention from time to time, even at church, arguably especially at church.  But instead of invoking that inoffensive explanation to which most people could relate, the candidate laughed and claimed "I thought it was for offering."  (That must have been some awfully expensive bread.)

Two weeks earlier, he had been asked about forgiveness and replied "I like to be good. I don't like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don't do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad."

Ask the next 100 people at your church- Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox- about forgiveness and it's unlikely any will respond in the same manner. 

But Trump knew that, just as he knew it was ridiculous to refer to the elements as "little," to suggest communion pertains to forgiveness, or to brag to Christians that he is "good" and doesn't need to ask God for forgiveness.

Still, evangelicals stood by him, even becoming enthusiastic, whether because he hates liberals or abortion rights or because they can't take a hint (several hints).

And then there was Tuesday afternoon, hours after Amanda Marcotte's argument, when Donald J. Trump, an Academy Award-caliber actor, chose to stare uncomfortably at a handwritten statement and haltingly say

So I'll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies. Always have. And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia's actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that -- and I've said this many times -- I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there.





Could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there. Hit by criticism for his support the previous day of Putin over intelligence agencies, he did not say he agreed with the intelligence community's conclusion but merely "accept(s)" it- and there "could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there." 

Easily debunked, the President couldn't have been more obvious had he been holding a sign reading "I'm trying to put one over on you."  Donald Trump is similar to the individual who commits one or a string of horrific crimes and taunts police, daring them to put together the evidence he has left them.  In most cases, the offender is eventually caught but until he is, he harbors a sense of invincibility. Marcotte on Trump:

His feeling of invincibility is backed up by a Republican party that will, indeed, reject any real accountability for Trump no matter what he does. Sure, a few Republican politicians have offered mealy-mouthed expressions of disappointment that the president is openly siding with a man accused of subverting American democracy. Is there any doubt that they will turn around and reward his gloating betrayal by supporting his agenda while refusing to take any actions against him? Their party has sold the country out to American billionaires for so long that selling out to Russian oligarchs isn't really much of a leap, it appears.



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

No Easy Way


Soon after conclusion of the Putin-Trump news conference, Charlie Pierce remarked

The fact is that there is only one constitutional method by which this renegade presidency* can be stifled before the November midterm elections—and it needs to be reined in as quickly as possible. The only available option is to have two or three Republican senators announce that, hereafter, they will caucus and vote with the Democratic minority between now and November.

He recommends Tennessee's Bob Corker and Arizona's Jeff Flake, who both have criticized President Trump and not coincidentally announced their retirement, and Nebraska's Ben Sasse, who has slammed Trump but still, acknowledges Pierce, harbors political ambitions. 

Fed up with the weeping and gnashing of teeth, Steve Schmidt has a similar, though vague, suggestion:

No doubt both

Pierce and Schmidt realize that the members of Team Russia  won't do this. Instead, there will be one or two congressional resolutions, one with no enforcement power, probably expressing support for our nation's intelligence services and criticizing Vladimir Putin. If there is another, it would pertain to support for expanded sanctions, which may or may not be enforceable.

Even providing through legislation additional protection for Special Counsel Robert Mueller- in the unlikely event Mitch McConnell would let it proceed- would be ineffectual.  It would be vetoed y the President and as written does not apply to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who always has been most likely to be fired.

Amidst the periodic speculation about who President Trump is likely to have fired- Mueller, Rosenstein, or Attorney General Sessions, comes valuable information given the credibility of the source, investigative reporter Gabriel Sherman.   There may be no one more pro-Trump than Fox News' Sean Hannity, with whom, Sherman notes, the President speaks. Moreover "Hannity has become a de facto chief adviser/strategist/chief of staff. I mean, he recommends ideas, policy ideas,communications ideas to the president." Sherman reveals

just the other day, I was told by someone who had spoken with Hannity that Hannity has been telling the president that the moment that Robert Mueller issues his report to the Justice Department on the obstruction of justice case that ... he's supposed to deliver this summer prior to the midterm elections, that Hannity has been telling the president that that is the moment he needs to fire Robert Mueller and [Rod] Rosenstein, because he can then go to the public and say, "Oh well, this isn't obstruction. I waited till they delivered the report, and now this witch hunt needs to end."

Although once the report is issued, President Trump's support may be in the gutter, waiting till then or until Repub members of Congress grow a spine may be too late. Will Bunch:


But impeachment & conviction of President Trump leads to President Pence, who then probably would pardon Trump.  The more important objective should be to ensure that Robert Mueller, answering to Rod Rosenstein, be allowed to complete his full report. Lay the record out for Congress and the American people to see. That might not come soon enough for Democrats to gain control of the House of Representatives in 2018.  However, it is the path most likely to damage the GOP beyond 2018 and to lead to the removal from office and indictment of Donald J. Trump. 




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Monday, July 16, 2018

Tepid Response(s)


"'Bizarre' and 'shameful'" Republicans lead responses to Trump news conference with Putin," reads the ABC News headline.

The article was posted at 2:53 p.m. Eastern time and in the age of cable news, Facebook, and Twitter, the reporters were able to identify all of seven (7) GOP members of Congress who had anything negative to say. They included senators Ben Sasse, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and Orrin Hatch, the latter three of whom are retiring and thus have little to fear from the big guy in the White House.

They included also Lindsey Graham and the ailing John McCain who- unlike the others- had the courage to mention the name "Trump." (President Trump proved not only unable, but also unwilling, to stand up to Trump," remarked the Arizona senator.)  Also criticizing the President without mentioning "Trump" was House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wrote

There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.

The President cannot "appreciate that Russia is not our ally" when, as Ryan should realize today (if not before), Russia is an ally of the President.

There are several reasons coming out of the Treason Summit to recognize that. Included is the false statement of the purported President of the USA

Even during the tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue. Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago.

Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. The President claimed the same yesterday, although we had Charlie Pierce to remind us of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Additionally, Donald Trump has been ostensibly in charge the last 17 months of that relationship, though he would claim (and already has) that he has dramatically improved relations.

But the response shouldn't come only from a great blogger/journalist and other analysts. We need also to wake up a former President. The night before meeting with Putin, we heard from Trump
The muted response from the Republican Party to the captain of Team Russia is the most damaging to the country. But when President Trump demonstrates little interest in his own country and slams a political enemy (video below from late June), said target needs to speak up. Ask John McCain.








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On Thursday, Politico's Eliana Johnson reported President Donald Trump’s disastrous performance since his news conference along...