Monday, July 31, 2017

Passive, Pliable Priebus




When Sean Spicer was discharged from his position as presidential press secretary, Jack Shafer wrote

The White House attracts all manner of toadies, suckups and flatterers seeking the president's favor, but never did any staffer demean, degrade and humble himself to the chief executive the way outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer did. Abandoning the arts of both persuasion and elision that have served previous prevaricating press secretaries so well, Spicer flung barb-tongued lies in the service of President Donald Trump.

Waste no tears on Spicer, Shafer maintained, because "Had his nose grown with every Pinocchio he uttered, it would have reached the moon." He asks rhetorically

What thanks did Spicer earn for his months of debasement in service to Trump? The early and steady drumbeat from the Oval Office that the president was “disappointed” in his performance, as CNN’s Jim Acosta reported in early February, and never-ending whispers that he would soon be sacked, which finally came true today. He gave Trump the red blood of his undying loyalty. Trump gave him the pink slip.

Do you want debasement? True debasement began when

 “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump tweeted from the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, where Priebus still sat waiting in a black SUV. Other aides riding with him hopped into a different car once the tweet posted. His SUV separated from the motorcade and went on a rainy ride through Washington alone.

Debasement continued and was raised to an Olympian level when on Friday morning, Wolf Blitzer asked Priebus how he was doing and he responded "I'm doing great."

Just the way you and I would be doing if we had just been fired.  To make matters worse, Priebus evidently had to debase himself when talking about the guy who took his job at the moment he himself was sacked.    "I think General Kelly is a brilliant pick," the former RNC chairperson said, and "you know, the president was great."

He  added "this is not like a situation where there is a bunch of ill will feelings. This is, I think, good for the president" to have forced him out. But he wasn't fired: oh, no, he practically made the decision himself.

"Any time either one of us think that we need to make a change or move in a different direction," Priebus rationalized, "just talk about it and get it done. And, so, I think the president thought about that and we talked about it yesterday. And I resigned and he accepted my resignation."

Priebus continued to be impressively inauthentic. The President "was right to hit the reset button" because "bringing in fresh people is a good thing."  (That fresh person already was chairperson of the Department of Homeland Security, but never mind.)  Trump "wanted to go a different direction" and "I support him in that." "I support what the President did," Priebus claimed, "and I offered my resignation and he agreed and we moved on. He accepted it."

While telling the American people how happy he was to be fired- make that "to resign"- Priebus was allowed on at least four occasions to avoid even attempting to pretend to answer a question. "I'm not going to get into that, Wolf," then "I'm not getting into that, Wolf," followed by "I'm not going to get into his (Scaramcci's) accusations," and finally "I'm not going to get into that one, either."

Todd Purdum recognizes that Priebus "had repeatedly beseeched Trump to modulate his message and play well with the other candidates in the crowded Republican field."  The President "saw that as a sign of weakness, and responded accordingly," unsurprising for a man whose bosom heaves heavily for men in uniform- Mattis, McMaster, Kelly,  

Spicer, who evidently is looking forward to a presidential campaign in 2024 by Mike Pence, is no prize, either.  But unlike Priebus, he doesn't say "I'm on Team Trump, I'm a Trump fan" and wallowing in humiliation.











Share |

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Caving In To Trump




Perry Bacon Jr. Tuesday afternoon tweeted "People mocked how aggressively Trump has gone after Heller. Looks like Trump was right. Heller has moved to helping GOP on health care."  The inept loser of a President needed a win, any win, and he got it as Senator after Senator looked him in the eye and flinched.

The vote by Nevada Republican Dean Heller to proceed with debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act was not inconsequential, for it was the crucial 50th vote in the Senate, with VP Mike Pence getting it to 51.

Once upon a time- three weeks ago- on a motion to proceed, Senator Heller declared "if this is the language on that procedural motion on Tuesday, I won't be voting for it." A couple of weeks earlier, he had stated “This bill would mean a loss of coverage for millions of Americans and many Nevadans. I’m telling you right now, I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”“ He added "In this form, I will not support it.  It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes. They have a lot of work to do.”

President Trump did the work, in what probably was a serendipitous bad cop, good cop routine with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  At a breakfast reception for the Party's Senate caucus last Wednesday, Heller sat next to Trump, who remarked

This one was the one we were worried about. You weren't there. But you're going to be. You're going to be. Look, he wants to remain a Senator, doesn't he? Okay. And I think the people of your state- which I know very well- I think they're going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.





Heller folded, but not as dramatically as The Senator You're Thinking Of.  Dramatically transported from a hospital bed, he lectured

Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That's an approach that's been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.

And then he reminded us that a moment earlier he had "voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that."

For those keeping score at home, that was 53 weeks to the day that the guy he gave a big victory to, who desperately wanted his vote, had maintained the veteran of the Hanoi Hilton "is not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”





Charlie Pierce reminds us

In 2000, George W. Bush's campaign slandered him and his young daughter, and radical fundamentalist Christians joined in so eagerly that McCain delivered the best speech of his career, calling those people "agents of intolerance." By 2006, he was on Meet The Press, which ultimately always was the constituency he cared most about, saying that the late Jerry Falwell was no longer an agent of intolerance. He was hugging Bush, and he was speaking at Liberty University. All of this seems to support the theory that the best way to win over John McCain is to treat him as badly as possible.

It's also true, however, that McCain's wife Cindy is "reportedly poised to take a job in Trump's State Department," which shouldn't come as a shock, given that the current Secretary of Transportation is Mitch McConnell's wife Elaine Chao, a truly fortuitous coincidence.

Still, until Republicans realize the best way to deal with a scoundrel like Donald Trump is "just say no," the President will find a Dean Heller, John McCain, or some other patsy in the Republican Party caucus.





This blog will be on hiatus until Monday, July 31. Please come back then.




Share |

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stay.





In all fairness, we will give California Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, the courtesy of hearing him out when he says

Attorney General Sessions should no longer serve. I believe, for other reasons, he’s already lost the trust of the American people. He wasn’t forthcoming about his contacts with Russia as they were interfering in our campaign. He participated in the firing of James Comey, which was improper. And so, we now cannot trust his word. And so, with respect to this report, I will just say that, as far as anything Jeff Sessions has said about his contacts with Russia, we should be able to corroborate or contradict those statements with all of the evidence and be able to review that. But for now, you need your top law enforcement official to be trusted, and he simply is not trusted. And this is a time for Congress to thoughtfully and aggressively put a check on this president.

He has at least a little company, for

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said Tuesday he was not sure how Sessions could continue as attorney general “with this public vote of no confidence" from the president.

"I don't know how the president will inspire loyalty from his staff with public statements like the one he made on Jeff Sessions,” Durbin added.

President Trump has stated explicitly that he believes Attorney General Sessions should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation. And he has all but declared that Sessions has been negligent in not investigating Hillary Clinton. He has been assiduously pushing Sessions out the door without doing the dirty deed himself.

Vox's Andrew Prokop explains that

finding someone who’s enough of a Trump crony to win Senate confirmation for this post could be very difficult. It’s such a challenge that rumors swirled this week that Trump would try and circumvent that process completely. There was chatter that Sessions could be fired while the Senate was on recess in August — and that Trump could use the president’s recess appointment power to appoint a replacement who could serve until early 2019. However, Senate Democrats reportedly plan to use procedural moves to prevent the chamber from officially recessing, which would block that from happening.

Prokop adds

Still, there’s a serious risk here that a nominee with strong-on-paper credentials would skate through hearings giving vague or noncommittal answers — while President Trump has gotten different assurances of that nominee’s intentions in private.

Placing faith in the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine thoroughly a Trump appointee would be very foolish. Last Thursday the Committee unanimously recommended approval for FBI director one Christopher Wray, who

represented Gov. Chris Christie as his personal, publicly-funded Bridgegate attorney for 11 months before signing a mandatory retainer agreement, according to new documents provided to WNYC through a public records request.

Wray began working for Christie as his personal, publicly-funded attorney, according to bills submitted to the state, in September 2014. But it wasn't until August 2015, 11 months later, that Wray and Christie formally agreed to the arrangement.

Several lawyers who work with the government said the extended delay was extraordinarily unusual, possibly unethical, and could indicate that Christie, who was preparing to run for president at the time, was keeping it hidden from the public that he had a taxpayer-funded criminal attorney. Indeed it wasn't until the summer of 2016 that it was revealed that Wray was holding onto a piece of potential evidence — one of Christie's cell phones that his former aides, charged in the Bridgegate affair, unsuccessfully sought to subpoena.

Wray and his colleagues would ultimately bill taxpayers more than $2 million in fees and expenses, including meals, hotel rooms, cab fare and flights. They continued working — and being paid — even after the Bridgegate trial ended and those convicted were sentenced to prison. It is unclear what work was done, since the governor was neither charged nor called to testify. 

Shortly thereafter Christie recommended Wray to his friend, President Trump, for the job of FBI director.

Every member, Republican or Democrat, of the Judiciary Committee endorsed Wray without asking him a single question about Bridgegate.

Any replacement for Attorney General Sessions would know that he (or she) is expected to fire Robert Mueller yesterday, and would do so promptly. If Swallwell, Durbin, or anyone else who would like Sessions to bow out believe that the latter's removal would spark a revolt by House Republicans against President Trump, they've been using a very powerful hallucinogen. Even if Trump were to fire Sessions, the political firestorm (though greater) would be fairly short-lived.

"The enemy of mine enemy is my friend" goes the ancient proverb. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is not Donald Trump's biggest enemy; the free press has the honor of that distinction.  But President Trump wants desperately to get rid of him, which should give a lot of pause to anyone who otherwsie thinks the Justice Department  or the nation would be better off with someone else at its head in 2017.










Share |

Monday, July 24, 2017

Avoiding The Lie





On ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos said to newly-minted presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders "I want to ask you the same question Jon Karl asked Sean Spicer on his first day. Do you promise to always try to tell the truth from that podium?" The guest responded

Absolutely. And not just to you, but I think that's our duty. Certainly, I have three young kids. And I want to be able to go home and look my kids in the eye every single day. And that's far more important to me to be able to do that and have that, the highest level of honesty and integrity.
And I want to do that not just in my job but in every single thing I do. And so this is just an extension of me being able to do that. And I'm excited and honored to do it.

A few moments later, Stephanopoulos asked "if it is indeed true, is that OK with the president, that the attorney general was discussing the campaign with the Russian ambassador?" Sanders replied

Again, I'm not going to comment on an alleged illegal leak. I'm not going to get into the back and forth on that. I think if we're going to talk about issues with Russia, and I think that we certainly should, one of the first places we should look is at the $500,000 that Bill Clinton took from Russians when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. If we want to talk about collusion, I think that's one of the first places we should look. They should ask for that money back. And I think that's where this focus should be.

The media loves to talk about it only when it comes to President Trump. And they've been doing it for almost a year. They've come up with nothing when there's real issues I think with some of the activities that the Democrats took place in.

Refusing to be baited into a debate about the Trump administration's obsession with Hillary Clinton, Stephanopoulos shot back with

Sarah, in fact, you know that's not true. You know that for many months, you and the president and his team denied any contact with the Russians. Just in the last couple of weeks, we've seen these contacts revealed. That's why Don Jr. is going to have to appear before the Senate. That's why Jared Kushner is appearing before the Senate this week as well. This is not a made-up story from the press.






After former FBI director Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committe about President Trump's conflict with the truth, Sanders asserted “I can definitively say the president is not a liar, and I think it’s frankly insulting it is asked."







Later that month, Trump tweeted incendiary remarks about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and a gunman opened fire at the ballfield where some Republicans were practincing for their annual congressional softball game  Major Garrett at a news conference asked Sanders whether she had "any reaction to that sentiment, that conversations like this create an atmosphere that is either dangerous or one we need to avoid?"

The then-assistant press secretary asserted "The president in no way, form or fashion has  ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary."

"This is laughable," remarked the Washington Post's Aaron Blake.

But it wasn't laughable. It was impressive.  Blake noted eight instances- from August, 2015 through March, 2016- when Donald J. Trump encouraged violence.  However, there was no "President" Donald Trump then; he did not become President until January 20, 2017.  Although the answer was misleading, it was not inaccurate. "The president" (arguably) has not promoted or encouraged violence.

A better answer would have been "the responsibility for such a criminal act rests with the perpetrator" but, given that SHS works for a fellow who never takes responsibility for anything faulty or unsuccessful, that would have been laughable.

It was similar when she stated "I can definitvely say the president is not a liar." Trump is, of course, a liar's liar, ready to lie at the drop of a hat. But she did not claim "the president is not a liar." She maintained only "I can definitively say..." And she did, in fact, definitively say that. (And give her extra points for invoking righteous indignation with "frankly insulting.")

Unforunately, she told Steph also the media has "come up with nothing," which she knows is contrary to fact. So once in a while, Sarah H. Sanders will lie, just as once in a while, when the planets perfectly align, she'll slip up and tell the truth.






Share |

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Terrorism By Any Other Name





On July 14

three Arab Israelis armed with a pistol and homemade machine guns shot and killed two Israeli police officers early Friday at the entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The three assailants were then chased into the courtyard of the mosque complex, where they were shot and killed by Israeli security forces, authorities said.

William Boothe and Ruth Eglash of The Washington Post note that Tel Aviv responded by erecting "metal detectors at the entrance to the mosque compound in the Old City" which authorites said "were necessary to protect Muslim worshipers and Israeli forces."

In their response to the Israelis, "Muslim spiritual leaders called on their followers to come to Jerusalem to pray at the barricades Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a form of protest."  "After peaceful midday prayers ended," the report adds,

a wave of tire burning and stone throwing by Palestinians began in Arab communities around East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The protests were met by harsh Israeli countermeasures, including the use of water cannons, rubber bullets, stun grenades and live ammunition.

Three Arab Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces and

After nightfall, a Palestinian sneaked into a home in the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank and stabbed to death three Israelis.

The military said the attacker apparently jumped over the fence and infiltrated the family's home, surprising them as they ate the traditional Sabbath evening meal. It said the Palestinian killed a man and two of his children, while a woman was wounded and taken to hospital. The man's grandchildren were present but not harmed, it said.

The army released footage showing a blood-covered kitchen floor. It said senior military officials are meeting overnight to discuss how to proceed.







"Little by little," one resident of a regugee camp put it, "they (Israelis) want to take al-Aqsa away from us and put up their own temple." However

Israeli officials have pointed out that the Jewish center of prayer, the Western Wall, is accessible only to those who first pass through security checkpoints, including metal detectors. Israeli leaders also said that metal detectors are used at Muslim holy sites around the world, including in Medina and Mecca.

"The raised esplanade in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City is revered by both Muslims and Jews" and the reporters point out that it is Judaism's holiest site and Islam's third holiest site, administered by Israel and Jordan

under a complicated “status quo” agreement that has been in place for decades. Any change to that agreement — by either side — is seen as a provocation. Under the arrangement, Muslims are allowed to enter and pray freely, while Jews and other visitors can go inside but are forbidden to pray there.





Let's review: two Israeli police officers are killed by three Palestinian Arabs, who are then shot dead. Tel Aviv installs metal detectors, already used to screen individuals entering the Jewish center of prayer, at the entrance to the mosque compound. After peaceful prayers by Muslims end on Friday, Palestinian Arabs riot in other communities in the occupied territories, three are shot and killed while one other breaks into a home and murders a Jewish father and two children in apparent retaliation.

Unfortunately, this latter attack was erroneously called by "a massacre" by a military spokesman. It does not fit the definition of a massacre. Nonetheless, both attacks, of the Jewish family (inarguably) and of the Israeli police officers (arguably) are what until recently were referred to as "terrorism."

The word "terrorism" did not commonly appear in news reports.  (Nor did the generic, hence wildly overused, "terror.") This is not strictly the fault of the press, for Tel Aviv itself avoided using the term.

The media, one suspects, does not want to throw gasoline onto the figurative, nearly literal, fire in the West Bank. Neither, presumably, does the government In Tel Aviv want to add fuel to the fire. (I, on the other hand, will use cliches endlessly.) Even in the administration of the very hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, this is the Israeli approach. As time marches on, leaders change and circumstances change, but the Israelis are still the Israelis. It's what they do.






Share |

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Spicer, Compared To The Others




Politico's Jack Shafer believes we should waste no energy sympathizing with Sean outgoing presidential press secretary Sean Spicer because

we find no Trump transgression so foul that Spicer would not grovel before it. When Trump praised North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and invited thuggish Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, Spicer dispensed sympathy and understanding upon the despots. No Trump mistake was too mundane for him to correct: He insisted that the word “covfefe,” which appeared in a late-night Trump tweet, wasn’t a typo. When Trump alluded to secret Trump-Comey audio recordings, Spicer dodged all questions about their existence. After the president claimed Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower, Spicer created a diplomatic incident by falsely accusing British intelligence of doing the snooping.

Spicer got off  to a bad start with

that first press briefing, in which he took no questions and made his ridiculous claims about the inauguration crowd size. Those claims, which we can assume were forced on him by the president, set him on a trajectory he never reversed.

Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming White House communications director, got off to a splendid start. Well-dressed, exquisitely polished, endlessly charming, with pitch-perfect delivery, Scaramucci declared in his first news conference

But here's what I tell you about the president: He's the most competitive person I've ever met. OK -- I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on, he's standing in the key, and he's hitting foul shots and he's swishing them, OK? He sinks three-foot putts.

Obviously there's a lot of incoming that comes into the White House. But the president's a winner, OK? And what we're going to do is we're going to do a lot of winning.

He's the most competitive person I've ever met. OK -- I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on, he's standing in the key, and he's hitting foul shots and he's swishing them, OK? He sinks three-foot putts.






But the fellow who now swears the President is an uncommon mix of Stephen Curry, Mike Trout, and Dustin Johnson had once referred to Trump as an "odd guy," his campaign as a "spectacle," and Hillary Clinton as "incredibly competent."  So with an Alice In Wonderland quality, he tweeted "Full transparency: I'm deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn't be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that's all that matters,."

In the interest of "full transparency," he is erasing his past. The guy who is erasing past tweets also commented on Twitter "the politics of gotcha are over. I have a thick skin and we're moving on to @POTUS agenda & that's all that matters." He left out only "I have the thickest skin God ever created."  But in his news conference he had declared "the president's a winner, OK? And what we're going to do is we're going to do a lot of winning," and Donald Trump swooned.

We need not cry over Sean Spicer's demise. But Spicer has done what Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump publicly has regretted hiring, has not. He has done what Alternative Facts Conway, inventor of the Bowling Green massacre, has not. He has done what his colleague, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who "heard from a large number of individuals that work at the F.B.I." that they're happy James Comey was fired, has not done.  And he was never the complete and utter bootlicker Scaramucci obviously is.

He has quit. That's not much, and for all we know, he may turn into President Trump's greatest defender when he actually leaves the Administration. But probably not. And little as it is, a resignation is thus far one of the most courageous and sensible acts anyone in this regime has taken.





Share |

Hail Alabama... Courts





These are words not often written: Alabama has done the right thing. Or rather, the Alabama Judiciary has done the right thing.

On June 27 a juvenile court somewhere in Alabama ruled that a 12-year-old girl who had been living with her mother, stepfather, four siblings and an uncle and pregnant for 13 weeks could obtain a waiver to the requirement for parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. The district attorney opposed the waiver but Alabama Court of Civic Appeals upheld the juvenile court's decision made following testimony from the girl and from a Department of Human Services caseworker, who (according to Alabama.com)

testified that the adult relative who impregnated the girl had been charged with statutory rape. The caseworker testified there was a history of physical abuse and neglect by the girls' mother and that the children had been removed from her custody five times. The caseworker said the girl was shy but communicated at a normal level for a sixth-grader.

The girl, who had just completed fifth grade at the time of the trial, testified that she did not want to have the baby because she was scared. The girl told the court she did not want to involve her mother in the decision because they did not have a good relationship. The girl also testified that her mother believed the decision should be left to the girl. The girl testified that she did not know her father but believed he was living in a Central American country.

The appeals court opinion says that under the law, the juvenile court was required to grant the waiver if it determined that the girl was mature enough to make the decision or that the abortion would be in her best interest.

Immediately after the higher court's action, there was a joint news conference held in which Win Johnson, culture warrior and legal director for the Administrative Office of Courts under then- Chief Justice Roy Moore

spoke both about his staunch opposition to abortion overall and about leaving it up to a child whether to have the procedure.

He said it's stunning that courts would issue an opinion saying that a 12-year-old "was mature enough -- and I'm going to put this in its starkest terms -- to decide to murder her own child in her womb."

"Now, nobody has said that to her, I bet you, in any of her counseling," Johnson said. "Nobody has explained that to her in its starkest, rawest form, like that. But what if it was, what if she really thought through it, even as a 12-year-old and said, 'Gosh, I don't want that on my conscience.' "

But what if it was, what if she really thought through it, even as a 12-year-old and siad 'Gosh, I don't want that on my conscience.'"

Let me see whether I can translate that into English. Nope, can't. Johnson could have explained why a 32-year-old could "decide to murder her own child in her own womb"- except that life and death wasn't really the issue here, anyway.

The other advocate of compassionate conservatism, Lorie Mullins, executive director of COPE Pregnancy Center in Montgomery, contended that

she has counseled hundreds of pregnant women, including those considering abortion and those after abortions. Mullins said the aftermath of abortion is grimmer than what women expect and often leads to depression, substance abuse and difficulty with relationships. A child entering the sixth grade should not be allowed to take that step, Mullins said.

"She probably has trouble deciding what shirt to wear to school," Mullins said.  "The courts, the law has decided that she's not old enough, wise enough and mature enough to make her own decision about whether or not she wants to drink, to buy a pack of cigarettes to drive a car.

And yet, apparently, the chilld would be old enough to raise a child.  COPE, you will be unsurprised to learn, is hardly objective, listing on its website as possible volunteer "pro-life activities" as "accompany COPE employees and other pro-life workers to local churches, health fairs, or community activities." Claiming depression, substance abuse and difficulty with relationships, contrary to fact, is a key tactic of Crisis Pregnancy Centers.





The forced-birth advocates won't give up but at least in Alabama, for now, one girl has been protected against these raving ideologues.









Share |

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cover-Up Necessary




A few days ago the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal created quite a stir when it argued

Mr Trump seems to realize he has a problem because the White House has announced the hiring of white-collar Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to manage its Russia defence. He’ll presumably supersede the White House counsel, whom Mr Trump ignores, and New York outside counsel Marc Kasowitz, who is out of his political depth.

Mr Cobb has an opening to change the Trump strategy to one with the best chance of saving his Presidency: radical transparency. Release everything to the public ahead of the inevitable leaks. Mr Cobb and his team should tell every Trump family member, campaign operative and White House aide to disclose every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations.

Everything, the editorialists maintain, should be released

to the public. Whatever short-term political damage this might cause couldn’t be worse than the death by a thousand cuts of selective leaks, often out of context, from political opponents in Congress or the special counsel’s office. If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations, transparency will prove it. Americans will give Mr Trump credit for trusting their ability to make a fair judgment. Pre-emptive disclosure is the only chance to contain the political harm from future revelations.

Jonathan Chait begs to differ, noting

Nowhere in the editorial does the Journal consider the possibility that Trump and his inner circle have lied systematically about the contacts with Russia because they have something to hide. “Whatever short-term political damage this might cause couldn’t be worse than the death by a thousand cuts of selective leaks, often out of context, from political opponents in Congress or the special counsel’s office,” the editorial asserts. But what if the truth is really bad? The Journal does not say.

“If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations,” the editorial posits, “transparency will prove it.” That is true! But what if, as now appears overwhelmingly probable, there isn’t nothing to the Russia collusion allegation? Well, the editorial doesn’t say. It just moves on to other questions.

The WSJ contends that transparency

means every meeting with any Russian or any American with Russian business ties. Every phone call or email. And every Trump business relationship with Russians going back years.

This should include every relevant part of Mr Trump’s tax returns, which the President will resist but Mr Mueller is sure to seek anyway.

Clever enough to get elected while demonstrably unqualified, unprepared, and pretentiously boastful, Donald Trump has been insufficiently transparent because he has much more to hide, and is better off distracting and denying than letting everything out.

But opaqueness is not Trump's operating principle, unlike, say, grifting. Late on July 17, the report of the meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin was reported by Ian Bremmer, president of international consulting firm Eurasia Group and

“There were a lot of empty seats,” he said, setting the scene of the dinner, which followed a concert at the Elbphilharmonie, on the banks of the Elbe river. “Donald Trump got up from the table and sat down with Putin for about an hour. It was very animated and very friendly. Putin’s translator was translating. I found out about it because people were startled.”

This was not Deep Throat, conducting a meeting in an underground garage. It was not in a back alley or privately by phone but in front of dozens of witnesses:

Indeed, Bremmer says, others present at the dinner were so troubled by the fact that Trump was engaged in the conversation, that someone decided to bring it to his attention. “It’s very clear that Trump’s best single relationship in the G20 is with Putin,” he added. “U.S. allies were surprised, flummoxed, disheartened. You’ve got Trump in the room with all these allies and who is the one he spends time with?”

“I sat on this for days hoping they would talk about it. I knew last week. It didn’t happen. I’m an analyst; I’m not in the business of breaking news,” said Bremmer.





Then The Washington Post reported "US officials" have ended the clandestine C.I.A. program to aid anti-Assad rebels in Syria, which according to The New York Times is "bound to be welcomed by the Russians, whose military has backed Mr. Assad’s government and relentlessly attacked some of the rebel groups that the United States was supplying, under the guise of helping to eradicate terrorists."

Though made nearly a month earlier, the decision was announced a few hours after Bremmer pointed out that the President had held a second, suspicious meeting with Vladimir Putin.

"Coincidence takes a lot of planning," Malcolm Nance says in a reworking of the adage that "there is no such thing as coincidence." The announcement of the Syria change may have been timed to take some of the attention away from the nearly-hour long Hamburg meeting in full view of many people, at least a couple of whom would be likely to notify someone who could make it public. It might have been, as odd as it seems,  Donald J. Trump saying "You want collusion, I'll show you collusion."

Notwithstanding The Wall Street Journal's hand-wringing about "transparency," the real problem is not failure to disclose, but what would be disclosed.






Share |

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sessions' Money Grab





Even 34 months ago we read "Criminal justice reform might be the only issue that can put the Koch Institute, the Heritage foundation, and former White House green jobs czar Van Jones in the same room." Six months later, there was "activists see some advantages in their push for criminal justice reform over previous bipartisan efforts."

And only two months ago, a survey of conservative voters by the Charles Koch Institute revealed

When asked about the practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law-enforcement agencies to seize an individual’s property without requiring that the individual be charged or convicted of a crime, 59 percent of Trump voters found common ground with their liberal counterparts, responding that that they “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed” with such policing practices.

The Koch brothers (who have been critical of Sessions) and Trump's popular base will get a chance to be outraged now that, as The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reports

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he'd be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.

“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks for a speech to the National District Attorney's Association in Minneapolis. "With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.

Sessions seems to define "drug traffickers" as individuals who could possibly sometime be thinking about selling some of their contraband. Similarly, the federal government already has a rather expansive definition of "criminal," one that presupposes guilt until innocence is proven. Ingraham explains

Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

If the two words which pop into your mind are "slush fund," don't be surprised because

many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.





For extra points, the Attorney General repeated the politically correct myth “drug offenses are not nonviolent crimes, as most of you all know.” Of course, they are non-violent offenses, except to the drug addled. If a weapon is used in a drug offense- which, considering the prevalence of drug possession, is relatively infrequent- the possession or the use of the weapon arguably is a violent crime  (or as Sessions' right-wing friends would put it, "Second Amendment rights.") But a drug offense is not a violent crime; it is a drug offense, usually of possession, sometimes of sale.

Civil asset forfeiture is justified in some instances, yet is grossly abused, with merely 13 states now allowing forfeiture only after conviction for a criminal offense.   Many conservatives dislike it, presumably because it constitutes a taking of private property by government. Although their reasoning is not dead-on, conservatives can put their thumb on the scale, denounce Attorney General Sessions' perspective, and with support of the left help establish the principle that the innocent should not be punished.





Share |

Monday, July 17, 2017

Still Time To Make The Unethical Move





Politico's Susan B. Glasser interviewed former journalist Elizabeth Drew, who authored Washington Journal, a "real-time diary" of the 2973-1974 investigation into the Watergate affair.  Now 81, Drew has some wise observations, and one not-so-wise.

Glasser notes that

if anything, Drew has come to believe that the Trump investigation could yield even more serious abuse of power or failure to execute the office than the years’ worth of Nixon probes. What’s more, the Russia scandal, she says, “is in many ways more complicated than Watergate was,” with billionaire Trump’s finances and those of his wealthy son-in-law, Jared Kushner, still to be examined, and multiple, rapidly proliferating lines of inquiry.

Both because the activities of this President (and of his family) before and after inauguration are far more serious than that of Richard Nixon, and the vastly more complex nature of the scandal, Drew counsels patience, warning

This cannot be a rush to judgment. It’s a huge thing to try to decide about the viability of a president. That’s an awesome thing if you think about it and if anything is going to be done about whether he remains president, it has to be done slowly, carefully, with some bipartisanship.

Bipartisanship is critical if for no reason other than that the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, as well as holding down leadership of the Department of Justice.  However

“My stupid theory of the case is that they’ve done such dumb things since he was inaugurated and the dumbest of all was that historic night when he fired the FBI director. Now, Nixon was a much smarter man than Trump is. Nixon read books. Nixon thought. Nixon thought about policy. You could have a coherent conversation with Richard Nixon,” Drew says. “But they both made the same mistake, which was firing your prosecutor. That was really stupid.”

But therein lies a critical distinction.  President Nixon wanted special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired. After Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused to do so, Richardson was fired and Assistant Attorney General Wiliam Ruckelshaus was ordered to can Cox.  Ruckelshaus refused and was either fired or resigned, at which point it fell upon Solicitor General Bob Bork to dismiss Cox, which he unflinchingly did.

But Nixon- unlike President Trump- was not so unwise as to fire acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray, who

helped Nixon cover up the Watergate scandal. White House officials gave him documents related to the Watergate break-in and Gray shredded them to hide the evidence.

Gray resigned after his actions were discovered.

President Trump did  something far more foolish. Nixon dismissed- indirectly- the Democratic investigator, Democratic lawyer Archibald Cox, who had been acting as a prosecutor. Trump, however, directly fired Republican James Comey, who despite being an attorney, is a big man identified with law enforcement and whose reputation for integrity was prized.

A couple of months ago, there was widespread speculation that the President would order Deputy AG Rosenstein to fire Robert Mueller, the lawyer investigating the Trump cabal.

Trump balked, a major tactical error. Shortly afterward, Mueller proceeded to assemble what has been described as "a prosecution team with experience going after everything from the Mafia and Enron to al Qaeda and President Richard Nixon" and as "perhaps the most high-powered and experienced team of investigators ever assembled by the Justice Department."





Despite revelation of the June 9, 2016 meeting demonstrating at least an attempt to collude with Russians, Trump could still order Rosenstein to dump Mueller. The Deputy AG probably would refuse and the assignment fall to- well, to whomever Trump wants it to, and it would  be someone who would do his bidding. There would be comparisons, apt and otherwise, to October 20, 1973 but probably with more complicated repercussions.

"It was a very different kind of politics then. Bipartisanship was not the oddity. It was really the norm,” Drew told Glasser.  Because politics currently are so polarized and Trump's hard-core base would remain with him even after comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre, few of Trump's supporters would drop off.

Contrast that with  the likelihood- that Mueller's excellent cadre of lawyers, now including Preet Bharara, will open up Donald J. Trump's huge walk-in closet filled with skeletons. At that point, simple extrication from the presidency would be a relatively favorable outcome for the head of a corrupt family enterprise, now also an incomparably compromised President.









Share |

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Data Power





Secretary of State Kris Kobach of Kansas has a disturbing history of hosility to illegal immigration and voter rights.. So suspicion abounded when as vice-chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity he sent a letter to all 50 states requesting the "names, addresses, dates of birth, partial social security numbers, political party, a decade's worth of voter history, information on felony convictions, and whether they have registered in more than one state."

At the time

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, argued that this letter, along with another letter sent by the Department of Justice asking for voting data from states covered by the National Voter Registration Act, is “the beginning of an effort to force unwarranted voter purges.”

“These two letters, sent on the same day, are highly suspect,” Gupta said, “and seem to confirm that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to suppress the right to vote.”

After the 2012 election cycle, the GOP underwent an "autopsy" and determined it would have to increase its appeal to minority voters to remain highly competitive electorally. Nonetheless, it doubled down on its anti-immigration rhetoric and its appeal to white male voters at the expense of women and legal immigrants, as well as other minorities.

The strategy worked and Republicans now dominate state legislatures and hold majorities in both the US House and the US Senate and occupy the White House, the latter with a candidate who ran a shocking, aggressively anti-immigrant campaign.

But demographics cannot be denied and President Trump, who has whined about the election he won, by claiming without evidence he would have won the popular vote if not for 3-5 million ballots cast by illegal immigrants, recognized that eligible voters cannot continue to be tolerated.

Fortunately, 46 states are giving the information either partial information or none at all.  But Kobach did not accept his assignment in order to flail at windmills and come up empty.    And the data he assembles, though intended primarily for voter suppression, may be used for other purposes inimical to democracy.

Daniel Politi of Slate now has reported

People who spoke up about their concerns over privacy suddenly found key private details, including their email and sometimes even home addresses, released by none other than President Donald Trump’s administration. The presidential commission charged with investigating alleged fraud that has been plagued by controversy from the start published a 112-page document of unredacted emails of public comment on its work, which to no surprise are largely negative of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. When it published the comments, the White House didn’t remove any of the personal information, meaning many of the comments are accompanied by personal details of the person who wrote it.

Among the emails is one from a Dave Huff who notes (emphasis his) in part

So, when you call the bank, do they ask for your full social or just the last 4? So if someone wanted access to my bank account information the address, full name, dob and last four social is EXACTLY what they would need.  You will open up the entire voting population to a massive amount of fraud if this data is in any way released. Please do NOT release this information.

Release of this information exposes millions of individuals to fraud, as Huff notes. It exposes them also to ongoing harassment from tens of millions of people who are convinced that elections are- as Trump unironically put it during the campaign- "rigged."  The voter fraud fantasy is near and dear to the hearts of millions of Republican voters.

Even in the absence of release to the public, the data becomes a very potent weapon for the federal government, one which can be wielded to suppress dissent, particularly at a time of crisis such as in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Fortunately, it will be in good hands. It's not as if an authoritarian has taken over the U.S.government.










Share |

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Slow And Steady







On Wednesday, Democratic Representative Brad Sherman of California introduced an article of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump for obstruction of justice.

This is notable primarily because Sherman, with only one co-sponsor, is virtually alone.  At a closed-door caucus meeting last month, Representative Michael Capuano urged "a discussion within the caucus- in a public forum- before we do something that would position our colleagues or our future colleagues" and minority whip Hoyer of Maryland argued "we believe strongly that a discussion about impeachment is not timely."

It is untimely in part because it the Russian connection is an evolving story, and we're no further along than homo erectus. There is probably much more which will be revealed to implicate Trump team members- possibly even the President himself- which would render what we've learned before as small potatos. Proceeding now not only would be futile, but would provoke a tremendous backlash among both Trump supporters- who appear to be at least 40% of voters- but also probably in the mainstream media.

But there is at least one other reason not to proceed with the impeachment track now, at least not (as Kellyanne Conway would put it) yet. Citing evidence from Gallup, Steve M. maintains

Anti-Trump anger isn't focused on policy -- it's focused on Trump. Specifically, it's focused on aspects of Trump's personality and demeanor that aren't perceived as aspects of Pence's personality and demeanor.

If Trump does go, the political and media establishment will want to rally around Pence.

Pence's record indicates that his agenda would be Paul Ryan's agenda.  Jeff Alston in In These Times notes Pence "was given a 99 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, would be much more likely to cut Social Security, push National Right to Work, and try to restrict gay marriage, and would probably treat immigrants and refugees just as badly, in order to court the Trump base."  And that's not even considering reproductive freedom or transparency, as we learn 

The White House won’t answer questions about a meeting last week between Vice President Mike Pence and anti-choice advocates, even though some of the advocates are clearly identifiable in a photo posted from the vice president’s official Twitter account.

Pence and the advocates reaffirmed President Trump’s “commitment to the sanctity of life” amid plans to strip at least 22 million people of health care and discount reproductive health care entirely, according to the tweet.

Neither Pence’s daily schedule nor White House pool reports from reporters on duty at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue disclosed the sit-down—meaning that, in all likelihood, it would have gone unreported without a signal boost from the vice president’s office.

Steve M. recognizes

if Pence becomes president, the public would regard him as (a) not a compulsively tweeting man-child and (b) a policy blank slate. (People who care about politics know his record, but that's not most Americans.) The country would learn what he stands for soon enough -- but we'd be starting from scratch in fighting him, and we've seen that mild-mannered Koch/religious right wingnuts mange to win their next elections even when they govern from very far to the right -- think Scott Walker or Sam Brownback. 

The best approach for the Democratic Party is, as it gnerally has been practicing: P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E.









Share |

Friday, July 14, 2017

Yet





Politico reports

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Friday that “the goalposts have been moved” when it comes to proving cooperation between the campaign of President Donald Trump and the Russian government.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Conway said, is among the small handful still clinging to theories of collusion.

“I mean, we were promised systemic, hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion that not only interfered with our election process but indeed dictated the electoral outcome,” Conway said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “And one of the only people who says that seriously these days is still Hillary Clinton and nobody believes it. We know why she lost. It's obvious.”

You weren't "promised" anything but an investigation into the facts, and that is unrelated to the matter of whether it "dictated" the electoral outcome, which is an instead for political scientists instead of politicians and public relations flacks such as yourself.   Hillary Clinton has not been terribly vocal, there are others who recognize the likelihood of collusion, and if we "know why she lost," there wouldn't be 86 different explanations which have been offered.

Aside from that, Conway's statement is accurate.

But it is no more accurate than it is ironic. "One of the only people who says" there was "systemic, sustained furtive collusion," Conway claims, is Hillary Clinton.

Granted that Hillary Clinton recognizes the obvious. Also, unexpectedly and oddly, is another prominent individual: Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway.

And so it was that

On Wednesday night, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told Sean Hannity on his Fox News show that there was not “yet” evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, despite the recent revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney during the campaign on the premise of being promised, via email, evidence to “incriminate” Hillary Clinton as a “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Conway made her comment while holding up two sheets of white paper, one with the words “conclusion?” above the word “collusion,” and the other with the word “illusion” above the word “delusion” (“collusion” had been crossed out). Pointing to the first page Conway said, “What’s the conclusion? Collusion? No. We don’t have that yet.” After which she pointed to the other saying, “I see illusion and delusion. Just so we’re clear. Conclusion? Collusion. No. Illusion. Delusion. Yes.”





It's only fair that we critics of President Trump help Mrs. Conway by suggesting an alternative sentence for her:

I mean, we were promised systemic, hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion that not only interfered with our election process but indeed dictated the electoral outcome. And two of the only people who say that seriously these days are still Hillary Clinton and myself.. It's the only thing I'll admit. We know why she lost. It's obvious.






Share |

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Breed Apart




As recently as seventeen years ago, when they overwhelmingly backed conservative, openly devout George W. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination over a more secular John McCain, evangelical Christians were generally more partial to candidates who held similarly religious views as they.

For the GOP nomination in 2016, they preferred religious Protestant and southern Baptist Ted Cruz, he of one marriage, to the thrice-married, womanizing, Second Corinthians-believing, little cracker-taking, money almost in the communion plate-giving, have no idea of the purpose of communion (below), ruthlessly dishonest, "I alone can fix it" Donald Trump.





In the general election, Christian evangelicals discovered an overwhelming- even "incredible," in the correct sense of the word- love for Donald J. Trump. This curious phenomenon came again into view as a photo was distributed Wednesday of some of their leaders praying over the President. There are many reasons for faith in this man, three of which are abortion, abortion, and abortion.  In addition, however, Matthew Sheffield points out

Trump has certainly been trying to deliver for Christian nationalists, including nominating devout Protestant Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, repeatedly attempting to implement a “Muslim ban,” pushing the GOP to defund Planned Parenthood in its health care overhaul legislation, rescinding Obama-era protections for LGBT employees of government contractors, and encouraging religious leaders to talk politics from the pulpit.

Trump has also staffed up high-level jobs with religious conservatives far more than past GOP administrations with such figures as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, an advocate of stripping civil rights from Muslims. And of course, there’s Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president who was best known during his time as governor of Indiana for trying to pass a law allowing businesses and government employees to engage in discriminatory behavior provided they could find a religious excuse for it.

Most of the support for Trump, then, has its roots (however crudely expressed at times) in ideology, a marked shift from the days when cultural conservatives (or in the common but inaccurate parlance, "social conservatives") wrapped themselves in the flag of "family values."

That applies, additionally, to another source of Trump's support from evangelicals  (and in the secular community), the understanding that his villains-- liberals, secularists, the media, the academic community, Washington politicians, minorities, Planned Parenthood- are their villains.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who describes Katherine Hayhoe as "an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University who does climate change education among evangelicals," explains about climate change

Evangelicals will often tell her things like “God’s in control,” “God gave us dominion over the Earth” or maybe “God told Noah he would never flood the Earth.” Oil was seen by some Christians in the late 1800s as God’s gift to the United States.

But Hayhoe believes evangelicals’ political affiliations drive their attitudes more on climate change than their religious beliefs. “Somehow evangelicalism got politicized to the point where, [for] many people who call themselves evangelicals, their theological statement is written by their political party first,” she said.

So much of evangelical preference may be driven by political partisanship, which makes them not much different than the rest of us. But there is something distinctive about them which Sheffield found, but apparently didn't recognize. He writes

According to survey data aggregated by the Pew Research Center between February and April of this year, 67 percent of those who attended church at least once a month said they approved of Trump’s job performance, compared with 54 percent of self-identified evangelicals who attended less frequently.

You shouldn't have to be a churchgoing Roman Catholic to wonder who these evangelical Christians are who aren't attending organized worship at least once a month while they consider themselves "evangelical." Self-identification with this perspective while evidently avoiding even minimal effort is not customary, and is borderline strange.

It was a point, glossed over in what was otherwise a useful survey of the political preferences of these individuals, suggesting at least that they are far more conservative than traditional. It also is something deserving additional exploration as we try to discern why people who "walk in the Spirit" and presumably believe "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" have now fallen in love with a guy who has boasted "the beauty of me is that I'm very rich."






Share |

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More Victories For Putin





On June 24, President Grump tweeted "Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?" He followed that the following day with"Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!"

In Poland on July 6 and realizing he had not criticized the USA enough abroad (part of the Make America Great Again program), he stated "Now, the thing I have to mention is that Barack Obama, when he was president, found out about this, in terms of if it were Russia, found out about it in August. Now, the election was in November. That's a lot of time. He did nothing about it."

Claiming that President Obama did "nothing" is a significant exaggeration, akin to, say, maintaining that someone who eats meat only once a week is a vegetarian.  Nonetheless, the oddest aspect of Trump's comments is the sheer disingenousness of them, a splendid example of "chutzpah." Although one pancake short of a stack, Trump is not insane, and thus is pretty pleased that President Obama failed during the campaign to expose fully Russian meddling.

Yet, there was no hard evidence, or at least proof, that Trump did not find Obama's limited response a little unsettling. However, the following day we learned from CNN that

Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.

Three days later we learned that the White House's chief legislative liasion had "spent Monday lobbying Hill offices against key provisions in the legislation, according to a senior administration official."  The following day, Vox explained

.... the Trump administration is quietly trying to put the kibosh on bipartisan legislation to sanction Russia for election interference.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John McCain (R-AZ), would impose new sanctions against Russia and was specifically crafted to make it difficult for President Trump to lift them. It passed in the Senate by a 98-2 margin in June.

But now the bill suddenly looks like it may be in jeopardy. Republicans in the House have been slow to take up a bill that would embarrass the president, and Trump’s team is raising objections to its curtailment of their executive authority to deal with Russia as they see fit. 





Evidently no one told the United States' ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, for three days later she contended the President had

wanted him to basically look him in the eye, let him know that yes, we know you meddled in our elections. Yes we know you did it, cut it out.

And I think President Putin did exactly what we thought he would do, which is deny it. This is Russia trying to save face. And they can’t. They can’t. Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections. 

She didn't say (and apparently wasn't asked) whether "everybody" included the President of the United States. No one wants a President who is thoroughly naive or ignorant. However, if Grump does unerstand wha tis going on, he is plainly rewarding Moscow.

We have a president who won't accept the truth or one who does, but is actively working to prop up a totalitarian regime and hostile nation which has breached security and endangered our democratic process.  The Electoral College has dealt us a very bad hand.






Share |

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trouble For Donald Jr.




On Sunday. July 9

An ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush blasted Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the campaign, saying it “borders on treason.”

“This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States,” Richard Painter said Sunday on MSNBC.

“We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.”

That is unlikely, at least in part because "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."  Russia is not quite recognized as an enemy in the same sense as, say, ISIL, North Korea, or even Iran, although Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort would qualify as two witnesses, so there is at least that.

Things have gotten a little trickier for Trump Jr. now that he has tweeted out an email chain (shortly ahead of publication by The New York Times), which includes a message from music publicist Robert Goldstone, agent of singer-songwriter Emin Agalarov. He informed the candidate's son that the Trump campaign could be provided in a meeting "with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father." Donald Trump Jr. replied “Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

This is not exactly exculpatory, as Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) acknowledged when he said “Definitely he has to testify. The email is disturbing." However, Graham added

But what is equally odd to me is the person they met with knew absolutely nothing. I don’t know why they would pick somebody for him to meet with that didn’t have any information about the Clinton campaign. But on its face, this is very problematic.

Yet, we don't know for sure that Natalia Veselnetskaya knew nothing; we know only that she offered the attendees nothing.  (Veselnetskaya doesn't clear that up; video, below.) Whether or not she knew anything, the meeting may have been intended to suggest to the Trump campaign that "the Crown prince of Russia," as Goldstone referred in that email to the source of the information, had material which could be made available at the proper price.





Obviously, if that was the intent, Trump didn't pick up on it, which- given insufficient evidence of genius on the part of the men of the family- does not eliminate its possibility.

Even without any information being passed along, the meeting has proven extremely embarrassing, perhaps ultimately legally fatal, to the President's son: especially later in the summer. It is not inconceivable, then, that with the Kremlin's sophisticated understanding of American politics, Moscow would understand that even luring the President's son into such a meeting would be significant.

It would be significant- and a possible source of blackmail.  Donald Trump is not generally loyal- consider Attorney General Chrisite, Chief of Staff Giuliani, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Palin- but there is little indication he wouldn't protect his daughter, son-in-law (also present on the occasion), and sons.

Holding this over the head of the President could have been quite useful, though a vigilant American press corps, headed by The New York Times (which on Saturday first reported the event) and The Washington Post, blew their cover. Even now, Trump's State Department has issued 150 "temporary duty visas" to individuals suspected by the FBI of being intelligence operatives. That represents a dramatic reversal of the Obama Administration's approach, in which 35 Russian diplomats were expelled from the USA because of suspected meddling in the election.

This is speculation, of course, as is the argument that candidate Donald Trump knew of his campaign's collusion with Moscow.  It is, however, more likely than the notion that this is all one big hoax cooked up by a dark conspiracy of the "liberal media" and the Democratic National Committee.






Share |

No Critic Of Sexual Harassment

Nikki Haley has no reason to be "incredibly proud of the women who have come forward." But Donald Trump has plenty of reaso...