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Thursday, July 20, 2017


Without rudder or keel

by Tom Sullivan

Our ain't-right president's hair-raising New York Times interview yesterday demonstrated for the nth time how unfit in every way Donald Trump is for the job he won last November. Trump is as Jack London might have described him:

... a magnificent atavism, a man so purely primitive that he was of the type that came into the world before the development of the moral nature. He was not immoral, but merely unmoral.
He has neither the skill nor the time for legislating. He will not lift a finger to pass the legislation he demands from his own caucus. He has no respect for the institutions of the government he took an oath to preserve, protect and defend, nor for the oath itself, nor for rule of law he believes himself above. In the interview, he all but formally asked for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not covering his rear on the Russia investigation. After months of whining about White House leaks, Trump leaked it in an interview with a newspaper he famously loathes rather than confront Sessions personally, man-to-man.

Donald Trump wouldn't have any class if you gave him a room, thirty students, and a chalkboard. So when a dumpster fire gif was the first to appear in my Twitter feed this morning, it seemed only appropriate.


But Donald Trump is merely a symptom of a country that has lost its bearings, a ship without rudder or keel. A new poll from Public Policy Polling finds that only 45 percent of Trump voters believe Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russians he publicly admitted having. Thirty-two percent don't believe the meeting happened and 24 percent are not sure. No, Not Sure is not their names.

A large fraction of our neighbors, in many places a controlling fraction, has abandoned the very notion of pluralism at the heart of the American experiment. As if e pluribus unum were some sort of crypto-Kenyan incantation against their personal freedom. For many across this country yet unconscious of it, metastasized capitalism and Randian teen fantasies of male dominance have brewed up a debased America that serves patriotism à la carte, an America for me but not for thee. Where government exists to stay out of my life and to keep Others in their place. Donald Trump is their patron saint.

Cooperation and communitarianism is replaced with dominance politics, not only among conservatives, but a sliver of the American left that has abandoned faith. Among Christian conservatives who long ago accepted as dogma that the country and its framework were handed to them by the Almighty, their own religious liberty is the only religious liberty government exists to protect. Recognition that non-Christian faiths and non-faiths fall under the same constitutional is "increasingly cast as bristling religious animus or even hate speech."

Across the country, GOP-led state legislators have abandoned any pretense of regard for equal representation, opting for voter suppression tactics and radical gerrymandering to keep democracy from unmaking their rule. Inside the Beltway, the anti-vaxxers of public policy with their crackpot economics and science denial, have set about deconstructing the state that nurtured them.

The Trump administration and its enablers have climbed out on a limb and begun sawing it off. The question at hand is whether the falling branch will take the rest of us with them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today's the day he decided to issue a warning to anyone who crosses him

by digby

The president seems to believe that the job of the Attorney General is to cover up for the president:

This latest NY Times interview is astonishing:

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

While the interview touched on an array of issues, including health care, foreign affairs and politics, the investigation dominated the conversation. He said that as far as he knew, he was not under investigation himself, despite reports that Mr. Mueller is looking at whether the president obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey.

“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” he said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Describing a newly disclosed informal conversation he had with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a dinner of world leaders in Germany earlier this month, Mr. Trump said they talked for about 15 minutes, mostly about “pleasantries.” But Mr. Trump did say that they talked “about adoptions.” Mr. Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children in 2012 after the United States enacted sanctions on Russians accused of human rights abuses, an issue that remains a sore point in relations with Moscow.

Mr. Trump acknowledged that it was “interesting” that adoptions came up since his son, Donald Trump Jr., said that was the topic of a meeting he had with several Russians with ties to the Kremlin during last year’s campaign. Even though emails show that the session had been set up to pass along incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, the president said he did not need such material from Russia about Mrs. Clinton last year because he already had more than enough.

But Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key Cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not met with any Russians even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

Here's he accuses Comey of blackmailing him --- by briefing him on the Steele dossier:

The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey, whose dismissal has become a central issue for critics who said it amounts to an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and any possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s team.

Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The F.B.I. has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier.

In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believes Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,’’ Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”

The president dismissed the assertions in the dossier: “When he brought it to me, I said this is really, made-up junk. I didn’t think about any of it. I just thought about man, this is such a phony deal.”

Mr. Comey declined to comment on Wednesday.

But Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials decided it was best for him to raise the subject with Mr. Trump alone because he was going to remain as F.B.I. director. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that he disclosed the details of the dossier to Mr. Trump because he thought that the media would soon be publishing details from it and that Mr. Trump had a right to know what information was out there about him.

Mr. Trump rebutted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

Here's where he goes after Mueller:

Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a longtime former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.

“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominately Democratic city.

He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”

As for Andrew G. McCabe, the acting F.B.I. director, the president suggested that he too had a conflict. Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received nearly $500,000 in 2015 during a losing campaign for the Virginia state Senate from a political action committee affiliated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Rosenstein lives in Bethesda, not Baltimore.

And here we have him talking about the 2nd meeting with Putin:

In his first description of his dinnertime conversation with Mr. Putin at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Trump downplayed its significance. He said his wife, Melania, was seated next to Mr. Putin at the other end of a table filled with world leaders.

“The meal was going toward dessert,’’ he said. “I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.”

He noted the adoption issue came up in the June 2016 meeting between his son and Russian visitors. “I actually talked about Russian adoption with him,’’ he said, meaning Mr. Putin. “Which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting.”

But the president repeated that he did not know about his son’s meeting at the time and added that he did not need the Russians to provide damaging information about Mrs. Clinton.

“There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying,” he said. “Unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.”

"Adoptions" means sanctions. He talked to him about sanctions. Privately, with no record of what was said.

And, oh, by the way, today it was announced that we're pulling our support for the rebels who are fighting against Assad, Russia's ally in Syria.

I don't know what to say anymore. He's at war with the entire Justice Department and the Intelligence agencies and he seems to be threatening to fire anyone who crosses him.

Is this the new normal? Is this America?


Thug in chief

by digby

HuffPost Hill:

PETULANT BULLYING HAVING FAILED, TRUMP TURNS TO … … more petulant bullying. Marina Fang: “President Donald Trump used a lunch with Republican senators Wednesday to jokingly threaten vulnerable GOP lawmakers who have opposed recent Senate attempts at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. ‘The other night, I was very surprised when I heard a couple of my friends — my friends,’ Trump said, looking around at the senators in the room. ‘They really were — and are.’ ‘They might not be very much longer, but that’s OK,’ he added. Seated next to Trump at the lunch was Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is up for re-election next year. ‘This was the one we were worried about,’ Trump said, turning to Heller. ‘Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?’ Heller laughed uncomfortably.

Truly nauseating:

In case you were wondering, the new CBO report on the bill Mitch McConnell is bringing up for a vote next week --- the same bill that Obama vetoed in 2015:

”Thirty-two million fewer people would have health coverage, health insurance premiums would double and the insurance market would destabilize over the next 10 years under legislation the Senate may take up next week, according to a report the Congressional Budget Office published Wednesday…. About three-quarters of the country’s population would live in geographic areas with no health insurance providers by 2026, the report says.”

Sounds good. Cull the herd.

Where the jobs at?

by digby

Oh heck:

Donald Trump brokered a deal to keep roughly 1,000 jobs at a facility in Indiana from moving to Mexico. But it failed to live up to the hype while other firms have quietly continued to outsource — a trend that drained the state of 5,000 manufacturing jobs since February. For example, reports on former workers of Manitowoc Beverage Systems show many have been unable to find gigs as good as the ones they lost after the firm shipped 84 jobs to Mexico.

His photo-op at the Carrier plant didn't really work out:

President Trump touted his deal to save jobs at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis last year as a win for the American manufacturing industry.

But that victory didn't even extend to everyone at the factory.

Thursday marks the last day for more than 300 Carrier employees whose jobs have been eliminated in favor of outsourcing to Mexico.

It's the first round of cuts at the plant, which last year epitomized the working-class grievances that Trump swore to fix.

Is it possible that Donald Trump is full of shit? Say it ain't so!


Poor lil' rich boys

by digby

The boyz are unhappy. Waaaah.

According to a new report in People Magazine, friends of the Trump family revealed the president’s sons Don Jr. and Eric are miserable and want the next three years to be over.

In a family guided by their father’s need to win and avoid admitting mistakes, friends noticed when Don Jr. agreed he would have “done things a little differently” with the campaign meeting between higher-ups and Russian contacts.

“He doesn’t like failure and mistakes, and he doesn’t accept them,” one source who has done business with Trump told People. “You have to justify your existence to be in his realm.”

The ones who are most in his “realm,” however, are his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who have offices in the West Wing of the White House because Trump likes to keep their counsel close. For the children now heading up the Trump Organization, the transition to a larger spotlight has been a difficult one and they’re having a difficult time adjusting.

Most weekends Trump Jr. leaves Manhattan for a cabin in upstate New York with his wife and their five children. He can also be spotted at the Riverside Cafe in Roscoe, New York, where the manager claims Trump Jr. is a good person and doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. “He never has his hair slicked back like he does on TV,” the manager said.

The spotlight also brings about annoying transparencies for him.

“Don can’t do any deals because he’ll be overly scrutinized. He just goes to work every day and is miserable,” said one source in the boys’ circle.

It's not over yet boys. And you both are right in the middle of all this. Fasten your seatbelts.

Unsolicited advice for GOP Senators

by digby

I don't usually do this. But here is a free bit of advice for Mitch McConnell and his Senate soldiers:

When Trump says that Republican senators must keep their health care promise to the American people, tell him to send them his "real change that once again puts Americans first,that begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare that will deliver such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy" plan.

Promise to look at it carefully and if it meets all those criteria you'll write it up and send it back to him for signature.

You're welcome.

About those tax returns

by digby


Also, all the lying about Russia.


Rah, rah Rasputin. Bannon's Russian connection

by digby

I wrote about Bannon for Salon today:

A few days ago, I noted that Steve Bannon seems to be the only member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle untouched by the Russia scandal, which is one reason that President Trump has turned to him to run his war room to fight all the “fake news” about Russia. He’s taken to the task with relish, apparently. According to an excerpt of “Devil’s Bargain,” the new book by Joshua Green about the Bannon-Trump relationship, Bannon is particularly focused on destroying the reputation of special prosecutor Robert Mueller. We haven’t seen any results as yet, but we can be sure he’s working on it.

But just because Bannon isn’t tainted by the current Russia scandal, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t any Russia connection.That seems to be almost a requirement in this administration. Indeed, Bannon has been called Trump’s Rasputin by more than a few observers and there’s a good reason for it. He’s got a lot in common with the famous mystic that goes beyond the fact that they are both known for their slovenly appearance and lack of normal social graces.

As usual, the media is busy pulling out the juicy quotes from Green’s book. And Green does seem to have had amazing access to many people, most especially Bannon himself whom he apparently interviewed at length. For instance, Green reported that “when Trump came under fire because his campaign hadn’t produced a single policy paper, Bannon arranged for [aide Sam] Nunberg and Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit, to quickly write a white paper on Trump’s immigration policies. When the campaign released it, Coulter, without disclosing her role, tweeted that it was ‘the greatest political document since the Magna Carta.'”

Think about that. They actually called on Ann Coulter to write a policy paper on immigration.

Bannon is also quoted calling House speaker Paul Ryan a “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” when he heard that Ryan was being floated as a possible replacement for Trump in the event of a contested GOP convention. It’s a colorful insult but it’s imprecise. Paul Ryan wasn’t born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation; he was spawned in the kitchen sink of the Ayn Rand institute. They are on related shores of the conservative movement fever swamp but they aren’t the same, and Bannon knows that. He gave a scathing critique of Rand’s Objectivism in a notorious speech he delivered to the Human Dignity Institute in 2014, a conservative Christian group that promotes the “Christian voice” in European politics. He said:

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism . . . that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost — as many of the precepts of Marx — and that is a form of capitalism, particularly to a younger generation [that] they’re really finding quite attractive. And if they don’t see another alternative, it’s going to be an alternative that they gravitate to under this kind of rubric of “personal freedom.”

It’s a little bit difficult to sort out exactly what Bannon does believe since he’s definitely a populist and nationalist. Mostly, it seems, he’s a sort of spiritualist, like the Russian Rasputin. According to Green, Bannon’s most important influences are René Guénon, a French writer whose 1929 book “The Crisis of the Modern World” stated that everything started to go to hell in 1312 when the Knights Templar were destroyed; and Julius Evola, an Italian writer whose 1934 book, “Revolt Against the Modern World,” influenced Mussolini. Interestingly, that book was also a seminal work for the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, Vladimir Putin’s most influential ideologue, and the man who once called Steve Bannon his ideological soulmate.

Alexandra Nemtsova at the Daily Beast reported:

According to Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Russian SOVA, a Moscow-based NGO monitoring ultra-nationalist groups, “Dugin is talking about creating some new cross-cultural nation of anti-Atlantic, traditional ideology—his theory often sounds like a pretty fascist approach. He said and wrote a lot, calling for a war in Ukraine; many Russian nationalists who listened or read Dugin’s texts actually joined the insurgencies in Ukraine afterward.”

So, while Bannon may not have any direct association with the current Russia scandals, in some ways he’s the one member of the administration who genuinely a close ideological affiliation with that country’s leader.

Bannon’s Weltanschauung is that we are living in a dark dystopian period of cultural disintegration and loss of tradition in which the West is in sharp, perilous decline. He is not an upbeat guy. His philosophy meshes nicely with Trump’s more shallow “get off my lawn” nostalgia, and plays well to the anxieties and insecurities of people for whom the modern world is changing much too fast.

Green recounted an episode late in the campaign in which Trump ran a TV ad full of anti-Semitic imagery. It was foul and many people complained. “Darkness is good, don’t let up,” Bannon told Trump.

Green told NPR, “the kind of tragic, Shakespearean irony of the Donald Trump-Steve Bannon relationship is that Bannon finally did find the vessel for his ideas who could get elected president . . . [but who] now doesn’t have the focus, the wherewithal, the self-control to even do the basic things that a president needs to do.”

Thank goodness for small favors.

Follow the money laundering, Part 2

by Tom Sullivan

Back in four-spark-plugs-and-a-distributor days, I had both the time and (marginal) talent for fixing my own cars. But I noticed I had a propensity to diagnose simple problems as more complicated and expensive ones. That vibration I feared was an early sign of transmission trouble would end up being from a bad motor mount. That persistent burning smell was not my wiring harness threatening to catch fire, just a plastic grocery bag melted onto the catalytic converter. Occam's razor is your friend.

So it may be with our assumptions about the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. On that, Sean Illing at Vox interviewed Seva Gunitsky, a political science professor at the University of Toronto and author of "Aftershocks." Gunitsky has followed Trump's connections to Russia. They go back decades. To understand Trump and Russia, simply follow the money. And/or the money laundering.

The Vox interview took place prior to the news yesterday that the eighth man in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. is Irakly Kaveladze, described as an accused Russian money launderer connected to Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov.

What is at stake for Trump could be money Russians have poured into his properties and casinos, "hundreds of millions of dollars. Possibly even enough to keep Trump out of another bankruptcy." The Magnitsky Act speculation is leading nowhere, Gunitsky says. Putin's involvement might be overstated. We should be looking instead at the Prevezon case:

So Prevezon is a holding company with links to Russian elites that has been accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars through New York City real estate. It's also part of Hermitage Capital, an investment fund that was being investigated by Magnitsky (the Russian lawyer who was killed in a Moscow prison in 2009) more than 10 years ago.

Prevezon was part of this giant tax fraud scheme that Magnitsky uncovered in 2008, which led to his death and which led indirectly to the Magnitsky Act of 2012. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was also preparing a massive case against Prevezon last year. Until it was abruptly dropped.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney in the June 9 meeting, was Prevezon’s lawyer, Gunitsky continues. It may be that she was there to ask for help with that in exchange for campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Several months after Trump takes office, the Prevezon case is dismissed. So what happened? The U.S. attorney was carefully preparing a case against Prevezon Holdings. They were all set to go forward, and then suddenly the case was settled. Prevezon's own lawyers were kind of shocked. We know they paid something like $6 million, which is a fraction of what the lawsuit was about. So they were extremely happy about it.

Congressional Democrats have openly expressed concerns about what happened here. They want to know why it was settled so quickly. Was pressure being applied from above? In any case, we can see the possible motivations of the people approaching Trump for favors. When I say the collusion starts with financial interests, this is what I mean.
Illing links to last week's Foreign Policy examination of how the settlement came soon after the Trump Justice Department fired Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who brought the case. And two days before it was to go to trial:
The civil forfeiture case was filed in 2013 by Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — who was fired by Trump in March. The case alleged that 11 companies were involved in a tax fraud in Russia and then laundered a portion of the $230 million they got into Manhattan real estate.
The deep financial ties had been there for decades. It is not that Putin does not have parallel political interests. It is just that when Trump made waves politically, Gunitsky explaines, Putin and the Kremlin saw a target of opportunity aligned with the interests of the oligarchs, of which Putin is the principal one. Besides, "in Russia the distinction between political power and economic power is very fuzzy."

Trump's consistent pro-Russian posture, he explains, is simpler than collusion (or treachery). It stems from Trump's consistent fixation on making money and the size of his stash.

Besides himself, money is the one thing Trump believes in.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The money link

by digby

Like every other political writer, I've made the observation that the most likely reason for Trump's oddly out-of-character approach to Russia is the fact that he's likely in hock up to his ears to Russian mobsters and oligarchs. That's not to say he doesn't love him a handsome strongman too. And it's also completely plausible that the Russian government has put the squeeze on him in any number of ways as well as helped him to win the election with his full knowledge. I'm prepared to believe any of that as the evidence emerges. Right now we have a whole lot of evidence of something but the dots aren't yet completely connected.

The money connection is the most likely to bear fruit and this interview with a Russia expert at Vox is also worth reading. His view is that while there's ample evidence that there was a political motive behind the Russian interference in the election, and they aren't mutually exclusive, the relationship between Trump and the oligarchs is what made it possible rather than some ideological kinship.

Again, we don't know really. But there is something there and it's corrupt no matter which angle you take.

Update: Nothing to see here folks.

An accused Russian money launderer representing a Kremlin-friendly oligarch has been reportedly identified as the eighth person at a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. last June.

Irakly Kaveladze was a guest of Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya when she visited Trump and other campaign members in Trump Tower last year, Trump’s lawyer told CNN. The meeting was proposed by billionaire Russian real-estate developer Aras Agalarov. The billionaire is friendly with President Donald Trump, having hosted his Miss Universe 2013 pageant in Moscow and discussed real-estate deals with Trump.

The June 9, 2016 meeting was originally characterized by Trump Jr. as "primarily...about the adoption of Russian children." It was then revealed to have aso been about Agalarov providing “damaging information” on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. Joining Trump in the meeting were his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The eight visitors included Rob Goldstone, the manager of Agalarov’s pop-star son who reached out to Trump; Veselnitskaya, the lawyer with ties to Russian officials who lobbied the U.S. on behalf of Kremlin interests; her translator, Anatoli Samochornov; Veselnitskaya’s D.C.-based lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, who was once accused of an international hacking conspiracy; and Kaveladze.

Kaveladze is an executive of Crocus Group, Agalarov’s Russian-based development company. Kaveladze’s LinkedIn page says he began working for Crocus Group in 2004, but a Russian webpage for the Economic Chronicle says he started in 1992 as Crocus’ U.S. associate. Kaveladze immigrated to the U.S. from the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 1991.

Federal investigators say Kaveladze immediately began laundering money for Russians..

read on ...

Update: The case the Vox interviewee refers to in the Southern District of New York ( not the district attorney as he says) was probably settled legitimately by the US Attorney that succeeded Preet Bharara, at least according to this. Apparently, all these Russians in Trump's orbit have suspicious financial dealings but not to the point the government believes it can get a conviction.


Mitch has a pout and whine

by digby

Over in bizarroworld, Mitch agrees with Don that the mean Democrats ruined everything:


Gobsmacking bombshell of the day (so far)

by digby

I just ... wow:

President Trump held a second, informal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, according to Ian Bremmer, the president of the international consulting firm Eurasia Group.

The meeting took place during the G-20 heads of state dinner, according to Bremmer, hours after Trump's formal bilateral sit-down with Putin.

In that conversation, Trump spoke with the Russian leader for roughly an hour, joined only by Putin's translator. The meeting had previously gone without mention by the White House.

Trump's interactions with Putin are the subject of particularly intense scrutiny in the U.S., because of the ongoing special counsel and congressional investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

That Trump was not joined in the conversation by his own translator is a breach of national security protocol, Bremmer noted, though one that the president likely would not know about.

I'm just:

A very tarnished silver lining

by digby


Congressional expert, Stan Collender:

The GOP's numerical majority is not an ideological majority, and the collapse of the health care debate shows definitively that Senate (and probably House) Republicans are anything but ideologically aligned on major issues.

We were all told and believed something different, of course.

In their euphoria after the 2016 elections, the Trump administration and the congressional Republican leadership made it clear that everything from ACA repeal to tax reform to infrastructure would be a slam dunk because the GOP majorities in the House and Senate would move quickly to get everything done. The subtext was that they were together, unified and determined.

We now know that's just not true: Congressional Republicans are so divided that the White House's and leadership's original promise of quick, definitive action was the height of political hubris. The GOP's divisions on at least the major issues are much larger than the size of their majorities in both houses of Congress.

The Trump administration's arrogance is somewhat understandable given its political inexperience and unsophistication, but it's absolutely unforgivable from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

McConnell is an experienced legislator who is generally considered to be an excellent strategist. He should have known from the start that his 52 Republican senators would not be willing to sacrifice their parochial interests for a political win. He wouldn't have a majority for anything on health care if it was a GOP-only effort.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is now showing McConnell-like political arrogance on the budget, tax reform and the debt ceiling increase that will be needed this fall. Ryan's 24-seat GOP majority will be as inadequate on those issues as McConnell's 2-seat majority was on ACA repeal and replace, and McConnell's 2-seat margin is almost certain to fail him again and again on these same fights.

Trump has already shown that his political arrogance is part of his DNA rather than just naivete. In a tweet this morning, the president showed what by now is his usual level of braggadocio.

If Ryan and McConnell do the same, the entire Republican legislative agenda that up-to-now has been so arrogantly projected to to be a sure thing will fail.

God, let's hope so.


He's basically decided to metaphorically "take out the families" and "bomb the shit out of" Americans.

by digby

The dealmaker in chief said this today:
I've been saying for a long time, 'let Obamacare fail' and then everybody's going to have to come together and fix it and come up with a new plan and a plan that really good for the people with much lower premiums,much lower cost and much better protection. I've been saying for a long time, 'let Obamacare fail' it will be a lot easier.

That's what he calls leadership. He also said:

This would be per usual. Trump has never "owned" anything in his life. Every move he makes is designed to ensure that someone else is blamed for his own failures. Which are legion.

He is a cynical, cynical creep. Recall this from January when he first proposed this "let Obamacare explode" plan and said that he'd decided against it because of the human suffering.

Apparently, he's now decided that the people who suffer are collateral damage.

He's basically decided to metaphorically "take out the families" and "bomb the shit out of" Americans.


Oooooh. A new foreigner to hate!

by digby

This is direct from the European alt-right. The Roma are one of their favorite punching bags.

Don't relax. They'll never stop trying to repeal it.

by digby

I wrote about the health care debacle for Salon today:

It appears that the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is dead, at least for now. Donald Trump’s unrealistic, grandiose promise will go unfulfilled.

That didn’t work out. After weeks of prevarication and misdirection on the part of people like Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who went on TV last weekend and blatantly lied about the effects of the Senate health care bill, on Monday night two GOP senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, pulled the plug by saying they could not vote for it. Added to the previously announced no votes of Sens. Susan Collins and Rand Paul, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now at least two short. He has admitted that this bill will not pass.

We’ve been here before, of course. The first House bill was pulled and they came back and passed an even worse version. This may not end the way everyone seems to assume it will either.

Both Trump and McConnell acknowledged that the Senate’s BCRA is dead and signaled their support for a “full repeal plus two-year delay until they figure out what the hell is going on” plan. It is not impossible that they could put something else together.

After all, the reasons three of the four senators gave for their unwillingness to pass the bill is that it just wasn’t harsh enough. Repeal and replace with nothing would undoubtedly make them quite happy. That would leave the handful of Republican moderates in the Senate having to do something only Collins has so far been willing to do: take a stand for decency. Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio, John Hoeven of North Dakota and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have all said that they won’t vote to deny people health insurance. But there’s always a chance they can be appeased with the two-year delay and a fatuous promise to fix everything before then. Nobody should relax until it’s clear that this is all well and truly dead.

This repeal-and-delay plan was originally proposed back at the beginning of the year but faced a huge uproar, mostly from the health care industry, which cannot run its businesses with this kind of uncertainty about the financing, rules and regulations under which they must operate. A handful of senators balked at the time, including Bob Corker of Tennessee and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who said, “I don’t think we can repeal Obamacare and say we’re going to get the answer two years from now.” Both Paul and Collins were against it too, as were many of the Republican governors who also have to plan their budgets.

But what really scared them off at that time was public opinion. Only 20 percent of Americans were in favor of repeal-and-delay five months ago. It’s hard to imagine that after they’ve seen what kind of horrendous plans the Republicans tried to ram through the Congress they’ll be more favorably disposed today. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans prefer Democrats to handle health care by 55 to 36 percent.

The Republican leadership exemplified by House Speaker Paul Ryan thought they had come up with a clever way to have their cake and eat it too. If they could repeal the Affordable Care Act and then take their big victory lap, that might satisfy their base that they were getting things done — after which they could pretend they were creating some kind of “new” health care system that would kick in gradually. The simple fact was that they had no idea how to cover the people who are currently covered under the ACA and they knew it. Their best hope was to ease people back into their previous anxiety and despair and blame Obamacare for it.

Donald Trump has said many times that he believes the best political move would be to keep Obamacare in place and help it fail, so he and his party could blame the Democrats. If Republicans can drag this out a couple of years and guilt Democratic lawmakers into signing on to some inadequate Band-aids in order to spare a few lives, that would really be sweet.

It will also be sweet for the Democrats when they run ads against every House Republican who voted for that AHCA atrocity under the assurance that they would “fix it in the Senate.” If the Democrats do manage to eke out a new House majority it will be the health care albatross that brings down the GOP. They can name him Donald.

But whether Republicans manage to push through repeal-and-delay or just drop it altogether, liberals and progressives need to reckon with the fact that this is not the end. There will never be an end.

Republicans have been trying to destroy the American safety net for decades. They’ve been hostile to Medicare and Medicaid since the day they were passed. They’ve been running against Social Security for 82 years. (They just tried to privatize it in 2005!) They will never stop attacking the ACA either.

This isn’t just about profits or ” free markets.” Consider that this Senate bill was opposed by all the so-called stakeholders: the insurance companies, the hospitals, doctors and even big business. It still has 48 out of 52 votes in the Senate. Conservatives simply do not believe that people have a right to health care. They see it as a commodity like any other, something which you should not have if you cannot pay for it.

By way of crude illustration, recall when libertarian godhead Rep. Ron Paul ran for president in 2008. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked him during a debate what an uninsured man who became catastrophically ill and needed intensive care for six months should do. Paul replied, “What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself. That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody …” The audience then erupted into cheers, cutting off Paul’s sentence. Blitzer followed up by asking “Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” Members of the audience clapped and shouted “Yeah!”

Or there was this remarkable moment from an Obamacare town hall in 2009:

The sainted Ronald Reagan made his name speaking out against “socialized medicine” for years, memorably warning that if the government passed Medicare, we were all “going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Nobody who believes that human beings have a right to a government guarantee of health care, security in their old age and society’s support should they be unable to work should ever rest on their laurels. Those who don’t agree will never stop trying to take those things away.


They had seven years. Now they want two more.

by Tom Sullivan

Late Monday, Republican senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas announced jointly they would not support a motion to proceed on the unpopular Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), a.k.a. Trumpcare. They joined Sens. Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) who previously announced their opposition.

By jumping together, Lee and Moran shielded themselves from the worst of the potential backlash from leadership for being the "third" vote to trigger the bill's failure. But with Arizona Sen. John McCain sidelined by surgery for at least a week, the bill was already sucking wind. Moran called for a "fresh start."

Moran heard little support for the bill among rural Kansans over the July 4th break, and worried that the steep cuts to Medicaid could harm rural hospitals. Lee tweeted that Americans deserved "a real repeal bill."

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was already teetering on the edge of pulling the plug himself. Johnson already announced this as his last term and, after the National Republican Senate Committee pulled the plug on his campaign early in October, he has little incentive for being a good soldier. He won without their help, drawing 70,000 more votes than Trump; he owes Trump no allegiance for winning on coattails.

Nevertheless, landing page headlines for the online editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post disagree on whether this means Trumpcare is finished. NYT: New Defections Signal End for Health Bill. WaPo: Opposition from two more GOP senators spells potential end for health-care overhaul.

The potential is for this fight to continue. Director George Romero of zombie fame died over the weekend. More than Bram Stoker, soap operas, and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, Romero popularized the idea that dead is not necessarily dead. After the defections, President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately arose to call for a clean repeal vote:

"Regretfully, it's now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," McConnell said in a statement. "So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care."
The GOP had seven years to come up with an Obamacare replacement. Now they want two more. Give us two more years and we'll come back with "something terrific" and "wonderful" as Trump promised. Two more years of uncertainty for insurance companies and governors trying to plan and budget for the future. Two more years of Americans wondering when the improvements on Obamacare and cost-lowering they were promised will arrive. Two more years wondering when the rug might get yanked out from under them.

McConnell had told colleagues privately not to worry about the Medicaid cuts in the bill. Johnson considered this a breach of trust:
McConnell is telling them " 'Don't worry about it. Those are too far in the future. Those will never happen,' " Johnson told reporters about McConnell's pitch. "All I can say is I confirmed that talking to other senators."
Now he expects his caucus to vote for two more years of "Trust us"? Does that mean two more years of Democrats waiting for Republicans ultimately to fail?

Cliff Schecter tweeted:

You can't fight something with nothing even if what the Republicans have is nothing.


A Much Better Summer Project 

by tristero

Dear David Leonhardt,

For a summer project, you propose:
Pick an issue that you find complicated, and grapple with it. 
Choose one on which you’re legitimately torn or harbor secret doubts. Read up on it. Don’t rush to explain away inconvenient evidence. 
Then do something truly radical: Consider changing your mind, at least partially.

I have a better idea:

Spend the summer learning how ordinary citizens can effectively resist autocracy.

Then do it.



PS Liberals don't need to be reminded to grapple with complicated issues and to change their minds when the facts warrant doing so. That's simply what they do.

Monday, July 17, 2017

'Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me? Am I a f***ing baby, Paul?'

by digby

Actually he is like a baby.

New gossip:
Author Joshua Green, a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, writes that Christie had run against Trump for the Republican Presidential candidacy but quit in February last year after the New Hampshire primary.

The next month he shocked the Republican establishment by endorsing Trump and began leading his White House transition team.

According to 'Devil's Bargain', Trump was in his War Room on election night when it started to look like he would pull of his shock victory.

The book says that 'although he was surrounded by friends, aides and family members, there seemed to be a force field around him that discouraged a direct approach'.

Friends started congratulating Mike Pence instead and saluting him as 'Mr Vice President'.

Trump sat down to 'absorb the gravity of what was happening' and a moment later Christie 'burst through the force field and sat next to him'.

Christie said: 'Hey Donald. The President talked to me earlier' - the two had gotten to know each other after Superstorm Sandy. Christie said: 'If you win he's going to call my phone, and I'll pass it over to you'.

Trump 'flashed a look of annoyance, clearly resenting the intrusion' and was repulsed by the idea of having somebody else's phone next to his face.

Trump told Christie: 'Hey Chris, you know my f***ing phone number. Just give it to the President. I don't want your f***ing phone'.

Aides said that Christie's move was the 'ultimate mistake' and one from which he 'wouldn't recover'.

Supposedly, it was because he is a germophobe and doesn't like to handle other peoples phones.

The book also says he didn't fire either Christie or Manafort himself --- he had Kushner do it.

Manafort was hired by Trump as a campaign adviser last March but five months later, by which time he was the campaign manager, he was already out of favor.

The final straw was when the New York Times published a scathing article titled: 'Inside the Failing Mission to Tame Donald Trump's Tongue' which claimed aides were using TV interviews to give him their message rather than face to face meetings.

Rebekah Mercer, part of the family which had spent $3.4 million on Trump's campaign, told him that 'this thing is over if you don't make a change fast'.

Trump admitted: 'It's bad' but Mercer told him: 'No, it's not bad - it's over, unless you make a change'.

She told him to bring in Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and PR executive, and Trump agreed.

The following day at the National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump assembled his staff: Christie, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes, Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. 
Kushner and Trump's daughter Ivanka were away on a yachting trip in Croatia.

Trump shouted at Manafort: 'How can anybody allow an article that says your campaign is all f***ed up? 
'You think you've gotta go on TV to talk to me? You treat me like a baby!

'Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me? Am I a f***ing baby, Paul?' 
The room 'fell silent', 'Devil's Bargain' says.

Manafort's dismissal was hastened by a New York Times article that ran the next day saying that he had been paid $12.7 million from a pro Russian party from Ukraine.

Manafort had not only kept this secret from Trump but he had not even told his wife who 'leaped up from the couch in fury' when she she found out, the book claims.

Aides said that the story was the 'kill shot' for Manafort and that later that week when Kushner returned from vacation he told him:: 'We've really got a problem here. You're going to have to step down'.

Manafort objected because it would 'look like I'm guilty', the book says.

Kushner pressed him and said it 'would be helpful if you stepped down'.

Manafort resisted and said: 'Yes, but I can't do that'.

The book says: 'At this Kushner's demeanour hardened and he glanced at his watch. 'We're putting out a press release at 9am that says you've resigned. That's in 30 seconds'.

So Kushner got to off his enemy Christie. One can't help but wonder if Manafort has some tales to tell about his enemy Kushner.

Sad, sad Spicey

by digby

How much more can he debase himself I wonder?

White House press secretary Sean Spicer returned to the podium to brief reporters on Monday, but the briefing remained off camera and out of the public eye.

The White House has not held a televised briefing since June 29. It was Spicer’s first time addressing reporters in the briefing room since June 26.

Here are the key moments from his return to the podium, which lasted about 30 minutes.

Spicer defended Donald Trump Jr.'s decision to meet a Russian lawyer last year in hopes of collecting opposition research about Hillary Clinton.

But his defense of the meeting became convoluted.

“It is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is, that’s what simply he did,” Spicer said. “The president’s made it clear through his tweet. And there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.”

Emails released by Trump Jr. show that the meeting was planned with the intention of obtaining damaging information about Clinton.

That is just pathetic.

And then there's this:

Spicer defended Trump's family members for manufacturing some products overseas, despite the fact that this is Made in America week at the White House.

“There are certain things that we may not have the capacity to do here in terms of having a plant or a factory that can do it,” Spicer said. “Some industries, some products may not have the scalability or the demand here in this country. … Think about all of the things that we buy everyday, of course there’s a market because we depend in this country for so many goods and services, some of which are made in America, some of which aren’t.”

“Obviously we want to create an environment in which more things are made here, more things are exported from here,” he added.


"Watergate was what it was"

by digby

I highly recommend this interview with Elizabeth Drew by Susan Glasser at Politico Magazine. Drew wrote one of the seminal books about Watergate called "Washington Journals" which everyone should read if you want to to see how that scandal unfolded in real time. She's watching the Trump scandals today with keen interest although she notes that times have changed and our political system is in a very different place making it much more difficult for it to function as it was intended.

“Watergate was what it was,” as Drew puts it.

Then again, not all of those conclusions could have been foreseen at the time. Back in 1974, Drew points out, the country seemed hopelessly divided into what we would now call Red and Blue America and everyone bemoaned what they saw as an unprecedented rift in the national polity. “I think if I had said then that Washington is going to get meaner and more partisan, people would have said, ‘I can’t believe that. That’s not going to happen,’“ Drew says.

But nonetheless that’s how it looks to her now—or even worse. At least, she says, Watergate showed that accountability was possible, and Congress could function the way the founders intended—a question that is still up in the air in the Trump era. “It was a very different kind of politics then. Bipartisanship was not the oddity. It was really the norm.”

And, 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.

But a lot of what Drew has to say—and what re-reading her book in today’s Washington reinforces—is relevant both to Watergate-era D.C. and to the undoubtedly more noxious, and indisputably cruder, politics of Trump’s capital.

Three takeaways seem especially relevant as we wait to see what the Trump scandals will bring—and whether those who believe this presidency can’t possibly go on a full four years will be vindicated, or simply shown to be victims of liberal establishment wishful thinking, trapped in Watergate nostalgia because it offers a four-decade-old template for ousting an unpopular Republican president.

First, and perhaps most important, nothing in politics is inevitable. In hindsight, Watergate seemed like it had to result in Nixon’s ouster—but as Drew’s book shows, even days before the House Judiciary Committee voted on its historic articles of impeachment, key Republican members of Congress told her they weren’t sure they could really go through with it. As the tumultuous summer of 1974 played out, there were times when it even seemed, according to Drew’s sources, that Nixon might ride it out.

Second is that Congress remains the crucial check on the executive when dealing with presidential overreach—and all its hidden weaknesses, or strengths, will be revealed in such a crisis. House Judiciary Chairman Peter Rodino is in many ways the hero of Drew’s tale, and in particular she praises him for running the impeachment process with the explicit goal of capturing the Democratic-controlled committee’s center—and corralling enough Republican votes to convince the public a bipartisan process had been held. “These politicians rose to it,” she recalls of a moment quite different from the politics that would face a GOP-controlled Congress today in dealing with allegations involving a Republican president. “I don’t know if they’re capable of it again, but they really did.”

Finally, never underestimate presidential hubris—or just plain stupidity.

“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.”

Read the whole thing. I have to say that one of the most astonishing aspects of this Trump presidency to me is the idea that we may very well have two such outrageously corrupt presidents in my lifetime. The system survived one but I don't know if we'll make it through this one. It's almost as if this has happened on a continuum in which the polarization and sorting of the two parties inevitably would lead to sheer partisan power usurping the institutions that were built up through the centuries.

Polling number OTD

by digby

They will follow him anywhere.

Now imagine if he really decides to go rogue.

I know.
Trump's herrenvolk

by digby

I'm sick to death of reading about Trump voters as if they are the holy grail of politics. They are a distinct minority of people in this country and just because they managed to eke out a win for their malignant leader doesn't mean that we have to hang on their every word.

Having said that, this article by Peter Hessler in the New Yorker about the Trump voters in rural Colorado is quite interesting. The angle is how Trump is transforming rural culture in America. Here's a short excerpt:

Last October, three weeks before the election, Donald Trump visited Grand Junction for a rally in an airport hangar. Along with other members of the press, I was escorted into a pen near the back, where a metal fence separated us from the crowd. At that time, some prominent polls showed Clinton leading by more than ten percentage points, and Trump often claimed that the election might be rigged. During the rally he said, “There’s a voter fraud also with the media, because they so poison the minds of the people by writing false stories.” He pointed in our direction, describing us as “criminals,” among other things: “They’re lying, they’re cheating, they’re stealing! They’re doing everything, these people right back here!”

The attacks came every few minutes, and they served as a kind of tether to the speech. The material could have drifted off into abstraction—e-mails, Benghazi, the Washington swamp. But every time Trump pointed at the media, the crowd turned, and by the end people were screaming and cursing at us. One man tried to climb over the barrier, and security guards had to drag him away.

Such behavior is out of character for residents of rural Colorado, where politeness and public decency are highly valued. Erin McIntyre, a Grand Junction native who works for the Daily Sentinel, the local paper, stood in the crowd, where the people around her screamed at the journalists: “Lock them up!” “Hang them all!” “Electric chair!” Afterward, McIntyre posted a description of the event on Facebook. “I thought I knew Mesa County,” she wrote. “That’s not what I saw yesterday. And it scared me.”

Before Trump took office, people I met in Grand Junction emphasized pragmatic reasons for supporting him. The economy was in trouble, and Trump was a businessman who knew how to make rational, profit-oriented decisions. Supporters almost always complained about some aspect of his character, but they also believed that these flaws were likely to help him succeed in Washington. “I’m not voting for him to be my pastor,” Kathy Rehberg, a local real-estate agent, said. “I’m voting for him to be President. If I have rats in my basement, I’m going to try to find the best rat killer out there. I don’t care if he’s ugly or if he’s sociable. All I care about is if he kills rats.”

“Don’t worry, we only went out once. I never saw him naked—not until now, of course.”

After the turbulent first two months of the Administration, I met again with Kathy Rehberg and her husband, Ron. They were satisfied with Trump’s performance, and their complaints about his behavior were mild. “I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. Over time, such remarks became more common. “I hate to say it, but I wake up in the morning looking forward to what else is coming,” Ray Scott, a Republican state senator who had campaigned for Trump, told me in June. One lawyer said bluntly, “I get a kick in the ass out of him.” The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office. “For those of us who believe that the media has been corrupt for a lot of years, it’s a way of poking at the jellyfish,” Karen Kulp told me in late April. “Just to make them mad.”

In Grand Junction, people wanted Trump to accomplish certain things with the pragmatism of a businessman, but they also wanted him to make them feel a certain way. The assumption has always been that, while emotional appeal might have mattered during the campaign, the practical impact of a Trump Presidency would prove more important. Liberals claimed that Trump would fail because his policies would hurt the people who had voted for him.

But the lack of legislative accomplishment seems only to make supporters take more satisfaction in Trump’s behavior. And thus far the President’s tone, rather than his policies, has had the greatest impact on Grand Junction. This was evident even before the election, with the behavior of supporters at the candidate’s rally, the conflicts within the local Republican Party, and an increased distrust of anything having to do with government. Sheila Reiner, a Republican who serves as the county clerk, said that during the campaign she had dealt with many allegations of fraud following Trump’s claims that the election could be rigged. “People came in and said, ‘I want to see where you’re tearing up the ballots!’ ” Reiner told me. Reiner and her staff gave at least twenty impromptu tours of their office, in an attempt to convince voters that the Republican county clerk wasn’t trying to throw the election to Clinton.

The Daily Sentinel publishes editorials from both the right and the left, and it didn’t endorse a Presidential candidate. But supporters picked up on Trump’s obsession with crowd size, repeatedly accusing the Sentinel of underestimating attendance at rallies. The paper ran a story about vandalism of political signs, with examples given from both campaigns, but readers were outraged that the photograph featured only a torn Clinton banner. The Sentinel immediately ran a second article with a photograph of a vandalized Trump sign. When Erin McIntyre described the Grand Junction rally on Facebook, online attacks by Trump supporters were so vicious that she feared for her safety. After three days, she deleted the post.

In February, a bill that was intended to give journalists better access to government records was introduced in a Colorado senate committee, which was chaired by Ray Scott, a Republican. The process was delayed for unknown reasons, and the Sentinel published an editorial with a mild prompt: “We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward.” Scott responded with a series of Trump-style tweets. “We have our own fake news in Grand Junction,” he wrote. “The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill.”

Jay Seaton, the Sentinel’s publisher, threatened to sue Scott for defamation. In an editorial, he wrote, “When a state senator accused The Sentinel of being fake news, he was deliberately attempting to delegitimize a credible news source in order to avoid being held accountable by it.” The Huffington Post and other national outlets mentioned the spat. When I met with Scott, he seemed pleased by the attention. A burly, friendly man who works as a contractor, he told me, “I was kind of Trumpish before Trump was cool.”

“We used to just take it on the chin if somebody said something about us,” he said. “The fake-news thing became the popular thing to say, because of Trump.” He believed that Trump has performed a service by popularizing the term. “I’ve seen journalists like yourself doing a better job,” Scott told me. He’s considering a run for governor, in part because of Trump’s example. “People are looking for something different,” he said. “They’re looking for somebody who means what they say.”

He is their safe space who allows them to believe whatever they want to believe because anything that doesn't comport can be dismissed as "fake." It must be so comforting.

The whole article is quite disturbing. I personally blame social media which is delivering what used to only be delivered by Fox and talk radio --- alternate reality (Trump means what he says? In fact, he says whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. But you knew that) but in the hands of people you know and trust.  It's also making it easy to organize your own fanatical group. The left is doing it too, of course. That's the Resistance.This is the Counter-Resistance.

This is all very depressing. According to the article, these folks are still mourning the loss of Exxon jobs that left in 1982 --- 35 years ago --- and don't want to work in the new industries like health care and education, probably because they don't pay as well or have the same cachet as the macho oil field jobs. The loss of oil jobs has become a become an inter-generational identity.

This is not about issues, though, not really. I'm not even sure it's about status. I think it might be just about alienation and loneliness. It seems to me that what these people were yearning for was a shared purpose, something they could do together. Trump activated that by naming and pointing at their common enemies. Us.

Trump let the raging right wing id out of the bottle, let it wail, made it fun, made it social, opened up a world in which they could all meet each other and share a communal space, free to let their freak flags fly unlike the greater world which circumscribes their true feelings.

Anyway, that's about all the time I have this week for pondering that vast neediness of the Trump voter. It's interesting, even necessary to look at it. But in the end, they are no more important than the Latino cook in New Mexico or the young female retail clerk in suburban Maryland or the African American insurance company manager in Illinois. This is a very big country and we all have our issues, we all have our needs. This focus on this one group is creating a sense that only they represent the true character of our country and everyone else is going to have to adjust to it.

No. The have the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans but they only represent themselves. There are hundreds of millions of us who don't agree with them.