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Friday, July 21, 2017

In case you missed it

by digby


I just thought I'd leave this here for posterity:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort. Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

No biggie. Nothing to see here. Have a nice week-end folks.

GOP donors falling away?

by digby

It's a first step:
Billionaire health care mogul and former GOP megadonor Mike Fernandez has harsh words for Republicans who don't stand up to President Donald Trump.

“All the Republicans who hide behind the flag and hide behind the church, they don’t have the f------ balls to do what it takes,” Fernandez told POLITICO Florida in a telephone interview on Thursday. 
Fernandez, a Miami-area resident, has long been a political rainmaker and donor, spending $3.5 million in ads against Trump in 2016 alone. He has, however, grown disenchanted with the direction of political leaders at both the state and federal level. He left the GOP due to Trump.
“I am out of the political process. Too disgusted, too expensive, too supportive of ego maniacs whose words have the value of quicksand,” he wrote in an email to a Republican fundraiser seeking political contributions.
In the email, the fundraiser was referred to as “Debbie,” but in an interview he would not identify her. 
He was a vocal opponent of Trump during the campaign, and spent roughly $3 million backing Jeb Bush's failed bid for the White House. His disapproval of Trump has not waned, and he is now directing his ire at Republicans who won’t stand up to the president. 
“It is demoralizing to me to see adults worshipping a false idol. I can’t continue to write checks for anyone,” he said. “I know what it’s like to lose a country.” 
He called Trump an “abortion of a human being,” and hammered the New York developer in the harshest terms possible. 

Yeah, well. One down, hundreds to go. But it's a start.

Six months in and it's getting worse

by digby

I wrote about the six month mark of our long national nightmare for Salon today:

Has it only been six months since Donald Trump stood in the rain before a sparse inaugural crowd and declared that America was in a state of carnage, chaos and decline? How can that be? He’s packed in more scandals, lies, errors and gaffes during this short period that any five presidents in their full four-year terms. I feel like I’ve aged at least a decade since January. Each day is like a month.

But it’s true. We are only at the six-month point and it’s time to take stock.

Trump’s plans may not have had to come to full fruition but we can certainly judge whether or not this central promise of his American Carnage speech has born out:
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over.
As usual, he was projecting his own weaknesses onto others. I think most people who had followed the presidential campaign understood that this was a very bold comment coming from Donald Trump. No one has ever complained or cast more blame on everyone but himself than he has, including a room full of wailing preschoolers badly in need of a nap. He is paralyzed, unable to take action because he has no idea what the job is, much less how to do it. His talk isn’t just empty, it’s completely unintelligible.

On inauguration day we didn’t yet know whether maybe the majesty of the office would change him or the institutions under which he had to operate would, at least, constrain him. There was always a suspicion that maybe he was more of an act than he let on. Now we know. It wasn’t an act.

President Donald Trump is exactly the same person he was on the campaign trail and in the many years of celebrity that preceded his entry into the race. To those who said they liked him because “what you see is what you get,” he has fulfilled their desires. In their book the consistency of his dishonesty is a testament to his authenticity. The rest of us are horrified and appalled and it gets worse all the time.

For six months the White House has been in a nonstop rolling crisis. The gush of leaks from inside the administration is unprecedented. We still don’t know exactly what went on with the election interference but Trump and his associates seem to spend a whole lot of time with Russians — and the president now seems extremely agitated to find out that investigators are looking into his finances. His interview with the New York Times on Wednesday was shockingly incoherent but did seem to imply that he was seriously considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller and was pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. On Thursday we found out that Trump is contemplating using the presidential pardon power for himself and others (presumably his family). None of this is behavior one associates with a powerful leader who has nothing to hide.

The one bright spot for him, and for all of us, is that so far the economy hasn’t crashed. Unemployment is still low and there’s some good news in wage growth for the lowest of earners. Despite all the Sturm und Drang during the campaign the economy is chugging along as it was in the last year or two of the Obama administration. Plenty of people are still hurting as a result of long-term structural problems but Trump has no real plans to help so the best they can hope for is that it doesn’t get any worse. At the moment the economy is status quo.

Foreign policy and national security, on the other hand, are a huge mess and who knows what’s going to happen. We’ve been spared a major terrorist attack, but Trump has systematically degraded our alliances, insulted our friends, empowered our adversaries and generally turned the entire global order upside down. His relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is mysterious and frankly inexplicable in light of all the suspicion surrounding the Russian election interference. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and other top advisers are becoming increasingly anxious about the president’s decision-making.His uncouth ignorance is turning the United States into a rogue nation.

On domestic policy, health care tells the tale. It’s not entirely Trump’s fault that the GOP congress’s cynical anti-Obamacare crusade finally came back to bite them, as it became clear that Republicans had no idea how to fulfill all the promises they made. Trump has been confused and distracted throughout the health care debate, making it obvious that he doesn’t understand it or care about anything but having a bill-signing ceremony. In fact, that’s his attitude about all the domestic promises he made, from the “big, beautiful wall” to the travel ban to his grandiose infrastructure plans. He’s completely uninterested in policy. He just wants to check off boxes and count his coup.

That doesn’t mean the executive branch has come to a standstill. Some of the agencies are hard at work harassing and deporting immigrants, cutting vital programs and rolling back regulations. The damage will be incalculable. But the Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress and have not managed to pass a single piece of major legislation in the first six months. That is an astonishing failure.

Most significantly, these first six months have revealed a central weakness of our system: its dependence on leadership that honors the norms and traditions of our political institutions and understands the necessity of at least appearing to adhere to common values of decency and honesty. 

President Trump and the Republicans in Congress have shown no respect for any of that. It’s a harsh lesson for our country and it may get harsher still. But at least we know now who they really are and what they really believe in: nothing.


Spicey we hardly knew ye

by digby

He'll never find a more loyal soldier.

The Resistance is mobilizing

by digby

I'm glad to see it. This is from Move On, but I think it's happening with every Resistance group in the country:
Host a Mueller Firing Rapid Response Event
New revelations of Russia's meddling in our elections are increasing the odds that Donald Trump will try to block the investigation of his Administration's potential collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.

Experts believe that there is a good possibility that Trump will fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

If Trump fires Mueller, we want to be ready to take the streets to protest within hours - to demand that Congress respond quickly and forcefully – to protect our democracy and justice system.
This isn't hysteria. People need to be prepared for what they will do in case this constitutional crisis comes to pass. 


Better deals. Bluer dogs.

by Tom Sullivan

The bang-beat, bell-ringing, big-haul, great-go, neck-or-nothing, rip-roarin', every-time-a bull's-eye salesmen at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have themselves a 2018 campaign slogan:

"Congratulations to those of you who reflexively whispered '...Papa John's' before burying your head in your arms and sobbing quietly," Jay Willis writes for GQ.

Actually, the slogan has been out there a while, but the mockery took off last night on Twitter.

Paul Waldman thinks "Better Deal" is not so bad as vapid slogans go. After all, Republicans swept the 1994 mid-terms with "Contract With America." Except they didn't. Waldman writes that, slogans aside, Democrats are about as well positioned as they might be for 2018:

The left is experiencing an unprecedented wave of activism, with groups like Indivisible creating thousands of chapters and local Democratic party organizations inundated with volunteers. In cities and towns, Democrats are running on aggressively progressive platforms and winning. Democrats lead the "generic ballot" test (where poll respondents are asked whether they intend to vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress) by an average of 6.5 points, which according to one statistical model would translate to a net gain of 27 House seats in next year's election (they need 24 to take control). One after another, potentially strong Republican candidates are choosing to sit out the next election or stay in their current seats, while Democrats are lining up to run for the first time or try for a higher office.
Then again, one poll showed Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead over Donald Trump just two weeks ahead of the November election.

But before we leave the slogan, the staff at Paste provides another non-pundit hot-take, "[T]his is a classic move by the Democrats—antiseptic, cautious, and not at all compelling."

That reflexive caution is a fatal flaw. And as loathe as I am to deploy sports analogies ....

Democrats are four points down, deep in their own territory. They have no time left on the clock and no time-outs. Their only prayer for pulling out a win is to throw a Hail Mary pass. Go big or go home. Their first instinct? Fall on the ball at the snap, because what if the other team runs back an interception and they lose by 10?

In that vein, Bloomberg reports Democrats are again courting Blue Dogs:
“The DCCC has seen the light,” said Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon, a Blue Dog coalition member.

Representative Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the Democrats’ campaign committee, said in a statement that the Blue Dogs have "been incredible partners,” helping develop a list of 79 Republican-held seats to target in the 2018 election.

At least 20 of those seats were previously held by Blue Dogs, according to the caucus.
As Howie Klein chronicles, that's because most Blue Dogs won't hunt but for one or two elections. "Of those 15 Blue Dogs [elected in 2006], not one is still in the House." As for the 2008 election:
Of the 14 Blue Dogs elected that year, just one -- Schrader-- is still in Congress. The following year, 2010-- Democratic voters just stayed away from the polls in droves-- millions of them. All those crap Blue Dogs and most of the New Dems were defeated because Democratic voters realized they had been tricked by the DCCC and by their own leaders into backing Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Democrats lost 63 seats and virtually the whole Blue Dog caucus.
But Democrats being "tricked" is not the only factor in Blue Dogs winning, then losing. Believe it or don't, under the right circumstances some Republican voters in conservative districts can be persuaded to vote for a Blue Dog until they get a chance to vote again for a full-throated conservative.

I worked for the state party on Heath Shuler's NC-11 campaign in 2006. Republican voters there had had enough of their corrupt, Russian bank-connected congressman, "Chainsaw Charlie" Taylor, that they were prepared to back a local football hero even if he was a Democrat. I can't describe the satisfaction in watching Taylor defeated that November. But Shuler didn't lose the seat he won for a third time in 2010. Washington-obsessed Democrats and progressives were asleep at the switch as Republicans took over state legislature after state legislature ahead of the 2010 census. Shuler retired after NCGOP-led redistricting in 2011 made the reddish NC-11 one of the most Republican districts in the country. Now we have Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows.

Shuler became a Duke Energy lobbyist. What can you say? He was a Blue Dog.

Nonetheless, the new slogan, the reflexive caution, and the short-term thinking behind recruiting Blue Dogs again reflects a deep lack of imagination among the party elite. As another GQ writer put it, "If the past year wasn’t an obvious sign that the DNC needs to change how it does business, then what would be? Do we all have to die first?"

Senate Republicans are still working on that.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dazed and confused

by digby

At what point do these Republicans have to admit that there's something seriously wrong with him?

Here's a quote from the NY Times interview:
TRUMP: This health care is a tough deal. I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care. 

He did not say it from the beginning. He said it as gong to be "so easy."

And George H.W. Bush's dead dog Millie knows more about health care than this bozo. (Some of you oldies will get that joke.)

For instance:

TRUMP: But what it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
What? Where does insurance cost 12 dollars a year? Is he talking about life insurance? Does he know the difference?

Ok, his pathological bragging aside,  he's just a stupid rich guy who's never had to bother with something like this and doesn't think he has to learn. Fine. How can we explain that he hasn't even figured out whether he's for "repeal and replace" or "repeal and delay" or "let's let everything all go to hell and then blame the Democrats." He has no idea who's voting for what or what their concerns are. He's completely confused about when the votes are.

He is completely addled.

Is that just the new normal? The Emperor's new straight-jacket?

Signaling to his bff

by digby

This is amazing:

I don't know exactly what he's signaling to Vlad there but it kind off looks like "you? me? --- this?

Just a little tid-bit

by digby

....from the NY Times interview:

BAKER: Did you shoo other people out of the room when you talked to Comey?

TRUMP: No, no.

BAKER: That time [inaudible] [Michael T.] Flynn —

TRUMP: No. That was the other thing. I told people to get out of the room. Why would I do that?

SCHMIDT: Did you actually have a one-on-one with Comey then?

TRUMP: Not much. Not even that I remember. He was sitting, and I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff. He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.? But people didn’t — we had a couple people that said — Hi baby, how are you?

ARABELLA KUSHNER: [enters room] Hi, Grandpa.

TRUMP: My granddaughter Arabella, who speaks — say hello to them in Chinese.

KUSHNER: Ni hao.


TRUMP: This is Ivanka. You know Ivanka.

IVANKA TRUMP: [from doorway] Hi, how are you? See you later, just wanted to come say hi.

TRUMP: She’s great. She speaks fluent Chinese. She’s amazing.

BAKER: That’s very impressive.

TRUMP: She spoke with President Xi [Jinping of China]. Honey? Can you say a few words in Chinese? Say, like, “I love you, Grandpa” —

KUSHNER: Wo ai ni, Grandpa.

BAKER: That’s great.

TRUMP: She’s unbelievable, huh?


TRUMP: Good, smart genes.

His genes.

You know what he thinks about that, right?

Trump has long attributed his wealth and success to his genetic makeup. He told Playboy in 1990 that he is “a strong believer in genes” and that, because his children inherited those genes, they don’t need “adversity” to build skills and character. In 2010, he gave an interview in which he discussed his “breeding” at length and compared himself to a racehorse.

“I’m a gene believer,” he said. “When you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse. I had a good gene pool from the stand point of that.”

Trump has also repeatedly cited his uncle, an MIT professor, as proof of his “good genes, very good genes.” He has done this so often that the New Yorker referred to the family connection as Trump’s “sort of eugenic guarantor of intelligence and breeding.”

I know it's probably the most innocuous thing he said in that mind-boggling interview which is going to provide fodder for analysts an historian for hundreds of year. I just thought I'd mention it.

Its also kind of interesting that Ivanka interrupted right at that moment, don't you think?


Pathological Pinocchio

by digby

And to think his voters still love him because he "tells it like it is":
Shortly before reaching the six-month mark of his presidency, President Trump made an assertion and then paused that perhaps he should not be so definitive. “I better say ‘think,’ otherwise they’ll give you a Pinocchio. And I don’t like those — I don’t like Pinocchios.”

As it turned out, the president’s claim — that he has signed more bills (42) at this point than “any president ever” — was completely wrong. Just among recent presidents, he’s behind Jimmy Carter (70 bills signed), George H.W. Bush (55) and Bill Clinton (50).

So it goes with Trump, the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered. As part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, The Fact Checker team (along with Leslie Shapiro and Kaeti Hinck of the Post graphics department) produced an interactive graphic that displayed a running list of every false or misleading statement made by the president. He averaged 4.9 false or misleading claims a day.

Readers encouraged us to keep the list going for the president’s first year. So at the six-month mark, the president’s tally stands at 836 false or misleading claims. That’s an average of 4.6 claims a day, not far off his first 100-day pace.

We decided to compile this list because the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up. This interactive database helps readers quickly search a claim after they hear it, because there’s a good chance he has said it before. But the database also shows how repetitive Trump’s claims are. Many politicians will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over.

Trump’s most repeated claim, uttered 44 times, was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” But the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. If anything, actions taken by the Trump administration have spawned uncertainty. Several insurance companies have cited Trump administration policy as a reason to leave insurance markets in certain states, though others have sensed opportunity and moved in to replace insurers who have left.

The apparent implosion of the Senate health-care bill suggests the limits of Trump’s rhetoric. His repeated claim that Obamacare has already failed or is dead, in the face of objective evidence that the law is actually working, failed to win enough votes for passage — and failed to sway Democrats to consider working with him. Only rarely has the president tried to make a positive case for action on health care, as opposed to simply tearing down the Affordable Care Act.

Trump, as he did during the presidential campaign, also exaggerated the impact of increases in premiums on the Obamacare exchanges, cherry-picking numbers from a handful of states. Trump also frequently uses the calculation of premium increases without incorporating the impact of tax credits — which most people in the exchanges receive. If you take the subsidies into account, the average monthly premium of most people in the Obamacare exchanges goes down, not up.

Trump also has a disturbing habit of taking credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected. Some 30 times, he’s touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search. Nearly 20 times he’s boasted that he achieved a reduction in the cost of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even though the price cut had been in the works before he was elected.

Trump even claimed that it took “one sentence” to get the president of China to agree to sell U.S. beef in China. “I said, President Xi, we’d love to sell beef back in China again. He said, you can do that. That was the end of that,” Trump bragged on July 17. Perhaps it was so easy because the Obama administration already had brokered the beef deal back in September. The only thing that was new was a set date for beef sales to start.

Seventeen times, Trump asserted that because he demanded NATO members pay their fair share, “billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO.” But at a NATO summit in 2014, after Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO members pledged to stop cutting their defense expenditures and by 2024 “move toward” a goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Since the 2014 meeting, defense expenditures from member countries have increased steadily.

The cumulative spending increase from 2015 to 2017 above the 2014 level is an additional $45.8 billion, according to NATO, with another increase of $13 billion expected in 2017. But these budget decisions were made during the 2016 calendar year, before Trump became president. (Moreover, the money does not “pour into NATO” but remains with each nation.)

Ten times, Trump has said he has proposed “the biggest tax cut in the history of our country,” even though his administration has released no plan beyond a single sheet of paper. Even if it became a reality (there are reports that the tax plan is being scaled back), it still would be smaller than tax cuts passed by Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Eight times, he has claimed to have already achieved “record investments” in the military even though his proposed defense increase is relatively modest — and not yet been approved by Congress.

Trump’s repeated claim that he secured deals worth $350 billion during a trip to Saudi Arabia, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States, was greatly inflated. Many of the purported deals were not concluded and were simply aspirational — and key investments were in Saudi Arabia, creating few jobs for Americans.

More than a dozen times, the president dismissed investigations into Russian interference into the election as a Democratic hoax, even though nonpartisan intelligence agencies concluded that Russia intervened on behalf of Trump and congressional committees led by Republicans have begun their own probes.

When the president was a real estate developer, there was little consequence for repeated exaggeration or hyperbole because few people kept track. But now that he’s president, Trump may find that the “art of the deal” often requires close attention to the facts, especially if he wants to persuade lawmakers to take tough votes.

As president, Trump has already earned 20 Four-Pinocchio ratings — and a total of 152 Pinocchios. If he doesn’t like his Pinocchios, there’s a relatively simple solution: Stick to the facts.

He doesn't know the facts and he doesn't have the capacity to learn them. We're six months in and he's not changing. He's exactly the same malevolent ignoramus he was on the campaign trail.

But his voters don't care and neither does he. This isn't politics it's performance art.

Jared is the son he never had

by digby

....and they know it:
“All the attention to Jared is a bit of a sore point and they feel left out of the fun in D.C.,” a friend of the family’s told People. “They miss being at the center of the action.”

“Don worked on the campaign and Jared gets the big Forbes cover and they make him out to be a big genius,” the friend continued. “and Don is like, ‘No, I worked on the campaign too!’”

“During the campaign, the brothers thrived on being the spokespeople and speaking at rallies and being very visible,” the friend added. “Jared was able to build much more influence and power by doing exactly the opposite.

The news comes one day after People reported Eric and Don Jr. are “miserable” and can’t wait for their father’s stint in the White House to end.

“[President Trump] doesn’t like failure and mistakes, and he doesn’t accept them,” a source told People. “You have to justify your existence to be in his realm.”

And with increased scrutiny surrounding Trump Jr.’s clandestine meeting with a Russian lawyer—which Kushner likewise attended—the president is reportedly growing “frustrated” with his eldest son, Newsweek reports.

They should be happy they're not in Kush's shoes right now. He's in very serious legal jeopardy. Of course, Junior is too now that we know he was taking meetings with Russian lawyers to get dirt on Clinton he thought was coming from the FSB.

Baron and Tiffany are lucky they aren't favored by their daddy. Maybe they'll have a chance.


A commission with a mission

by digby

I wrote about the voter fraud commission for Salon this morning:

President Trump had a very, very big day yesterday. In fact, he was almost manic running from one meeting to the other, speaking before cameras with what seemed to be barely contained rage and ending it with a devastating, incoherent, rambling interview with the New York Times. He must be all worn out.

But he also had photo-ops and made some remarks earlier in the day which were a bit more substantive, if no more coherent or prudent. After the failure of the latest iteration of Trumpcare, the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, the president dragged all the GOP Senators to the White House for lunch and then humiliated some of them before the cameras by threatening their jobs. This gives you the flavor of how it went:

But, Trump’s first meeting of the day had been his surprise welcome to his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. You’ll recall that he promised to put that together after he made the ridiculous claim that Hillary Clinton hadn’t really won the popular vote because 3 million “illegals” had voted in California. It took a while but one of his biggest supporters, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has made vote suppression his life’s work, came in board and it’s finally up and running. (I wrote about Kobach here, here and here.)

Trump named Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence as co-chairs and almost immediately the commission was embroiled in controversy. Kobach had instituted a plan that would kick eligible voters off the rolls in his home state of Kansas and he wanted to take it national so his first step was to cause a national firestorm by requesting all personal voter information from each state, which most secretaries of state of both parties refused.

Now lawsuits are rolling in from all over the country regarding the commission’s lack of transparency and violations of federal regulations and privacy laws. Kobach was served with a suit claiming that he’s illegally exploiting his position to promote his candidacy for governor of Kansas and is being investigated by the Kansas Supreme Court for ironically refusing to turn over documents to the court. Democratic lawmakers have sent an official notice requesting that Kobach be removed from the commission for violations of the Hatch Act and and the Federal Advisory Committee Act. All in all, it’s off to a terrific start.

Wednesday morning, Pence opened the proceedings by saying the commission “has no preconceived notions or preordained results. We’re fact-finders. And in the days ahead, we will gather the relevant facts and data, and at the conclusion of our work, we will present the president with a report of our findings.” But whatever hopes Pence had of keeping the pretense of nonpartisan fact-finding were blown to kingdom come when the president took the mic and started talking about the need for the states get with the program:

If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I ask the vice president and I ask the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is. 
This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw, in some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.
Trump said for months that the electoral system was rigged and even said at a presidential debate that he might not accept the results. Of course people come up to him and say they know about some instance of voter fraud.

His real gripe is that he didn’t win the popular vote and is driven by some egomaniacal need to be able to at least create the possibility that he actually did. Kris Kobach went on MSNBC yesterday and gave an astonishing interview that surely pleased him:

KATY TUR (HOST): Do you believe Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes because of voter fraud?
KRIS KOBACH: We may never know the answer to that — we will probably never know the answer to that question, because even if you could prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, for example —

TUR: So, again, you think that maybe Hillary Clinton did not win the popular vote?

KOBACH: We may never know the answer to that question.

That’s an outrageous assertion. It is completely impossible that 3 million votes were cast illegally in 2016. In a world that makes sense he would have been fired immediately for casting such a shadow over the electoral results. There have been more than nine major investigations into alleged “voter fraud” and it just does not exist on even a small systematic scale much less something like what he’s suggesting.

One can only imagine what the boss had to say when he heard this follow up, though:

TUR: So were the votes for Donald Trump that led him to win the election in doubt as well?
KOBACH: Absolutely. If there are ineligible voters in an election, people who are noncitizens, people who are felons who shouldn’t be voting according to the laws of that state —

So Trump’s rather pathetic 77,000 vote Electoral College win is also in doubt? Oh my.

But Trump needn’t worry. Kobach is a conservative extremist whose life’s work is preventing people from voting. That’s what this is about. Trump’s victory will never be questioned by him.

There is one slight mystery about all this, however. With all this talk of our electoral system being vulnerable to fraud the commission isn’t the least bit interested in the subject of Russian interference in the election. That seems odd.

Of course if the goal of the hacking was to create chaos sow the seeds of doubt about the integrity of our democracy the Russian government is probably are wondering why they went to the trouble. Kris Kobach and his friends are doing a fine job of that all on their own. If he could manage to get all that voter information for them in one place that would be very helpful for future hacking. They’re pulling for his success if no one else is.


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.