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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Good Trumpie, bad Trumpie?

by digby

This is one of the weirdest sub-plots in this whole Trump saga. Usually I can see through the machinations of these Republicans but I have to admit that this one stumps me:
The husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared to hammer President Donald Trump for making false statements and attacking allies, adding to a long list of criticisms he's lobbed against the President online.

Since last year, George Conway, a prominent attorney whom Trump considered nominating for solicitor general, has been posting and retweeting tweets critical of the President. Conway's latest criticism took aim at the President for his response to former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman's unflattering accusations against Trump and his White House and campaign staffs.

After the President tweeted a suggestion that he kept Manigault Newman at the White House "because she only said GREAT things about me," Washington Post writer Philip Bump asked on Twitter Tuesday what would happen in a similar situation at a publicly traded company. How would a board react to their CEO telling them an unqualified employee wasn't terminated "because the employee constantly praised him"?

I'm sure Kellyanne would have told all in her big insider account of the Trump admnistration if it weren't for that NDA...

Advance knowledge?

by digby

"I'm going to continue to blow the whistle on all of this...."

It's entirely possible that she's completely full of shit with this but considering he panic coming from the White House about these tapes. She's obviously been recording for a long time. She was in the campaign from the beginning and in the White House for a year. Who knows what she knows?

Dot dot dot ... dot dot

by digby

Colbert's take on Omarosa is just the best ...

The expedient purge

by digby

Attorney Bradley Moss points out that the purge of the top levels of he FBI and DOJ is coming to completion:

There was no doubt a viable—although arguably attenuated—policy justification supporting Strzok’s firing. Having represented government employees at the FBI and across the intelligence community in similar disciplinary proceedings for 11 years, however, I can tell you that the manner in which this particular saga came to a conclusion was in no way consistent with standard FBI practice.

No matter what some in the media might tell you, it is not impossible to fire government officials if there is a valid basis for doing so. When it comes to the FBI, that task is far easier because—with very limited exceptions that likely do not apply to Strzok—FBI officials are effectively “at-will” employees. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which governs the disciplinary due process system for the entire U.S. government, specifically excludes the bureau—as well as several other agencies within the intelligence community—from its statutory scope. In effect, FBI officials receive whatever internal due process the agency decides to provide to them out of a matter of discretion.

What was so unusual in the context of Strzok’s firing, however, was the direct intervention of Deputy Director David Bowdich into the process. Just like in any other FBI disciplinary proceeding, Strzok was initially afforded the right to appeal the proposed termination of his employment to Candace M. Will, the head of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility. I have appeared before Will several times on behalf of FBI clients and I can state from personal experience that she is well-credentialed and compassionate, but ultimately very strict. She is a firm believer in the notion that the FBI has to hold itself to the highest ethical and moral standards and that is often reflected in her determinations. In 11 years of practice, I cannot think of a single time I have ever managed to persuade Will to reverse a proposed termination of an FBI official’s employment.

Nonetheless, according to a statement from Strzok’s attorney, Will chose not to uphold the proposed termination of Strzok’s employment. Instead, she concluded that it was appropriate to instead demote Strzok and suspend him for 60 days. She apparently also concluded that Strzok would be afforded what is known as a “last chance agreement,” which is effectively a written understanding between the agency and the employee that even the slightest instance of misconduct going forward can and will likely result in immediate termination. That Will reached this conclusion is very surprising and, in my professional opinion, speaks to just how thin the case for firing Strzok likely was.

That Deputy Director Bowdich chose to overrule Will is what takes this matter so far outside the ordinary practice of the FBI disciplinary process. I have never seen senior FBI leadership unilaterally and directly intervene in such a manner, whether in my client’s favor or otherwise. If Strzok had not been satisfied with Will’s determination, appealing to Deputy Director Bowdich would not even have been a formal option. His final stage of administrative appeal would have been before the Disciplinary Review Board, which is comprised of three senior FBI officials but to my knowledge does not typically (if ever) include the deputy director.

To be clear: No legal restriction likely prevented Deputy Director Bowdich from directly intervening. After all, Strzok was effectively an “at-will” employee. What is concerning here is the continuous and repeated appearance of political considerations seeping into the traditionally apolitical disciplinary process at the FBI. President Trump made no bones about his distaste for Agent Strzok, just as he similarly publicly criticized Director Comey and Director McCabe prior to their terminations. All three men played or were still playing a role in the investigation into the president’s campaign before they were fired.

With the firing of Peter Strzok, the president’s purge of senior FBI leadership who helped launch that investigation is now complete. For those wondering whether Trump would allow the bureau to do its job without political interference from the White House, I think we have our answer.

Strzok was fired for political reasons. So was McCabe. They are trying to appease King Trump in order to keep him from firing Rosenstein and/or Sessions. I think that's obvious. By throwing out some chum every couple of months they think they can keep him momentarily happy. Indeed, it appears that the new sacrifice will be Bruce Ohr, whose wife Trump currently obsessing about on his twitter feed.

They are buying time by throwing their own people overboard. One can only hope it's for a good cause.

The peace president

by digby

It's good to see the president demonstrating his isolationist peace philosophy again.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday again seized on what he called a "terrorist attack" in London to call for tougher anti-terror measures, even though the incident was still in the early stages of investigation.

"Another terrorist attack in London...These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!," the US President tweeted.

Metropolitan Police in London were investigating the event -- in which a car crashed into security barriers outside of the Houses of Parliament during rush hour Tuesday morning -- as a terrorist incident. The driver, a man in his late 20's, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of terrorist offenses. He was alone in the car and no weapons were recovered at the scene.

I don't even want to think about what he would do if a major terrorist attack happened in the US right now. Or at any time in his tenure.

He made it clear during the campaign that he believes in harsh, violent retribution. (His Central Park 5 ad showed that he had held these beliefs for many decades.) People who chose to believe his silly insistence that he wouldn't have gone into Iraq meant that he was a "non-interventionist" were fooling themselves. He might not have gone into Iraq. That was a particular hobby horse of the neo-con right and the Bush family. But whatever he did do in retaliation for 9/11 would have been even more bloody. He's a violent, dominating monster.

Back in 2012, Trump said this at Liberty University with his pal Jerry Falwell Jr giving him the full adoring Pence:
"I always say don't let people take advantage -- this goes for a country, too, by the way -- don't let people take advantage. Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they're going to say, 'You know, I'm going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I'm going to let them alone because they're tough customers.'"

"They will never mess with us ...."


No, it's not surprising that he called Omarosa a dog this morning

by digby


Well, he has shown he is a disgusting asshole in every way for years (and his followers love him for it.) This report, from October 2016, was particularly egregious:
Just in case you thought Donald Trump was insufficiently awful: He repeatedly called a deaf actress “retarded,” three sources tell The Daily Beast.

Trump, who was accused on Wednesday of making sexual comments to Marlee Matlin, an Oscar-winning actress who once competed on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, also apparently had a habit of insulting, mimicking, and demeaning as mentally handicapped his star female contestant—all because she was deaf.

In 2011, Matlin, who is still the only deaf actor or actress to win an Academy Award for best actress, appeared on Trump’s NBC reality-TV series. By the end of the season, she had come in second place and earned her fair share of compliments from Trump in the aired footage. But according to three longtime staffers who worked on Matlin’s season of Celebrity Apprentice, Trump would regularly disrespect the actress and would even treat her as if she were mentally disabled.

Sometimes the insults would be behind her back; other times they would be right in front of her.

Due to extensive non-disclosure agreements signed by members involved with the production, every one of the sources asked to be quoted anonymously for fear of legal retribution.

“[Trump] would often equate that she was mentally retarded,” said one source, who described how kind Matlin and her interpreter Jack Jason were.

During the taping of the show, Trump would often scribble down notes while sitting at the table of “the boardroom”—the show’s primary set. A person familiar with the notes who helped clean up after tapings said that on one of the pieces of paper, Trump wrote: “Marlee, is she retarded??”

Just don't say he and his followers are deplorable. That hurts their feelings.

Of course he uses the n-word. Of course he does.

"The lies, the deception, the dishonesty..."

by digby

August 10, 2016:

Two years later:

At least 125 Republican campaigns and conservative political groups spent more than $3.5 million at President Donald Trump’s resorts, hotels and restaurants since January 2017, the month he was sworn in, according to an analysis by McClatchy.

The money paid for catering for a fundraiser at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. , a night’s stay at Trump’s golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and many meals at Trump International Hotel in Washington through June 30, according to the most recent information provided to the Federal Election Commission.

The list includes Trump supporters like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Roger Williams of Texas and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, a group of influential conservative members.

By comparison, candidates and political groups spent less than $35,000 at Trump properties for the entire two-year 2014 election cycle, according to FEC records. The biggest spender was former Rep. Allen West’s leadership fund, which spent more than $15,000 on fundraising expenses at Mar-a-Lago.

America First Action, a super PAC dedicated to electing federal candidates who support Trump’s agenda, has been one of the biggest spenders since 2017, spending more than $225,000 on rental fees, catering, lodging and meals, primarily at the the Trump hotel in Washington D.C.

“The simple fact is that our supporters and friends are excited when we do so,” the group’s spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said. “It’s a unique experience for them, they are excellent locations, and the staff are wonderful to work with.”

Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his business interests when he became president. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time.

He's still wailing about emails and "crooked Hillary" and calling for a new investigation.



Wisconsin v. Walker

by Tom Sullivan

Ever since Wisconsin's Scott Walker gave his 2015 bobble-head speech announcing an ill-fated run for president, we have waited. We have waited since Walker earlier in 2015 submitted a budget that removed from the University of Wisconsin's century-old mission a mandate to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replaced them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.” Walker quickly backed away after the news blew up on social media and news sites.

We have waited since Scott Walker survived a recall election in 2012, and since he signed into law the state's controversial photo ID requirement in May of 2011. Since before that, even, when Ian Walker pranked Walker into thinking he was on the phone with David Koch, the "Tea Party sugar daddy." That was February 2011, at the height of Walker's battle to strip collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin's public sector unions.

This fall, Walker is up for reelection again, finally. Wisconsinites decide today which of over a half dozen Democrats on Tuesday's primary ballot will get a shot at replacing "the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin."

Lapping his opponents by +/- 20 points in RCP's averages is Tony Evers, the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction. Evers may have name recognition, but a Marquette poll indicates 38 percent of voters are still undecided and others in the Democratic pack have won name-brand endorsements, Vox notes:

Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters Association, has the support of California Sen. Kamala Harris. Kelda Helen Roys, a former state Assembly member, has the backing of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (and Wisconsin’s most famed indie band, Bon Iver).
Whichever candidate wins tonight, mounting a statewide campaign for governor after a late primary leaves any challenger with a hard pull against a multi-term incumbent. Walker has raised $4.8 million for his campaign so far.

The Wisconsin Republican Party is not taking chances. Politico reports Republicans have already launched attack ads against four prospective Democratic candidates: the three mentioned above plus former Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn. Once the Democrats have a nominee, the contrast will crystallize, says Republican strategist Mark Graul:
"The governor has been in sort of a vacuum. Either you're for Scott Walker or you're not for Scott Walker. And after Tuesday I think it'll be 'either you're for Scott Walker or whether it be Evers or Roys or Mitchell,'" Graul said. "So there will be a clear contrast of what people's choices are going to be in November."
The sitting president has helpfully endorsed the governor he once described as “a mess” and "not smart." (Trump has a fixation about smartness, doesn't he?) Speaking of, Trump just endorsed Scott Walker after saying it would be "great" if motorcyclists boycotted Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson. From The Independent:
“Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a tremendous Governor who has done incredible things for that Great State,” he wrote. “He has my complete & total Endorsement! He brought the amazing Foxconn to Wisconsin with its 15,000 Jobs-and so much more. Vote for Scott on Tuesday in the Republican Primary!”
Walker and Trump belong together.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The comedian in chief

by digby

He's not funny. But he thinks he is ...
"We are proudly giving our troops the biggest pay increase in a decade, and I know you don't want it because you're very patriotic. Just save the money, got to pay down debt. Does anybody not want it? Please raise your hand."

"What's going on here? Are these real patriots? I don't know, general, I don't know."


For those of you who don't live in my personal internet hellscape, here are some comments from people who watched that speech on Youtube:

Our President impresses me all the time by rambling off names of people, like he knows them personally, never needing a document to refer to...a true patriot, one of "we the people". I never trusted any other President before, except Kennedy, but I was in the fourth grade at the time....I thank God for President Trump. It is not politics as usual, things will be turned around to benefit all of us by stopping the corruption that went on for decades.

Every time I turn around, he is speaking somewhere letting us know what he is doing, I have never seen so much transparency by another president, never seen another president work so hard and long for us....You make me proud to be an American, sometimes bringing tears to my eyes.....I want to thank you President Trump, thank you! OOOXXX

The reason some people do not believe our president's words is because we have been lied to for so long, that they are unable to trust a true patriot when he is standing tall.....totally understandable, but have faith, truth will win!

President Trump wasn't originally my first choice for president, but I thank God daily that he was elected and for the expectation surpassing job that he has already done. In spite of 100% opposition from the democrats, added opposition from republicans, and unrelenting negativity and lies from the mainstream media, the entire situation in the US has turned around to the positive. America is truly being made great again!

I'm not letting him off the hook until he punishes Omarosa. This kind of dissent towards the highest administration should not be tolerated by any government of any country especially the United States Government.

President Trump isn't just playing the role of president, Donald J Trump is the best President the United States has ever had!!!!! Thank You Mr Donald J Trump!!!!!!

If the deep state tries to take this great Pres. down THERE WILL BE CIVIL WAR!! We the PEOPLE will rise up!! I can feel it.

When these players take a knee. IT pisses me off when I was 18 yrs. and fighting for my life and brothers lives and watched my brothers hauled out of Vietnam hanging from the belly of a Huey by their boots not in body bags yet.

WOW I see we still have the #HatefulLeft With Us. Thank Q Lastest World News Updates for your work

Love this President ..one of the greatest the world has ever produced

Canada thanks God that the U.S. are our neighbors. We will vote Justin the soy boy out as soon as we can and be a strong partner for democracy, capitalism and a western culture way of life.

Obummer made a lot of cuts to the military because he was not patriotic and didn't care for our troops !!! Thank God President Trump is bringing it back up !!!!!

and the OFFICE

Maybe democracy isn't such a good idea after all ...

By the way, the bill he signed after he gave that absurd speech was called the John McCain Defense Authorization Bill. He never mentioned his name.

And he has the gall to call someone else a lowlife...


Disloyal! Sad!

by digby

Trump should have gotten that loyalty oath up front:

A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump ruled Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller's probe is constitutional and legitimate, rejecting an effort by a Russian company -- accused of financing a massive political influence operation in the United States -- to stamp out the ongoing investigation.

Judge Dabney Friedrich, who Trump appointed to the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C. last year, is the fourth judge to quash efforts to upend Mueller's legitimacy and cancel his investigation.

They are looking for a judge in one of these cases to rule that the Mueller investigation is illegal so they can get it into the appellate pipeline. So far, no dice.

Today's Democratic Party is not your father's Democratic Party

by digby

It's your mother's Democratic Party:

There’s a popular portrait of a “Trump voter.” He’s a white man without a college degree, and so loyal that he would stick by Mr. Trump no matter what.

There’s a reason the stereotype exists: Mr. Trump’s strength among white working-class voters, particularly men, put him over the top in the decisive battleground states in 2016. And his approval ratings have been extremely steady, despite a year of controversial tweets and policy decisions. But it’s not the whole story.

Yes, white voters without a college degree shifted decisively from Barack Obama to Donald J. Trump in 2016. But these voters actually made up only a slightly larger share of Mr. Trump’s coalition than they did of the previous three Republican nominees’ coalitions.

And while Mr. Trump has a large and resilient base of supporters, a sizable share had reservations when they cast their ballots for him and continue to have reservations about him today. A small but meaningful number of his voters, particularly women, appear to have soured on him since the election.

Understanding the breadth of Mr. Trump’s coalition is important to understanding the Republican Party’s position heading into the 2018 midterms. Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters were vital to his victory in the primary, and Obama-Trump voters in old industrial towns were decisive in the general election. But the midterms could be decided by voters at the edge of Mr. Trump’s coalition and of the public's imagination: stereotype-defying female, college-educated or nonwhite Trump supporters, who are somewhat likelier to harbor reservations about the president. They may have been reluctant to back him, but they were still essential to his 2016 victory and are essential to the G.O.P.’s chances today.

This more nuanced picture emerges from a survey of validated voters on Pew’s American Trends Panel, a representative sample of American adults who agreed to take Pew surveys every month. The panel allows a rare, direct measurement of how voters have shifted over time.

Pew asked panelists how they voted in November 2016, and the responses were matched to voter records that indicate whether a panelist actually cast a ballot. It’s a big advantage over typical polls, which struggle to distinguish shifts in public opinion from the effect of a new set of respondents in each poll. It offers perhaps the clearest picture yet of who supported Mr. Trump and how his voters feel about him today.

Trump’s voters are demographically similar to Mitt Romney’s

If you want to understand why Mr. Trump won the presidency, there’s one big reason: white voters without a college degree. They put Mr. Trump over the top in disproportionately white working-class battleground states where Mr. Obama fared relatively well, like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

But Mr. Trump’s supporters aren’t monolithic. Nor is his coalition necessarily dominated by the groups that broke most strongly for him.

Just 33 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters were white men without a college degree. A majority of Mr. Trump’s supporters defy the stereotype: They were either women, nonwhite or college graduates (or some combination of those).

Over all, 47 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters were women. And though he struggled among affluent college-educated whites for a Republican, he still won 44 percent of voters making more than $150,000 per year, according to the Pew data, and nearly 40 percent of college-educated white voters.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Trump’s voters were about as likely as the supporters of other recent Republican nominees to hold a college degree.

How did the number of white working-class Republican voters stay so constant? Republicans have been winning a progressively larger share of white voters without a degree, but the group is shrinking over all. The result is that the two trends have basically canceled each other out.

White, non-college voters did break strongly for Mr. Trump but those voters make up an ever-decreasing share of the electorate.

At the same time, Republicans have lost ground among college-educated and nonwhite voters, but those groups have been growing as a share of the electorate. So oddly, a room full of Trump voters would be similar to a room full of George W. Bush voters, at least based on their race and education.

A room full of Democrats, on the other hand, would look a lot different. The party is doing increasingly well among growing portions of the electorate, and worse among the shrinking number of white working-class voters. Over all for Democrats, white voters without a degree have fallen from 43 percent of John Kerry’s voters to 26 percent of Hillary Clinton’s.

The shift among college-educated white voters was particularly sharp, and the Pew data is one of the strongest pieces of evidence indicating that Mrs. Clinton did far better among this group than initially believed. In the Pew data, she carried college-educated white voters by 17 percentage points, a huge shift from 2012, when Mitt Romney won that group.

It’s a very different story from the exit polls, which showed Mr. Trump winning college-educated white voters. There’s little doubt that the exit polls were wrong. Virtually all other survey data, along with the precinct-level election results, suggest that Mrs. Clinton won college-educated white voters and probably by a big margin.

The Trump voters most likely to stop supporting him: Women and the college-educated

There has been little change in President Trump’s approval rating in the last 18 months, and so it’s often assumed that nothing can erode his base of support. The Pew data suggests it’s not so simple.

Yes, nearly half of Mr. Trump’s voters have exceptionally warm views toward him: 45 percent rated their feeling toward him as a 90 or higher out of 100, a figure that is virtually unchanged since his election. But a meaningful number of his voters had reservations about him in November 2016, and even more Trump voters held a neutral or negative view of him in March.

Over all, 18 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters gave him a rating of 50 or less, on a scale of 0 (coldest) to 100 (warmest), up from 13 percent in November 2016.

It is worth noting that the November 2016 Pew survey was taken after Mr. Trump won the presidency, at the height of his post-election honeymoon. But even when you consider the slightly lower ratings voters gave him in the months before the election, the big picture is the same: A modest number of Mr. Trump’s voters didn’t like him that much then, and don’t like him much now.

Women, and especially college-educated women, are the likeliest Trump voters to have serious reservations about him in 2018: A striking 14 percent of the college-educated women who voted for him hold a very cold impression of him, up from just 1 percent in November 2016.

I suspectethis new Democratic coalition may not necessarily be welcome news for many Democrats since these are not the traditional hard-scrabble, blue-collar white working class men who formed the heart of the left in the past. But Democrats do represent the new working class of people of color and women and their policies will still benefit the white working class so it's not something that will negatively affect their material well-being. (And there is a minority of white working class men who do vote Democratic that numbers in the tens of millions ...)

You go to war with the coalition you have, not the one you wish you had. And this Democratic coalition is broad and deep which will bring much "disarray" and many problems in the future. But it's a good problem to have. You certainly wouldn't want to trade places with this other side.

That is if our democracy makes it through this current crisis --- and that is not assured.


Stephen Miller's immigrant story

by digby

Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration.

It begins at the turn of the 20th century in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America.

He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian, and Yiddish he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweat-shop toil Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hard-working immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.

What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.

This is an amazing read. Very powerful.

Trump's family were immigrants too as were all of our ancestors unless we are 100% Native American. I would guess that the difference in Miller, Sessions and Trump's minds is that they didn't come from shithole countries. Let's face it, that the problem. They don't want non-white people in America. Trump even said he would be thrilled to have more Norwegians (which DSH secretary Kirstjen Neilsen said she didn't know was a very white country.)

I guess it's progress that they don't consider Jews among the shithole people. But wait a bit. They will. They always do in the end.


"To the best of my knowledge"

by digby

Greg Sargent notes a subtle but important change in Trump's line about the Trump Tower meeting:

Trump has privately fretted that Trump Jr. may have strayed into legal jeopardy with the Trump Tower meeting, which Trump Jr. and campaign officials took in the expectation of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Here’s the latest statement from Trump to The Post (emphasis mine):
“Don has received notoriety for a brief meeting, that many politicians would have taken, but most importantly, and to the best of my knowledge, nothing happened after the meeting concluded.”

“This statement was clearly lawyered,” Bob Bauer, former White House counsel under President Barack Obama, told me.

Let’s put this in its larger context. After the news broke in July 2017 about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Trump Jr. put out a statement falsely claiming that it was “primarily” about a Russian adoption program. The president helped dictate that statement. But then Trump Jr.’s emails demonstrated the real purpose of the meeting.

Recently, Trump flatly declared on Twitter that his son held that Trump Tower meeting “to get information on an opponent.” This amounts to conceding that his son and top campaign officials had been eager to conspire with a hostile foreign power to sabotage the election on his behalf, and again reveals that the statement he (the president) dictated about the meeting was a big lie.

One big question right now is: Did Trump know about and approve the meeting at the time? He may not have; we’ll find out soon enough. But another question also matters: What happened after this meeting? As one legal expert told Natasha Bertrand, the big unknown is whether it bore some kind of relation to Russia’s subsequent cybertheft of Democratic emails and other possible evidence of collusion by Trump advisers such as Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, making the meeting part of “the same criminal conspiracy.”

In this context, Bauer pointed out, Trump’s claim that nothing untoward subsequently happened “to the best of my knowledge” is revealing.

“He’s trying to put as much of a cloak of ignorance around himself as he possibly can,” Bauer told me. “What this does is abandon Trump’s year-and-a-half explanation that there was absolutely ‘no collusion.’ After that meeting, there could have been ongoing coordination. And now he’s not denying that could have happened. He’s saying he doesn’t know.”

The real nature of the bind Trump is in

This has implications for the ongoing negotiations over whether Trump will sit for an interview with Mueller. Over the weekend, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani questioned why the interview was necessary at all, arguing that Mueller’s lawyers “already know” Trump’s “answers to everything.”

But as Bauer pointed out, the chain of events, particularly now with its culmination in Trump’s latest statement, complicates this argument as well. Mueller will want to ask whether Trump knew about the meeting at the time, of course, but also about why Trump dictated the subsequent statement lying about it, and now, why Trump is hedging about what happened after it.

“After a year and a half of saying ‘no collusion,’ now he’s saying, ‘to the best of my knowledge’ nothing happened afterwards,” Bauer said. This could conceivably “indicate that, based on some information, he’s trying to distance himself from potential collusive behavior,” Bauer added. Mueller will want to probe that.

The bottom line on all this, Bauer concluded, is that Trump almost certainly knows more than he has “publicly admitted to or acknowledged,” and Mueller probably “already knows it.”

The noose does seem to be tightening.

He's, like, smart

by digby

This is your president today:

He even admits that he kept her in the White House because she "said GREAT things" about him.

Here's more about your very stable genius president:

Knowing all the countries. Maps indicate the world contains a bunch of countries whose existence Trump was never made aware of previously. “Trump appeared confused by Nepal and Bhutan, which lie sandwiched between India and China,” a person familiar with one meeting tells Lippman. “He didn’t know what those were. He thought it was all part of India. He was like, ‘What is this stuff in between and these other countries?’” One of the things they don’t tell you when you start running for president is, there are just so many countries.

Knowing how to read the names of the countries after seeing them. “In one case, Trump, while studying a briefer’s map of South Asia ahead of a 2017 meeting with India’s prime minister, mispronounced Nepal as ‘nipple’ and laughingly referred to Bhutan as ‘button,’ according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.”

Time zones work, how do they work? Trump reportedly gets the urge to dial up foreign leaders, and has trouble understanding that they may not be working or awake at that moment if they are located on the opposite side of the planet. “He wasn’t great with recognizing that the leader of a country might be 80 or 85 years old and isn’t going to be awake or in the right place at 10:30 or 11 p.m. their time,” a former Trump National Security Council official tells Lippman. “When he wants to call someone, he wants to call someone. He’s more impulsive that way. He doesn’t think about what time it is or who it is.”

A source tells Lippman the time zone problem comes up on “a constant basis.” Holding their daylight hours during inconvenient times is just another one of the ways all these foreign countries are ripping us off.

Which countries don’t like each other. Trump can intuitively grasp the concept that some countries will have better or worse relations with the United States. The idea that these countries may have different levels of relations with each other, independent of the United States, is a far trickier concept. During one meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Trump repeatedly praised Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, reports a source, who notes that “everyone was cringing.”

Why world leaders have phone calls. Traditional world leaders have busy schedules, and use phone calls to focus on specific points of negotiations. Trump just calls world leaders for no reason. He especially likes to stalk French president Emmanuel Macron. Trump has developed “what one former Trump national security official calls a ‘bizarre’ fascination with calling French President Emmanuel Macron,” reports Lippman. “He wanted to talk to him constantly … Macron would be like: ‘Hey what are we talking about?’”


Reliving those Whitewater glory days

by digby

My Salon column today:

Virtually every day now we have former Watergate prosecutors and historians weighing in on the parallels between that seminal scandal and the Russia investigation, and for good reason. President Trump, like Richard Nixon before him, is suspected of obstructing justice. With Nixon, the ultimate downfall came from the revelation that he had taped conversations in the Oval Office that would back up the testimony of former White House counsel John Dean that he had personally ordered a cover-up.

With Trump it's much more straightforward. He has admitted to obstruction of justice on national television and has been obviously engaged in a cover-up on his public Twitter feed. What they have in common is hubris and an inordinate amount of faith that they are too clever to ever be caught.

In the course of the Watergate investigations and because of superb journalism, it was also revealed that Nixon ran the presidency like a personal fiefdom from which to exact revenge on his enemies and reward his henchmen. From what we've seen so far, Trump is doing the same thing. He's just doing it out in the open. So it makes good sense to examine the legal precedents and look for parallels as we try to understand where this is going.

But if we are to understand the nature of the scandal and how the Republicans are dealing with it, we don't have to go back 44 years to do it. The Whitewater scandals are much more recent and provide a better window into the current behavior of the Republican Party.

When you see Republicans on Fox and on the floor of the Congress accusing prosecutors on Mueller's team of being partisan hacks and the media of being in the tank for the opposition, it's because ever since Bill Clinton, scandal investigations have become political weapons, at least for the right.

Recall the famous words of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who foolishly admitted it in public:
Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.
Benghazi was child's play compared to Whitewater, the catch-all name for the 1990s Clinton scandals.

Right-wing operatives had been pushing a baroque Arkansas tale of a failed land deal and Bill Clinton's relationship with a partner in a failed '80s savings and loan since the 1992 presidential campaign, and various strands of investigation were launched almost immediately after Clinton took office in 1993.

From the firing of people in the White House travel office, which incensed their friends in the press corps, to accusations that someone in the White House had inappropriately looked at FBI files, to a ghoulish obsession with the suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, the scandal-mongering was relentless.

By January 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno had no choice but to appoint a special prosecutor, Robert Fiske, a Republican former U.S. attorney. That summer the House and Senate Banking committees called 29 Clinton administration officials to testify at public hearings, none of whom were ever found guilty of any wrongdoing. And that was just the beginning.

When Fiske ultimately found that nothing criminal had happened, a partisan panel of judges refused to reappoint him under the independent counsel statute and named Judge Ken Starr to succeed him. He started all over again with a multi-pronged investigation going back years from Washington to Little Rock. Meanwhile, there were activist lawyers (including one George Conway, future husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne) trolling for clients to sue the president for sexual harassment and a nonstop media campaign to hammer away at all of this. There were campaign finance scandals and Buddhist nun scandals and Chinese donor scandals and billing records scandals, none of which ultimately implicated Bill or Hillary Clinton in anything illegal but left a trail of carnage in their wake.

Throughout, Republicans in Congress were relentless in their pursuit. (If the recent Peter Strzok hearing shocked you, you didn't watch any of the dozens of Whitewater hearings.) Starr's office leaked like a sieve, making it clear that his mission had strayed far beyond normal law enforcement into being a political operation intended to bring down the president. The media ate it all up like little baby birds with their beaks open, eager to take whatever was fed to them. The atmosphere was febrile and intense.

Starr had finally decided to close up shop after years and years of chasing his tail had come up with no evidence of a crime. But that was when the Paula Jones civil suit opened the door for Linda Tripp to stab her friend Monica Lewinsky in the back, and right-wing lawyers set a perjury trap for the president. Clinton walked into it, lying under oath when asked if he'd engaged in an extramarital affair with Lewinsky. The rest is history.

Of course, this kind of devious machination is what Republicans see happening with Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's campaign dealings with Russians. Why wouldn't they perceive it that way? After all, that's what they did. They assume everyone behaves as they do. Clinton was caught in a perjury trap, so Mueller must be setting one for Trump. The press eagerly aided and abetted an independent counsel's partisan political crusade so it must be doing the same thing now.

There are important differences. In the 1990s, a Democratic president was investigated by a team of Republican prosecutors and harassed by a ruthless GOP Congress. Robert Mueller and the leadership of the Justice Department are all Republicans and the Congress is behaving like a band of accomplices rather than performing oversight. But they're portraying this as a partisan witch hunt anyway because, in their minds, that's just how these things work.

We can certainly draw parallels between the Trump scandals and those of Nixon and Clinton. There are elements of both in their behaviors, from abuse of office to corruption and extramarital affairs. But neither of those presidents, as personally flawed as they may have been, were ever suspected of being dupes or agents of a foreign adversary in a plot to win their election, in a scandal so serious that one would think even the most partisan of players would sober up and take their duty seriously.

Instead, the Republicans are partying like it's 1998 again, lost in the past, unable to adjust to new circumstances, assuming everyone is as vengeful and petty as they are. Now that I think about it, that describes the Republican Party of 2018 in more ways than one.


Opponents of democracy

by Tom Sullivan

GOP leaders are asleep at the switch or worse, Joe Scarborough accuses, as forensic evidence piles up that Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB spy, and his employees in Russian military intelligence agency continue "coordinating attacks" on U.S. democracy. In this morning's Washington Post, Scarborough writes:

Imagine that U.S. military leaders spent most of 1941 warning President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Democratic Party of a coming Pearl Harbor attack. Then imagine history’s harsh judgment against FDR’s party had it ignored those concerns, voted against efforts to fortify the Pacific fleet and plotted the firing of generals who were working to expose the looming Japanese threat. Historians would have rightly savaged these politicians as traitors to their country.
Since 2017, Republicans have put party ahead of country to protect a "buffoon," Scarborough scolds. Gary Trudeau more graphically suggests a spineless GOP is well on its way towards putting its collective head where the sun never shines.

But the truth of it is the GOP has simply made a foreign adversary an ally in its own attacks on democracy. The headlines may hail from Washington, D.C., but the fighting is out in the provinces. The Post's Editorial Board rolls out the map to highlight the battle in North Carolina "where African Americans’ voting rights have been under siege."

At issue this morning is the state's laws regarding felons voting. By law here, felons regain voting rights automatically once their sentences are complete, including parole and probation. But the rules are not well publicized and in a state where African Americans make up a "hugely disproportionate share of convicted felons," some find themselves tripped up by the ambiguity. Auditors found 441 ballots improperly cast by felons in 2016. Most state prosecutors refrained from bringing charges, finding no intent to commit a crime:
Not so in Alamance County, a small locality in the Piedmont where a dozen individuals convicted of felonies, nine of them African Americans, cast votes. There, the Republican district attorney, Pat Nadolski, has gone forward with prosecutions that reflect his own lack of judgment while reminding the nation of North Carolina’s recent poisonous racial history.
But the truth of it is targeting African American felons is but one skirmish in GOP attacks on democracy in the states. If there is an election-rigging ploy North Carolina Republican legislators have not tried, they haven't thought of it yet. In 2016, the Post reminds readers, a federal court struck down the omnibus voting law that targeted blacks “with almost surgical precision.” Overnight, the GOP-led legislature expanded its proposed 2013 voting bill from a handful of pages to over 50 following the Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holder decision that removed the state from federal preclearance oversight.

A version of the strict voter ID law the Supreme Court declined to reinstate in 2017 will appear on the ballot this fall as a proposed constitutional amendment among a set of 6. Drawing from the plot of Jack Reacher, in which a sniper kills 5 people at random to hide fact that one is not random, Republicans have submitted 6 amendments to conceal that the real goal is passage of voter ID. The others are honey for the conservative base or more moves to consolidate power.

The party is also manipulating ballot order for the state Supreme Court race this fall and modifying party identification rules it already modified to favor its judicial candidates. “If at first you cheat to rig an election and succeed; try, try again,” declares an editorial from WRAL.

North Carolina joins Michigan, Wisconsin, and other GOP-controlled states in the contest for which legislature can whipsaw its voters more.

Two former Democratic state House members were present at a fundraiser here on Saturday. Both women lost their seats after being "double-bunked" by GOP redistricting in 2011. In one case at least, just moving the line over a few streets was enough. Regular readers may recall that I voted in the 2016 primary in NC-10, only to be back in NC-11 by November. Thanks to that surgical gerrymandering, the line has flipped back and forth over my house since 2011.

Attacks on democracy continue not just from without, but from within.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Only 18 months in

by digby

It took Nixon 6 years to be this loathed and despised:

Trump is as strongly disliked as President Richard Nixon was when he resigned the presidency 44 years ago this week. Back then, 45% of people said Nixon was doing a poor job as president in a Harris poll.

Among Democrats, the intensity of the dislike toward Trump is even deeper today than it was against Nixon back in 1974. Back in 1974, 70% of those who said they voted for Democrat George McGovern in 1972 (37% of the sample) gave Nixon a poor rating. That's 10 percentage points below the 80% of Democrats (35% of the Marist sample) who give Trump a poor rating today.

What's so interesting is that even though a majority of people didn't strongly dislike Nixon, it's not like they wanted to stay him in office. The Harris poll back in 1974 found that 56% of Americans wanted him impeached and removed from office compared with only 34% who didn't want that to happen. Among McGovern voters, it was 83%. Clearly, Americans didn't like Nixon, but it didn't boil over into strong dislike in the same way it does with Trump.

The intensity factor goes both ways with Trump, though. While as many Americans strongly dislike Trump today as they did Nixon back in 1974, a lot more love Trump today than loved Nixon in 1974. Just 7% of Americans said that Nixon was doing an excellent job in the last Harris poll taken before he left office. That's far lower than the 20% who give Trump an excellent rating now.

The love for Trump now among Republicans is also considerably greater than it was for Nixon in 1974. Among those who were going to vote for a Republican for Congress in 1974 and had voted in 1972 (26% of the sample), only 20% gave Nixon an excellent rating. That's far less than the 49% of Republicans (27% of the sample) who give Trump an excellent rating today.

The love and dislike Trump elicits has proven to be a positive and a negative for him. It's been a positive because so few Republican lawmakers have been willing to abandon him given they feel he is beloved by the base. Additionally, it has helped Trump from falling too far below an overall approval rating of 40%.

The number of Americans who hold strong negative feelings towards Trump is, however, significantly greater than the number who hold strong positive feelings.

In fact, it's record breaking how many give Trump a poor rating this early in his presidency.

He's never given a moment's thought to trying to appeal to anyone who doesn't already worship him. Having the instincts of a tyrant, he believes his cult is legion and that he can dominate by sheer force. And with the help of his henchmen in the right wing media and th congress along with the support of his foreign allies, he just might pull it off.

The one thing that might change all this is the Democrats winning huge in November. The wingnuts love to be victims but they respect a winner. If his "dominance" proves to be a bunch of hot air, some of his followers and elected officials may realize that his con is played out and move along.

Read this twitter thread for more insights on Nixon's fall. I don't think people realize just how precipitous it was:


Fudging the numbers

by digby

I guess it doesn't matter anymore that the president is delusional and dishonest but it's probably a good idea to keep up with reality as much as we can:

President Donald Trump is pulling numbers out of thin air when it comes to the economy, jobs and the deficit.

He refers to a current record-breaking gross domestic product for the U.S. where none exists and predicts a blockbuster 5 percent annual growth rate in the current quarter that hardly any economist sees. Hailing his trade policies in spite of fears of damage from the escalating trade disputes he’s provoked, Trump also falsely declares that his tariffs on foreign goods will help erase $21 trillion in national debt. The numbers don’t even come close.

The statements capped a week of grandiose and erroneous claims by Trump and his critics, including questionable rhetoric from Sen. Bernie Sanders that his “Medicare for all” plan would reduce U.S. health spending by $2 trillion.

A sampling of the statements, and the reality behind them:


TRUMP: “Economic growth, last quarter, hit the 4.1. We anticipate this next quarter to be — this is just an estimate, but already they’re saying it could be in the fives.” — remarks Tuesday before a group of business executives.

TRUMP: “As you know, we’re doing record and close-to-record GDP.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: No. These are the latest in a string of exaggerated claims that Trump has made about the U.S. economy.

While economists are generally optimistic about growth, very few anticipate the economy will expand at a 5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter the president referred to. Macroeconomic Advisers, a consulting firm in St. Louis, forecasts 3.2 percent growth in the third quarter. JPMorgan Chase economists have penciled in 3.5 percent. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta pegs it at 4.3 percent.

Whatever the final number turns out to be, none of these figures represents record or close-to-record growth for gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s output. The 4.1 percent growth in the second quarter was simply the most since 2014.

TRUMP: “We’ve created 3.9 million more jobs since Election Day — so almost 4 million jobs — which is unthinkable.” — remarks Thursday at prison reform event in Bedminster, N.J.

THE FACTS: It’s not that unthinkable, since more jobs were created in the same period before the November 2016 election than afterward.

It’s true that in the 20 months since Trump’s election, the economy has generated 3.9 million jobs. In the 20 months before his election, however, employers added 4.3 million jobs.

TRUMP: “Great financial numbers being announced on an almost daily basis. Economy has never been better, jobs at best point in history.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: He’s exaggerating. The economy is healthy now, but it has been in better shape at many times in the past.

Growth reached 4.1 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, which Trump highlighted late last month with remarks at the White House. But it’s only the best in the past four years. So far, the economy is expanding at a modest rate compared with previous economic expansions. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, from 1997 through 2000. And in the 1980s expansion, growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

It’s not clear what Trump specifically means when he declares that jobs are at the “best point in history,” but based on several indicators, he’s off the mark.

The unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is not at the best point ever — it is actually near the lowest in 18 years. The all-time low came in 1953, when unemployment fell to 2.5 percent during the Korean War. And while economists have been surprised to see employers add 215,000 jobs a month this year, a healthy increase, employers in fact added jobs at a faster pace in 2014 and 2015. A greater percentage of Americans held jobs in 2000 than now.

Trump didn’t mention probably the most important measure of economic health for Americans — wages. While paychecks are slowly grinding higher, inflation is now canceling out the gains. Lifted by higher gasoline prices, consumer prices increased 2.9 percent in June from a year earlier, the most in six years.


TRUMP: “Because of Tariffs we will be able to start paying down large amounts of the $21 Trillion in debt that has been accumulated, much by the Obama Administration, while at the same time reducing taxes for our people.” — tweet Sunday.

THE FACTS: This isn’t going to happen.

The Treasury Department estimates that all tariffs currently in place will raise about $40 billion in revenue in the 2018 budget year, which ends Sept. 30. Even with the recent tariff increases Trump has implemented or threatened to put in place, it clearly wouldn’t be enough to reduce the $21 trillion national debt. It’s just 5 percent of what the president would need to eliminate the annual budget deficit of $804 billion that the Congressional Budget Office predicts for this year. The national debt represents the accumulation of all the annual deficits.

The president seems to believe that foreigners pay tariffs, but they are import taxes paid for by American businesses and consumers. They may make it harder for other countries to sell things in the United States, but they are just another form of tax and do not result in lower taxes for the American people overall.


TRUMP: “Almost 3.9 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps — that’s since the election. ... That’s some number. That’s a big number.” — Ohio rally on Aug. 4.

TRUMP: “More than 3.5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps — something that you haven’t seen in decades.” — remarks at White House on July 27.

WHITE HOUSE: “More than 2.8 million have stopped participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) - commonly known as food stamps - since Trump’s first full month in office.” — information sheet released Tuesday, citing Fox Business report.

THE FACTS: Trump and the White House omit important context and overstate his role in reducing the number of people on food stamps. Nor is it accurate that recent declines are the biggest in decades. It’s true, as the White House conveys, that more than 2.8 million people stopped participating in the program during the 15-month period from February 2017, Trump’s first full month in office, to May 2018, the latest Agriculture Department data available. But this decline is consistent with a longer-term downward trend in food stamp usage due to an improving economy. Currently there are 39.3 million people in the program; food stamp usage peaked in 2013 at around 47.6 million, following the recession.

For instance, in the 15-month period before Trump’s first full month in office, food stamps declined by 3.3 million — larger than the 2.8 million that dropped off under Trump’s watch.

I think we need to start asking where he's getting these numbers. It's hard to imagine they really are just being made up out of thin air since they do have some relationship to real numbers, they're mostly just cherry picked. I don't think he's competent enough to make this stuff up himself.

So who is feeding him the false info?


Mistress of the obvious

by digby

Omarosa is a Trump creation.She's playing the game he taught her and making a killing doing it. As ye sow so shall ye reap.

But she isn't lying about everything. This doesn't require an "insider account." It's obvious to anyone who watches him:


"He loves the game"

by digby

Except it isn't actually a game:

President Donald Trump has spent his week at his Bedminster retreat fine-tuning an aggressive fall agenda that could benefit his reelection chances in 2020 but imperil Republican congressional candidates in the midterms.

While keeping a light golf schedule, the president is using his “working vacation” — which has included rallies, fundraisers and dinners with donors and business executives — to test lines about potentially shutting down the government to get a border wall and turning up the trade war with China.

Trump’s frenetic campaign schedule picks up immediately next week, when he’s set to travel to upstate New York to raise money for a vulnerable congresswoman. But interviews with a dozen administration officials, outside advisers and Bedminster visitors offered a portrait of a president continuing to grapple with balancing his responsibility to help Republicans hold onto a tenuous majority with his instinct to rile up the base with populist rhetoric and his longstanding “America First” promises.

“I think he feels the country’s future and the future of the world depends on him being able to do what needs to be done,” said GOP donor and New York grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis, a guest at Trump’s business dinner on Tuesday.

Trump’s respite has provided him hours of downtime, with aides sprinkling his comparatively sparse schedule with meetings and phone calls as he prepares to stump all fall for Republican candidates. He’s spent long stretches in high spirits, according to several accounts, gloating about the economy and gross domestic product, and riding high following recent ballot-box victories.

But Trump has found time to rage about the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller and what he views as the unfair treatment of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is on trial in Virginia on charges of tax and bank fraud.

Trump’s mood has darkened during periods when the Russia story has dominated, according to close confidants. “Every day you wake up and it’s Manafort this, Manafort that. It’s crazy,” said one close adviser. “How do you get away from it?”

Trump “can’t miss” the media coverage of the trial, his attorney Rudy Giuliani added in an interview with POLITICO. “The only thing he keeps reiterating is he thinks Manafort has been treated in an unfair way for a guy who’s alleged to have committed a white-collar crime,” he said.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who golfed with Trump last weekend and had dinner with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told an event hosted by the Greenville County Republican Party and radio station WGTK that the president brought up ending the Mueller probe “about 20 times.” Graham added: “I told the president, ‘I know you don’t like it. I know you feel put upon. You just got to ride it out.'”

But rather than focusing on upending the leadership of the Justice Department, as he did during his Christmas vacation at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump has been mulling ways to deliver on his iconic wall. The maneuvering, even if it leads to a partial shutdown, would reinforce to supporters that he’s fighting for border security. Among those encouraging him to follow his intuition is Stephen Miller, the senior policy adviser and immigration hard-liner who is orchestrating additional crackdowns ahead of the midterms. Miller declined to comment.

China angered Trump by retaliating on American tariffs with new duties of their own. He has been polling close associates about trade with China, while reinforcing his position that the rival superpower’s unfair trade practices must be curbed. The president indicated in conversations that he was not so much discussing the matter but seeking reassurance from those around him, particularly since he’s taken so much heat from Republicans in Washington over the escalating tensions.

At his dinner Tuesday for business executives, Trump allowed that “we’re in a little bit of a fight with China right now,” after raging on Twitter that the country has been spending a fortune on advertising and public relations “trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on Tariffs — because they are really hurting their economy.” Some inside believe he can “fix” trade deficits the same way he “fixed” taxes. And Trump is presenting the impasse as temporary, giving these people the feeling that he thinks it will soon pass.

White House aides and confidants have swept in and out of town. Trump has been speaking with his Cabinet, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and his trade team by phone. He’s also called Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel several times and talked to congressional leaders, with the conversations primarily focused on national security, trade and the midterms.

At Bedminster, Trump maintains a home on the campus complete with an office, and senior White House staff members meet once a day, usually inside the residence. As is common practice when the president travels, a larger office space inside the club is designed to replicate their secure workspaces in Washington. Essential and senior staff members stay at the club, with the others staying at a nearby Marriott hotel.

An aide noted that fewer people were able to take a vacation last August because chief of staff John Kelly had just started in the role and there was a considerable effort to get him up to speed and reorganize the West Wing. Another aide noted the White House also spent much of August dealing with the fallout from the president's response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump has come to view Bedminster as relaxing because he can walk outside and see acres of rolling green hills. While the crowd is different from the high-society set at Mar-a-Lago, the scene feels familiar to Trump because so many of the members have been coming back for years. Guests talk about the venue’s low-key atmosphere, which was described as a couple of paces slower than Mar-a-Lago.

Officials said the president is spending time with the first lady and their son, Barron. Kushner and Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, also have been there, along with their children. In keeping with the working vacation motif, Trump did not golf on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but on Thursday he hit the driving range with one of his grandkids, with photos of him practicing his swing and gesticulating from a cart popping up on social media.

Aides anticipate that the campaign trail will give the president a sustained chance to recharge among supporters and make inroads for down-ballot candidates in the party, whom he is telling people will be insulated by the strong economy.

“He loves the fight. He knows the people. He loves the game,” another outside aide said. “It gets him out of the office and doing meetings that he doesn’t want to do. Whether he’s going to turn the tide in these districts is TBD.”

He can't do the job of president because he is unfit and unable. Performing and pretending is all he knows how to do.


Memory lapses

by digby

He doesn't really care that he's caught blatantly lying. Trump's base doesn't watch CNN:

President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that if the President sits down for questioning by special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump will say he never discussed easing up on a probe of former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn with former FBI Director James Comey.

"There was no conversation about Michael Flynn. The President didn't find out that Comey believed there was until about, I think, it was February when it supposedly took place. Memo came out in May. And in between, Comey testified under oath, in no way had he been obstructed at any time," Giuliani told CNN's "State of the Union" anchor Jake Tapper. "Then all of the sudden in May he says he felt obstructed. He felt pressured by that comment, 'you should go easy on Flynn.' So we maintain the President didn't say that."
Giuliani said on Sunday that a flat denial of the "let this go" comment is "what (Trump) will testify to if he's asked that question."

"They already know that," he added. "Why are they asking us to repeat what they already know under oath?"

In July, Giuliani seemed to suggest on ABC's "This Week" that Trump did ask Comey to let the probe go. After host George Stephanopoulos said to Giuliani that Comey says he took Trump's remark as direction, Giuliani responded that he was also told, "Can you give the man a break?" many times as a prosecutor.

"He didn't direct him to do that," Giuliani said. "What he said was, can you, can you give him a break."

"Comey says he took it as direction," Stephanopoulos interjected.

"Well, that's okay. He could have taken it that way, but by that time he had been fired," Giuliani responded. "He said a lot of other things, some of which has turned out to be untrue. The reality is, as a prosecutor, I was told that many times, 'can you give the man a break,' either by his lawyers, by his relatives, by his friends. You take that into consideration. But you know, that doesn't determine not going forward with it."

On Sunday's "State of the Union," however, Giuliani said he "never told ABC that."

"That's crazy. I have never said that," he added. "What I said was, that is what Comey is saying Trump said. I have always said the President denies it. "

This is undoubtedly a lie too:

President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller gave him the deadline of Sept. 1 to end his probe into possible obstruction of justice on the part of the president.

"September 1 was the date that Bob Mueller gave me back two months ago … When we were talking about getting his report done, he threw out the date September 1 as a reasonable date to get it done," Giuliani said on CNN's "State of the Union."

“I thought he [Mueller] meant, well that’ll keep us clear of the election. And they did say something like they didn’t want to repeat some of the mistakes that [former FBI director James] Comey made,” he continued. Comey has been slammed by the Justice Department and Democrats for showing poor judgment during the 2016 election, particularly for his decision to announce that the FBI was renewing its investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of State just days before the presidential election.

“Maybe I put those things together or Jay did, and we came away with the idea that they’re trying to get it done by then.”

He's as much a pathological liar as Trump. I guess that's just par for the course now.

Does he amuse you? Is he a clown?

by digby

This piece by David Von Drehle in the Washington Post talks about the Manafort trial reminding him of mob trials of the past and notes Trump's own "associations." I don't think this has ever gotten the attention it deserves:

As many journalists have documented — the late Wayne Barrett and decorated investigator David Cay Johnston most deeply — Trump’s trail was blazed through one business after another notorious for corruption by organized crime.

New York construction, for starters. In 1988, Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro of the Genovese crime family testified before a U.S. Senate committee concerning the Mafia’s control of building projects in New York. Construction unions and concrete contractors were deeply dirty, Cafaro confirmed, and four of the city’s five crime families worked cooperatively to keep it that way.

This would not have been news to Trump, whose early political mentor and personal lawyer was Roy Cohn, consigliere to such dons as Fat Tony Salerno and Carmine Galante. After Cohn guided the brash young developer through the gutters of city politics to win permits for Trump Plaza and Trump Tower, it happened that Trump elected to build primarily with concrete rather than steel. He bought the mud at inflated prices from S&A Concrete, co-owned by Cohn’s client Salerno and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.

Coincidence? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Trump moved next into the New Jersey casino business, which was every bit as clean as it sounds. State officials merely shrugged when Trump bought a piece of land from associates of Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo for roughly $500,000 more than it was worth. However, this and other ties persuaded police in Australia to block Trump’s bid to build a casino in Sydney in 1987, citing Trump’s “Mafia connections.”

His gambling interests led him into the world of boxing promotion, where Trump became chums with fight impresario Don King, a former Cleveland numbers runner. (Trump once told me that he owes his remarkable coiffure to King, who advised the future president, from personal experience, that outlandish hair is great PR.) King hasn’t been convicted since the 1960s, when he did time for stomping a man to death. But investigators at the FBI and U.S. Senate concluded that his Mafia ties ran from Cleveland to New York, Las Vegas to Atlantic City. Mobsters “were looking to launder illicit cash,” wrote one sleuth. “Boxing, of all the sports, was perhaps the most accommodating laundromat, what with its international subculture of unsavory characters who play by their own rules.”

But an even more accommodating laundromat came along: luxury real estate — yet another mob-adjacent field in which the Trump name has loomed large. Because buyers of high-end properties often hide their identities, it’s impossible to say how many Russian Mafia oligarchs own Trump-branded condos. Donald Trump Jr. gave a hint in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

For instance: In 2013, federal prosecutors indicted Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and 33 others on charges related to a gambling ring operating from two Trump Tower condos that allegedly laundered more than $100 million. A few months later, the same Mr. Tokhtakhounov, a fugitive from U.S. justice, was seen on the red carpet at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Obviously, not everyone in these industries is corrupt, and if Donald Trump spent four decades rubbing elbows with wiseguys and never got dirty, he has nothing to worry about from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

But does he look unworried to you?

No. No he doesn't.

Update: And then there's all the hush money.