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Sunday, January 20, 2019


The struggle never ended

by Tom Sullivan

Ernest Green, member of the "Little Rock Nine" addresses 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, Asheville, NC.

Those of us of a certain age, but not quite old enough, were too young to attend the 1963 March on Washington. The march and Rev. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech influenced our era, our views, and changed the country. There are times one wishes, if only I could have been there for that moment in history. Then again, such thinking fixes the civil rights movement in time. The truth is, that struggle never ended.

Saturday morning, Ernest Green, one of the "Little Rock Nine" spoke to Asheville’s 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast. He retold the story of how in 1958 he and several classmates integrated Central High School escorted by 101st Airborne Division troops.

“Over 60 years ago, we arrived in the back of an army wagon at Central High School,” Green said. “I don’t think any of us thought we’d still be talking about high school 60 years later.”

They were just looking for a better education and a chance at upward mobility.

King, who followed the Little Rock effort, was little known at the time. Green said he paid King little mind because, well, King was an adult and he was 16. But King was there when Green graduated, with anti-sniper teams overlooking the football field, helicopters flying overhead, dogs sniffing for bombs, and Green's classmates not wanting to stand too close to him.

King quoted an old hymn to Green in the car on their way, saying God wouldn't bring you this far to leave you now.

That struggle against white supremacy never ended.

The web was flooded yesterday with images of teenage red caps taunting a native American elder on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, feet from where Martin Luther King delivered his historic speech.

Nathan Phillips, reportedly a Vietnam War veteran and Omaha tribe elder, was singing and drumming there as part of Friday's Indigenous Peoples March. The swarm of teenagers from the all-male Covington Catholic High School were in town from Kentucky for the March for Life.

Phillips told the Washington Post a few people from the March for Life crowd began chanting, “Build that wall, build that wall,” and Phillips felt he needed to leave:

“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”
The white teenager stood silently, smirking, inches away from Phillips' face as others in an assortment of “Make America Great Again” caps and shirts mocked him and his friends.

The scene reminded The Atlantic's James Fallows last night of the scenes from Little Rock’s Central High School Green had recalled hours before:
The young men from Covington Catholic High School should know that they will be immortalized, the way the angry young white people you see below were: as a group, a movement, a problem, beyond their identities as individuals.

If one of the priests or teachers with the Covington group today had stepped in to stop them—if even one of the students had said, “Come on, back off!”—that person would be remembered, too. But there is no sign that anyone, student or teacher or parent or priest, did.

Black students integrating Little Rock Central High School, 1957.(AP)
Others saw the parallels to white resistance to black men sitting at lunch counters: The prevalent red caps and Trump gear among the teens was no accident, as Slate's Ruth Graham observed:
The context is key to the clash’s virality, too. It took place just days after President Trump made light of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom he often refers to by the racist nickname “Pocahontas.” More broadly, it takes place in an era in which chanting the president’s name has become a tool of racial intimidation.
The mayor of Covington issued a statement condemning the students' behavior. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School issued their own statement. It read, in part, "This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."

But the damage is done. The struggle continues. History is still being made.

Women were again marching in the streets this weekend for the third straight year, claiming equality and respect too-long denied them by easily threatened men accustomed to being unchallenged and untouchable.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday Night at the Movies

The fierce urgency of now: 10 films for MLK Day

By Dennis Hartley

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I’ve combed my review archives and curated 10 films that reflect on race relations in America; some that look back at where we’ve been, some that give us a reality check on where we’re at now and maybe even one or two that offer hope for the future. We still may not have quite reached that “promised land” of colorblind equality, but each of us doing whatever we can in our own small way to help keep Dr. King’s legacy alive will surely help light the way-especially in these dark times.

Black KkKlansman (2018) – So what do you get if you cross Cyrano de Bergerac with Blazing Saddles? You might get Spike Lee’s Black KkKlansman. That is not to say that Lee’s film is a knee-slapping comedy; far from it. Lee takes the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American undercover cop who managed to infiltrate the KKK in Colorado in the early 70s and runs with it, in his inimitable fashion.

I think this is Lee’s most affecting and hard-hitting film since Do the Right Thing (1989). The screenplay (adapted by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Lee from Stallworth’s eponymous memoir) is equal parts biopic, docudrama, police procedural and social commentary, finding a nice balance of drama, humor and suspense. (Full review)

The Black Power Mixtape
(2011) –The Black Power movement of the mid-60s to mid-70s has historically been somewhat misrepresented, due to an emphasis on its more sensationalistic elements. The time is ripe to re-examine the movement, which despite its failures and flaws, still emerges as one of the last truly progressive grass roots political awakenings that we’ve had in this country (if you’re expecting bandolier-wearing, pistol-waving interviewees spouting fiery Marxist-tinged rhetoric-dispense with that hoary stereotype now).

Director Goran Olsson was given access to a treasure trove of pristine, unedited 16mm footage from the era. The footage, recently discovered tucked away in the basement of Swedish Television, represents nearly a decade of candid interviews with key movement leaders, as well as meticulous documentation of Black Panther Party activities and African-American inner city life. Olsson presents the clips in a historically chronological timeline, with minimal present-day commentary. While not perfect, it is an important historical document, and one of the more eye-opening films I have seen on this subject. (Full review)

The Boys of Baraka (2005) – Co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady have fashioned a fresh and inspiring take on a well-worn cause celebre: the sad, shameful state of America’s inner-city school system. Eschewing the usual hand-wringing about the underfunded, over-crowded, glorified daycare centers that many of these institutions have become for poor, disenfranchised urban youth, the filmmakers chose to showcase one program that strove to make a real difference.

The story follows a group of 12-year-old boys from Baltimore who attended a boarding school in Kenya, staffed by American teachers and social workers. In addition to more personalized tutoring, there was emphasis on conflict resolution through communication, tempered by a “tough love” approach. The events that unfold from this bold social experiment (filmed over a three year period) are alternately inspiring and heartbreaking. (Full review)

The Force (2017) – Peter Nicks’ documentary examines the rocky relationship between Oakland’s police department and its communities of color. The force has been under federal oversight since 2002, due to myriad misconduct cases. Nicks utilizes the same cinema verite techniques that made his film The Waiting Room so compelling. It’s like a real-life Joseph Wambaugh novel (The Choirboys comes to mind). The film offers no easy answers-but delivers an intimate, insightful glimpse at both sides. (Full review)

The Girls in the Band (2011) – Contextual to a curiously overlooked component within the annals of American jazz music, it’s tempting to extrapolate on Dr. King’s dream. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a nation where one is not only primarily judged by content of character, but can also be judged on the merits of creativity, or the pure aesthetics of artistic expression, as opposed to being judged solely by the color of one’s skin…or perhaps gender?

In her film, director Judy Chaikin chronicles the largely unsung contributions that female jazz musicians (a large portion of them African-American) have made (and continue to make) to this highly influential American art form. Utilizing rare archival footage and interviews with veteran and contemporary players, Chaikin has assembled an absorbing, poignant, and celebratory piece. (Full review)

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) – The late writer and social observer James Baldwin once said that “Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.” Sadly, thanks to the emboldening of certain elements within American society that have been drawn from the shadows by the openly racist rhetoric spouting from our nation’s current leader, truer words have never been spoken.

Indeed, anyone who watches Raoul Peck’s documentary will recognize not only the beauty of Baldwin’s prose, but the prescience of such observations. Both are on full display throughout Peck’s timely treatise on race relations in America, in which he mixes archival news footage, movie clips, and excerpts from Baldwin’s TV appearances with narration by an uncharacteristically subdued Samuel L. Jackson, reading excerpts from Baldwin’s unfinished book, Remember This House. An excellent and enlightening film. (Full review)

In the Heat of the Night (1967) – “They call me Mister Tibbs!” In this classic (which won 1967’s Best Picture Oscar) Sidney Poitier plays a cosmopolitan police detective from Philly who gets waylaid in a torpid Mississippi backwater, where he is reluctantly recruited into helping the bigoted sheriff (Rod Steiger) solve a local murder. Poitier nails his performance; you can feel Virgil Tibb’s pain as he tries to maintain his professional cool amidst a brace of surly rednecks, who throw up roadblocks at every turn.

While Steiger is outstanding as well, I find it ironic that he was the one who won “Best Actor in a leading role”, when Poitier was the star of the film (it seems Hollywood didn’t get the film’s message). Sterling Silliphant’s brilliant screenplay (another Oscar) works as a crime thriller and a “fish out of water” story. Director Norman Jewison was nominated but didn’t score a win. Future director Hal Ashby won for Best Editing. Quincy Jones composed the soundtrack, and Ray Charles sings the sultry theme. (Full review)

The Landlord (1970) – The late great Hal Ashby only directed a relative handful of films, but most, especially his 70’s output, were built to last (Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Bound for Glory, Shampoo, Being There). In The Landlord, Beau Bridges is a spoiled rich kid who worries his parents with his “liberal views”, especially when he buys a run-down inner-city tenement, with intentions to renovate. His subsequent involvement with the various black tenants is played sometimes for laughs, other times for intense drama, but always for real.

The social satire and observations about race relations are dead-on, but never preachy or condescending. Top-notch ensemble work, featuring a young Lou Gossett (with hair!) giving a memorable turn. The lovely Susan Anspach is hilarious as Bridge’s perpetually stoned and bemused sister. A scene featuring Pearl Bailey and Lee Grant getting drunk and bonding over a bottle of “sparkling” wine is a minor classic all on its own. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore-honest, bold, uncompromising, socially and politically meaningful, yet (lest we forget) entertaining. (Full review)

Let the Fire Burn (2013) – While obscured in public memory by the (relatively) more “recent” 1993 Branch Davidian siege in Waco, the eerily similar demise of the Philadelphia-based MOVE organization 8 years earlier was no less tragic on a human level, nor any less disconcerting in its ominous sociopolitical implications.

In this compelling documentary, director Jason Osder has parsed a trove of archival “live-at-the-scene” TV reports, deposition videos, law enforcement surveillance footage, and other sundry “found” footage (much of it previously unseen by the general public) and created a tight narrative that plays like an edge-of-your-seat political thriller.

Let the Fire Burn
is not only an essential document of an American tragedy, but a cautionary tale and vital reminder of how far we have yet to go to completely purge the vestiges of institutional racism in this country. (Full review)

The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013) – There have been a number of films documenting and dramatizing the extraordinary life of Muhammad Ali, but they all share a curious anomaly. Most have tended to gloss over Ali’s politically volatile “exile years” (1967-1970), during which the American sports icon was officially stripped of his heavyweight crown and essentially “banned” from professional boxing after his very public refusal to be inducted into the Army on the grounds of conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. Director Bill Siegel (The Weather Underground) fills in those blanks in his documentary.

As you watch the film, you begin to understand how Ali the sports icon transmogrified into an influential sociopolitical figure, even if he didn’t set out to become the latter. It was more an accident of history; Ali’s affiliation with the Nation of Islam and stance against the Vietnam War put him at the confluence of both the burgeoning Black Power and anti-war movements. How it all transpired makes an absorbing watch. (Full review)

Previous posts with related themes:
Blood at the root: an MLK Day mixtape

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley
Mr Unpopular is a liar

by digby

The new Pew Poll's headline is: "Trump Begins Third Year With Low Job Approval and Doubts About His Honesty"

You don't say.

You can read the whole thing here. 
The Dom is NOT happy

by digby

Trump negotiated with Pence and Kushner and came up with a "compromise" that includes his wall and promises to hold DACA recipients hostage every three years for more ridiculous racist garbage. As Simon Rosenberg tweeted:

Trump is not going to reopen the government until he gets his immigration bill passed but offers 1) a plan which cannot pass Senate or House or 2) a path which would preclude regular order - no committees, hearings, studies, debate, votes. Process normally takes months.

And to me this is the rub - the President is literally trying to change how our democracy has worked for hundreds of years. He has to do this because his immigration plan can never pass as is, and he needs to break the system to get what he wants.

Debate isn't really abt immigration/border it's abt Trump and McConnell conspiring to make Trump something more than a President, an authoritarian, a Mad King. Trump made no concession today. He just changed the terms of his anti-democratic demands.

The people who run America aren't having it anyway:


Just another night in the Freakshow

by digby

What the hell?

“Would you like to speak to the president?”

That was about the last question I expected from a stranger on a Friday night in Paris.

I was at a brasserie in the Latin Quarter, enjoying dinner with James McAuley, the Post’s Paris correspondent. We had finished the meal and were continuing our conversation as we waited for the check to arrive.

We had been talking for two hours or more, about all manner of things, including American politics, the president and the Democratic field for 2020. A man at an adjacent table, whose back was to us, turned around, cellphone in hand, and asked me, “Would you like to speak to the president?”

I was more than surprised by his words and at first wondered which president he was talking about. Because we were in Paris and had also been talking about Europe and related issues, I thought he might be talking about embattled French President Emmanuel Macron.

That made no real sense, however, as the man with the phone was clearly an American. Still, the idea that it was President Trump on the other end seemed too weird to be real.

The man asked again if I wanted to take his phone. I looked at it and could see that the Caller ID showed no telephone number. Instead it was the same identifier of calls that come from White House. Could this really be the president? I took the phone, wondering what kind of hoax was about to be played on us.

“Hello, Mr. President,” I said. The voice at the other end of the line was unmistakable. It was President Trump.

I had not spoken to Trump in more than two years, since before he was elected. Our talented White House team has the responsibility for pursuing interviews with him, and though I often write about him, I happily defer to them on that task.

But with the president on the line, whatever the circumstances, I thought I should try to elicit something newsworthy from him. I was thinking as I began to question him of the success my colleague Josh Dawsey had had when he took a call from the president in the middle of a dinner some weeks ago.

“Mr. President,” I asked, “when are you going to settle the shutdown?” He said it needed to be resolved soon but he made it abundantly clear that no discussions of any kind were underway and that his terms had not softened. He reiterated that he expects funding for his border wall.

I tried a few other lines of inquiry on the shutdown, but in the snippets of conversation, no news was being made. The disputed story about him ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress seemed like an unproductive avenue, given the circumstances. But my presidential questioning obviously needed work. Suggestions, Josh?

“I hear you’ve been saying nice things about me,” the president volunteered.

The statement caught me by surprise and I demurred. The man at the table next to us had mentioned in passing to the president that, even in Paris, people were talking about him. “Are they still there? Let me speak to them,” the president had said, I later learned.

Whatever had been conveyed to him about the conversation McAuley and I had been having, he seemed to believe he had a sympathetic American on the other end of the phone. But with my noncommittal response, he seemed a bit puzzled.

He asked me another question: “Are you Hillary or are you Trump?”

At that point, I realized that confusion was rampant on both ends of this telephone call.

“I’m a reporter,” I replied.

That stopped him short, and I could almost hear the wheels spinning at the other end of the line as he tried to figure out what was going on here.

“Do you know who you’re speaking with?” I asked him.

It was an unfair question to ask. Obviously he did not, as there was no way he would have recognized my voice or in any other way assumed that he was talking to anyone other than a random American who happened to be in Paris. Had he known, I wonder whether he would have agreed to have the phone handed to me.

I identified myself. He seemed to be as surprised by the fact that he had a Washington Post reporter on the line as I had been to think that a man at a table next to mine was actually talking to the president of the United States.

Trump was apparently on a speaker phone because after I identified myself, there was an outbreak of laughter over the oddity of the whole moment at the other end. The president appeared not to be alone, though he did not identify anybody else with him.

All of this transpired in less than two minutes, at which point the owner of the phone signaled that he wanted to take back the call. I handed him the phone. James and I looked at one another in amazement at what had just happened, and, we wondered aloud, who was this man with the phone?

When the man with the phone ended the call, he turned back to us with a smile. “Who are you?” I asked, though I should have realized more quickly who it was.

Though my confusion was understandable, I instantly recognized him when he told me his name and embarrassed I hadn’t picked up on it earlier. But he was out of uniform, quite casually dressed, and out of context.

“I’m Joe Kernen of CNBC,” he said.

Kernen is well-known co-anchor of the morning program “Squawk Box.” He was on his way to Davos for next week’s World Economic Summit. He was supposed to have had an interview with the president at Davos, but Trump had canceled his trip because of the shutdown.

Trump was calling Kernen to express his regrets that the interview had been scrubbed. Unexpectedly, he ended up briefly with me as well.

McAuley and I introduced ourselves to Kernen and his wife and son. I don’t know who was more surprised that we had all ended up within a few feet of one another at a Paris brasserie with the president calling.

And that was that. Just another night in a foreign capital. Just another bizarre moment and a chance encounter with the president of the United States. I wonder whether there will be another.

You have to love that Trump asks people "are you Hillary or Trump?" God,what a child...

But shouldn't Balz have revealed to his readers why Kernan thought his comments were so positive he told the president about them? Or did Kernan just say that to lick Trump's boots which is also relevant since Kernan is supposedly a journalist too?


A new generation of assholes are being well trained

by digby

These MAGA high school students mocking Native Americans at the Lincoln Memorial says it all about Trump's America:

They learn this behavior from their elders, who are irredeemable:

That was a few years ago. Today, you just have to put on a MAGA hat and yell "Trump!"

Why did the SCO speak up about this one?

by digby

Marcy Wheler has a good piece of informed speculation about what happened with the Buzzfeed story.  She points out that a discrepancy between the Special Counsel's Cohen sentencing memo and the Buzzfeed story is that the memo merely indicated that Cohen committed perjury to benefit the Trump messaging, not that he'd been ordered to do it. If Cohen was encouraged or directed to do it by Trump personally, it's likely wasn't as obvious as the Buzzfeed story indicated. 

But Marcy does make the point, as she's been making for some time, that we already know Trump DID direct subordinates to lie to congress and the authorities and there's plenty of evidence saying so. It's just that the news media is unwilling to lay it out starkly as the Buzzfeed piece did.

Anyway, there's a lot to the piece and I won't try to characterize it here. I'll just give you this on excerpt and direct you over there to read it.

Consider that the Peter Carr the Special Counsel's spokesman almost never comments on anything, which makes you wonder why this particular story got that attention. After all, it can't be the only story the media has gotten wrong. Marcy speculates:
[T]he actions Carr took yesterday (and Mueller’s big-footing on Cohen’s testimony before the Oversight Committee next month) only make sense if Cohen might have to play a role in a possible trial, and not a report submitted confidentially to Attorney General William Barr. That’s what, more likely explains Carr’s response than anything else: the discrepancy between what Buzzfeed reported and what Cohen allocuted posed a risk to possible a jury trial. And that may explain another reason why Mueller is a lot more modest about Trump’s role in Cohen’s lies than SDNY is. 
Trump’s not going to be indicted by Mueller — at least not before he leaves office via election defeat or impeachment. So Mueller’s focus needs to be on the crimes of those he can charge, like Don Jr. That doesn’t rule out that the evidence he’s looking at show that Trump oversaw a series of coordinated false statements. He did! With Mike Flynn’s lies, Don McGahn’s clean up of Flynn and Jim Comey’s firings, the response to the June 9 meeting, and yes, this Trump Tower deal, nothing explains the coordinated story-telling of multiple Trump flunkies other than Trump’s approval of those lies. It is, frankly, journalistic malpractice that the press hasn’t noted that, especially on the June 9 meeting, the evidence that Trump lied and ordered others to has already been made public. Trump’s tacit (and explicit, with the June 9 statement) approval of serial false statements, to Congress, to the FBI Director, to FBI Agents, and to Mueller, is an impeachable offense. Multiple outlets have gotten solid proof of that, they just haven’t stated the obvious like Buzzfeed did, perhaps in part because they’re relying on White House sources for their reporting. 
But Mueller won’t need to allege that for his case in chief, at least not on the issue of the Trump Tower deal. Because the events that matter to Mueller’s case in chief — the events to which Cohen might have to serve as a witness — happened in 2016, not 2017 or 2018. And the guilt that Mueller would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt if he does indict this conspiracy is not Trump’s guilt — except as an unindicted co-conspirator. It is Don Jr’s guilt. 
So outlets that are suggesting that Mueller’s pushback backs off any evidence that Trump committed a crime make no more sense than the original Buzzfeed report (and ignore the actual evidence of how Cohen’s lies evolved, an evolution in which these outlets were active participants). The only thing that explains Carr issuing such an unprecedented order is if Cohen’s ability to testify on the stand must be preserved. 
Robert Mueller has the unenviable task of needing to sustain as much credibility for a bunch of serial liars as possible, starting with Michael Cohen. Buzzfeed’s story — whether generally true or erroneous on details about Trump Organization witnesses or totally wrong — threatened that effort.
She thinks Mueller is going to indict Don Junior. I'm fairly sure Trump would pardon him before anyone ever sees the inside of a courtroom but it's always possible that New York prosecutors could take up some aspect of the case. I don't know where that goes.

Fox News' Joe DiGenova took a different view:

“What you saw happen today with Bob Mueller issuing his statement is very simple: It’s called the Barr effect — the Bill Barr effect” he said later Friday evening during an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity,”, referring to Attorney General nominee William “Bill” Barr. 
He explained that the moment Barr — who in the past has been critical of the special counsel’s investigation — is confirmed, he’s going to ask Mueller about BuzzFeed’s false report, and if Mueller responds with the wrong answer, he’s going to wind up being fired. 
“As soon as Bill Barr is sworn in, he will have a meeting with Mr. Mueller … and the first question Bill Barr is going to ask is, ‘Was that story true that BuzzFeed published?'” DiGenova  said. 
“And Mr. Mueller would say, ‘No, it wasn’t, Mr. Attorney.’ and Bill Barr would say, ‘Why didn’t you refute it?’ And Mueller would have said, ‘Well, Mr. Attorney General, we don’t do that.’ And Mr. Barr would have said, ‘Well, Mr. Mueller, you’re fired.'”
It's hard to imagine that Mueller gamed out that specific scenario. But it's not impossible that Barr could use such a thing as "cause" to fire Mueller.  Once Barr is in office they're going to have to be looking over their shoulders.

I think we can be pretty sure that the media will now go quite soft on Trump, at least for a while. The combination of handwringing and smug, professional, schadenfreude among the pundits was pretty sickening last night.



Democrats' Catch-22

by Tom Sullivan

Impotently watching the spectacle of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and seeing him confirmed is something anyone left of Joe Manchin wants to avoid again, ever. Especially knowing time will catch up eventually with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The beloved icon will have to be replaced on an already right-leaning Supreme Court. If it is to be more than a kangaroo version of its former self, Democrats must wrest back control of the U.S. Senate. Holding the presidency alone will not do the job of rebalancing the court. Ask Barack Obama.

As Democrats bickered during the 2016 election, I repeated that gerrymandering (and vote suppression) in the states would not be stopped from Washington. President Hillary couldn't fix it. Neither could President Bernie. State legislatures control that, and Republicans control a majority of those. Reforming the Electoral College won't do it either. Liberal fixation with the White House left state legislatures across the country for Republicans to plunder, and they did.

Perhaps now, finally, we can address the fact that the Senate favors Republicans, and thus a Republican-approved Supreme Court and control of the national legislative agenda. But red-state senators are red-state senators because Republicans there go largely unchallenged, and because Democrats angling for the presidency don't think states with few electoral votes are worth their trouble. Likely, Merrick Garland and Ruth Bader Ginsberg think otherwise. Twenty or so prospective Democratic presidential candidates had better look beyond November 2020 at what being president would mean without being able to appoint justices of their choosing. That will take more than electoral votes. It requires Senate head count.

The January/February/March edition of Washington Monthly looks at how the red-blue divide arose and, indirectly, at how Democrats might regain some Senate mojo.

Daniel Block seems to trace the decline of broad, regional economic equality to Jimmy Carter's 1978 decision to deregulate the airline industry. Ronald Reagan then ushered in a decade of laissez-faire deregulation that, ironically enough, accrued to the benefit of blue coastal cities that prospered mightily from corporate concentration. Air travel to cities such as St. Louis and Milwaukee became costlier. Coastal giants bought out heartland competitors, consolidating operations and white-collar employment in more-connected, higher-cost cities and, with exceptions for places such as Seattle — home to Microsoft cofounders Bill Gates and Paul Allen — the New Yorks and Bostons grew richer as St. Louis, Detroit and Milwaukee declined. An America built on a broad middle class and a flatter distribution of wealth began to Balkanize, and not simply because of de-industrialization, but because of economic policies that encouraged monopolies, directly and through non-enforcement of antitrust laws. As our heartland/coastal, urban/rural economic fortunes diverged, so did our politics.

The result?

“Even if you look at white non-college voters, the closer you get to the city, they tend to be more Democratic,” said Ruy Teixeira, a sociologist and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “Maybe that’s partly because they’re used to living with people who are different from them, and that produces a certain kind of outlook that’s less Republican.”
Block suggests Democrats focusing on the urban concentration will not flatten the distribution. Nor will "improving educational opportunities and getting more federal aid" to areas experiencing decline make them more competitive (emphasis mine):
Strengthening competition policy and breaking up monopolies requires a national solution. This creates something of a catch-22. To win in more places, Democrats may need to foster healthier heartland cities. But to foster healthier heartland cities, Democrats need to win in more places.
There's the rub.

Washington Monthly's Claire Kelloway addresses the winning in more places side of the catch.

J. D. Scholten, a thirty-eight-year-old former minor league baseball player ran for Congress in 2018 against Rep. Steve King of Iowa (yes, that Steve King). He closed to within 3.4 percentage points in a district the last Democrat to run lost by 22.6 percent:
“I have a lot of folks calling me thinking of running for president and they want to know what their rural message should be,” Scholten says. His answer: “Talk about market consolidation.”
At 39 town hall meetings, Scholten spoke of improving the local economy by curbing agribusiness monopolies. Market consolidation may seem esoteric yet isn't to farmers and farm communities. Their problem is not lack of technology, Kelloway writes. It's a fair playing field:
Farmers are caught between monopolized sellers and buyers. They must pay ever higher prices to the giants who dominate the market for the supplies they need, like seed and fertilizer. At the same time, they must accept ever lower prices from the giant agribusinesses that buy the stuff they sell, like crops and livestock.

Start with how corporate concentration affects the prices farmers pay. In 1994, the top four seed companies controlled only 21 percent of the global seed market. By 2013, just the top three controlled 55 percent, with Monsanto alone controlling more than a quarter. With that increase in concentration has come a shocking increase in the cost of seed, because these giants face little pressure to compete on price. USDA data shows that the per-acre cost of soybean and corn seed spiked dramatically between 1995 and 2014, by 351 percent and 321 percent, respectively.

Today’s seeds are often genetically modified to produce higher yields, but that doesn’t translate into more net income for the farmers. Not only is the cost of genetically modified seed high, but patent monopolies often make it illegal for farmers to use a portion of their crops to produce their own seeds, as most did in the past. Moreover, even as farmers are paying monopoly prices for a diminishing selection of seed strains produced by handful of giant corporations, they also are paying monopoly prices for fertilizers and pesticides, often to the same corporations. Since 2017, the Big Six seed and agrichemical companies have shrunk to four, after Dow merged with DuPont and Bayer purchased Monsanto. The top four producers of nitrogen fertilizer controlled 34 percent of the market in 1977, but by 2015 had increased their share to more than two-thirds.
Average farmers are paying three times more on inputs per acre today than two decades ago and receiving pennies more per bushel of corn they can sell to perhaps a single agribusiness buyer in the area. Grain, poultry, hogs, cattle, same problem, leading to higher consumer prices and “confined animal feeding operations” to combat the "ruinous competition" among farmers and price fixing by processors.
“Part of that rural identity is being independent,” argues Scholten. “Now [rural communities] are reliant on a corporation rather than being self-employed, and I think that’s part of the issue.”
Breaking up monopolies is an issue that nearly won Scholten a seat in Congress held by King in a bright red state since 2003. Aggregated wealth, in effect, rules unchecked and unpunished, allowed to hoard wealth at the expense of 99 percent of living, breathing, working Americans, and they live it. The Obama administration's kid-glove handling of financial giants that crashed the economy in 2008 contributed to the Democrats' loss of hundreds of legislative seats across the country, to the disastrous post-2010 gerrymandering in GOP-held states, and to the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump. Maybe we should do more than hope the next Democrat in the Oval Office will fix it all?

The chart at the top from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows the current state of control at the state level. But the graphic below sums up the split. (State controls means one party holds both legislative chambers and the governorship):

And in the United States Senate, 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 Independents. Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes nationwide than Donald Trump in 2016, but only 19 states outright, splitting Maine. Clinton won only one state with a Republican majority legislature in both houses: Virginia. Republicans hold a majority in the Virginia House of Delegates by one seat determined by drawing.

Do the math. Democrats need to win legislatures so they can unrig gerrymandering, voter suppression measures, and build benches of candidates who can win Senate seats needed to rebalance the Supreme Court. That's the other catch. The redder the state, the less infrastructure for supporting Democratic candidates when they arise. Having an attractive candidate with winning issues and lots of money sometimes is not enough. Scholten outspent an incumbent and lost. Skilled, local (not imported) campaign support is essential, but lacking in many places Democrats need to win back.

Image via OpenSecrets, Center for Responsive Politics.

The reason is, sadly, Democrats have no national program dedicated to local infrastructure-building. Everything is ad hoc, if it exists, as is any mechanism for passing down skills from one class of local activists to the next. The top-down focus is on campaigns for electing candidates. Under-resourced county committees run on vapors and do what they've always done the way they've always done it. It is all state party organizations in the capitol can do annually to raise the money to pay the salaries, keep the lights on, meet their statutory requirements, and maybe teach newcomers something about how a precinct works and how to pull a simple walk list from VoteBuilder. There is no Ranger School, no SEAL training for teaching county officers advanced election mechanics. Those trainings exist only for candidates and campaign staff. They come via non-party organizations like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, or re:power (formerly Wellstone). Legislative caucuses at the state and federal level raise their own funds and run their own operations for supporting candidates they choose. Their focus is on building legislative head count first — enough warm butts in seats to make a majority. Growing capacity at the local level for building that legislative bench is incidental. Besides, they expect locals will muck it up anyway.

Regular readers already know I don't believe Democrats can win where they don't show up to play, with or without winning messages about undoing about market consolidation and restoring a level economic playing field. Plus, Democrats cannot play to win when they decide to show up if they don't have game. Nobody teaches the coordination and support skills county committees need to give lower-tier candidates a shot at winning. These are the kind of "put your pants on one leg at a time" processes activists in larger cities learn by doing from larger, better-funded, professionally run campaigns — the ones that don't show up in remote places Democrats don't win because Democrats don't show up. Catch 22. I have a modest tool for teaching counties how to do more with less here. There will be a 2020 update available early next year.

If you build it, wins will come.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Night Soother

by digby


The new little Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo joey, at Woodland Park Zoo, is now venturing out of his mother’s pouch!
The little male, named Ecki, will soon leave the pouch permanently as he gradually grows more confident and independent.
“Ecki” is named after a beloved elder from one of the remote Papua New Guinea villages that works with Woodland Park Zoo to help protect Tree Kangaroos and their habitat. The joey and his mother, 11-year-old Elanna, currently live behind the scenes in an off-view habitat at the zoo.

While Ecki is just now being introduced to the world, he was actually born eight months ago. When joeys are born, they’re only the size of a jellybean! Within just one to two minutes of birth, that tiny baby has to crawl from the birth canal, through the mother’s fur, and into the pouch to immediately begin nursing. That’s exactly what Ecki did, and he’s been tucked away in his mom Elanna’s pouch.

But while Ecki may have been hidden from view, the zoo’s dedicated animal care staff constantly monitored him and his mother to make sure that both were healthy and meeting expected milestones. One way they were able to do that is through routine “pouch checks,” where keepers looked inside Elanna’s pouch to check on the joey.

“Training Elanna to cooperate with pouch checks required a solid foundation of trust between Elanna and her keepers. Using positive reinforcement, our keepers trained Elanna to come down to a platform when asked, place her front feet onto a white tube, and extend the time holding still in this position. At the same time, keepers slowly desensitized Elanna to gently touching and opening her pouch until they were able to see inside it,” said Animal Care Manager Rachel Salant.

Finally, keepers spent some time slowly introducing cameras and cell phones near Elanna so that she would be comfortable with having the devices around to record video of her pouch.

As part of all of the zoo’s animal training sessions, Elanna had the choice to leave any session at any time, so any video recorded was because Elanna fully allowed it. The result is a rare, up-close look at a Tree Kangaroo joey in his early stages of life, and it’s incredible to watch.

In the coming months, Ecki will become fully weaned from his mother, and eventually grow independent. In the meantime, animal care staff will continue to observe Ecki and Elanna to make sure both are happy, healthy and thriving.

Woodland Park Zoo is home to the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program that is working to protect the endangered Tree Kangaroo and help maintain the unique biodiversity of its native Papua New Guinea in balance with the culture and needs of the people who live there.

Woodland Park Zoo invites the public to consider supporting the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program here: https://www.zoo.org/tkcp/donate

Nixon is in their DNA

by digby


Axios reporting on the latest Trump administration tell-all called "Team of Vipers":
President Trump was frustrated about leaks — specifically leaks attributed to "White House officials" — that were critical of him.

Behind the scenes: Cliff Sims, a young White House communications aide who had bonded with Trump during the campaign, slipped through the private dining room and was ushered into the private study, just off the Oval Office.

As recounted in Sims' memoir — "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House," out Jan. 29 from Thomas Dunne Books — the minister's son from Alabama was soon sitting face-to-face with the man he still referred to as "DJT," in leftover campaign lingo.

This was in 2017, when West Wing chaos was a constant storyline in the media.

Trump and Sims, then 33, had talked on the phone the night before.

Trump wanted to know who Sims thought was leaking, and said to come see him — but to come through the back, so the senior staff wouldn't know.

As recounted in a passage from "Team of Vipers" that you're seeing first on Axios:

“Give me their names,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “I want these people out of here. I’m going to take care of this. We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-­feeders.”

Only in retrospect did I see how remarkable this was. I was sitting there with the President of the United States basically compiling an enemies list — but these enemies were within his own administration. If it had been a horror movie, this would have been the moment when everyone suddenly realizes the call is coming from inside the house.

The President proceeded to name White House staffer after White House staffer. Almost no one was deemed beyond reproach—not his chief of staff, not senior aides, almost no one other than those with whom he shared a last name. He wanted me to help him judge their loyalty. How, I wondered, had it come to this?
Trump took out one of the black Sharpies that he usually carries in his coat pocket.

As Sims dished, Trump scrawled two lists on a stiff card with the White House seal at the top.

One list was people he could trust. The other was people he couldn’t, and wanted to let go.

The combined lists included about 15 people — 10 of them naughty, and five of them (all campaign alumni) nice.

The leakers formed Trump's unofficial Enemies List — all on his own staff. Most of the targets survived, at least for a while. But Trump seemed to revel in his new inside knowledge:

The card was later spotted in the president's breast pocket — a reminder of what he perceived as the enemies within.

Sims portrays what he describes in his author's note as "the unvarnished Donald Trump, a man whose gifts and flaws are both larger than life, written by someone with an appreciation of both."
"Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers."

"We served. We fought. We brought our egos. We brought our personal agendas and vendettas. We were ruthless. And some of us, I assume, were good people."

"This is what I saw. And, unlike the many leakers in the White House, I have put my name on it."

That hardly makes him a hero.
Susan Pompeo doesn't really care, do u?

by digby

She's done it again:

At a time when most State Department staff weren't allowed to travel for work and some weren't even allowed to use their work phones, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's wife Susan embarked on an eight-day trip with her husband, requiring unpaid staffers to prepare and support her across the Middle East.

Many diplomats, already demoralized by the partial government shutdown, were angry, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

"Eyebrows were raised from the start, from the planning, on why is she coming, and why is she coming during the shutdown?," one person familiar with the matter told CNN.

A senior State Department official said "This is BS. You don't bring more people that need staffing, transportation, etc. when embassy employees are working without being paid."

It was Susan Pompeo's presence on the trip at a time State Department staff are working without pay that seemed to cause the furor.

There are also questions over whether the use of State Department staffers' time to assist her violated federal regulations.

The secretary described it as a "working trip" for her -- telling reporters she joined him to try to help the department "be better."

"So she meets with the medical officers. She'll tour housing. She will write up her thoughts and comments after that. And I wish I had time to do each of those things myself, but she is a force multiplier," he said.

The State Department says most diplomats abroad have not been paid during the shutdown. Sources said many had to come to work anyway to handle this trip -- for some requiring very long hours. It's unclear exactly how many people on the Pompeo trip were not being paid.

According to three people familiar, Susan Pompeo was assigned a control officer who worked exclusively with her. That person was on call for weeks, the sources said, and at each of the stops, Susan Pompeo had her own staffer and her own security personnel.

Furloughed, unpaid State department employees in the various overseas embassies were called in to support the trip by the secretary of state, because his travels are considered a high priority.

Two sources familiar with the situation said that at one of the stops, a staffer and security were tasked with taking Susan Pompeo to the local market and shopping with her -- an activity which caused a delay of about 35 minutes in departure to the next stop, they said.

"They felt like fools, since nearly everyone was working -- working around the clock -- but not being paid! And then they felt even more like fools," one person familiar said.

A State Department official said Susan Pompeo would pay for her expenses for the trip where appropriate, and that her joining her husband meets all requirements of the Department.

Nonetheless, people "far and wide across the embassies" were "outraged" at being given these additional responsibilities during the shutdown, according to one of the people familiar.
"No one's pleased," the source said. "There's no appreciation for what everyone is doing. No acknowledgment. This is real."
Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said the use of agency staff could violate conduct regulations.

Mike Pompeo's wife has been causing trouble since Pompeo was at CIA. Remember this?
Susan Pompeo, the wife of Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, has taken an unusually active and prominent role at the organization, and has fashioned herself as an unofficial “first lady of the CIA,” according to people with knowledge of her activities.

Pompeo, who is a volunteer at the CIA, uses office space on the seventh-floor headquarters in Langley, Va., where senior leaders, including the director, have their offices. A support staff of CIA employees assists her in her duties, although that is not their full-time job. And Pompeo travels with her husband, who President Trump nominated last week to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, including on trips he takes overseas to meet with foreign intelligence officials.

Last year, Pompeo accompanied the CIA director on a trip to Britain, where he met with his counterpart Alex Younger, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, according to people familiar with the trip. Pompeo also went with the CIA director on a tour of Fort Monckton, a military base in southern England where MI6 trains its personnel.

While it is not unheard of for directors’ spouses to take on volunteer work, particularly advocating for families, Susan Pompeo’s presence at the agency, along with her use of office space and help from staff, has raised questions internally about the nature of her duties and why agency resources are being used to support her, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about a sensitive subject.

I guess it's ok that she volunteers her time. But there's something really uhm... entitled about setting up your own power center based on your spouses important job and demanding that his subordinates do your bidding. To do it when people are being forced to work for free is just creepy.


Spinning out of control

by digby

That Buzzfeed story has the Trumpies off-balance.

Poor White House spokesman Hogan Gidley was dancing on the head of a pin this morning:

Asked about the story, published late Thursday evening, Gidley initially deflected from it by using misleading talking points in an attempt to discredit BuzzFeed.

“This is absolutely ludicrous, that we are giving any type of credence or credibility to a ‘news outlet’ like BuzzFeed,” Gidley said. “They are responsible completely and totally for the release of a discredited, disproven, false dossier [the Steele dossier], and now the author of the piece in question that you’re talking about went on air this morning and said he couldn’t corroborate any of his own evidence. He ran it anyway.”

What we learned from the BuzzFeed News report that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress

The Steele dossier — a report written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and commissioned by Fusion GPS, an opposition research group hired by Clinton-tied Democratic campaign lawyer Marc Elias — was initially published by BuzzFeed shortly before Trump’s inauguration. The dossier contains many explosive allegations — including the infamous “pee tape” — and includes claims that the Trump campaign has extensive ties to Russia.

Though it is true that the six major claims in the Steele dossier are still unproven, some parts of it have since turned out to be substantiated. But there is still a lot we don’t know about Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election and Trump’s secretive business dealings.

It’s not the case that the journalists behind BuzzFeed’s bombshell report about Trump directing Cohen to lie “couldn’t corroborate” the allegations in their story. During an interview on CNN on Friday morning, Cormier said that while he hasn’t directly seen evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie, his sourcing goes beyond the two law enforcement sources mentioned in the story.

“This 100 percent happened,” he said.

Gidley’s deflection, however, did not amount to a denial of the claim that Trump directed Cohen to lie. Host Bill Hemmer press Gidley on the key question.

“So you’re saying the president did not tell Michael Cohen to do that?” he asked.

Gidley again refused to answer the question.

“I’m telling you right now this is why the president refuses to give any credence or credibility to news outlets, because they have no ability to corroborate anything they’re putting out there. Instead they are just using innuendo and shady sources,” Gidley said.

But Hemmer noticed that Gidley still hadn’t addressed the matter at hand, telling him, “That was not a denial of my question.”

Gidley still refused to deny that Trump directed Cohen to lie.

“No, but the premise is ridiculous,” he said, before pivoting to trying to discredit Cohen.

“But the headline from that report, Hogan, is that the president personally directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations involving Trump Tower,” host Sandra Smith interjected. “Is that true or false?”

Gidley again refused to answer.

“Right, the president’s attorneys also addressed this,” he said. “I’m not going to give and credence or credibility to Micheal Cohen, who’s a convicted felon and an admitted liar. That's just ridiculous, and I’m not going to do that from the White House.”

Ok whatever.

CNN broke down all
connections between Mueller court filings and the Buzzfeed story. You'll see that they correlate quite closely.

The Only Argument Against Impeachment 

by tristero

Given the latest evidence of obstruction and suborning perjury, the only reasonable argument against impeachment is this:

Every moment that Trump remains in office is a moment that dramatically accelerates the long-overdue and necessary demise of the modern Republican party. He makes the incompetence and absence of ideas in the GOP so palpable that nearly the entire country can see that the party as a whole is intellectually and morally bankrupt.

The moment Trump leaves office, it becomes less obvious to many people (who don't follow politics that closely) that the entire party (and not just Trump) is terribly sick and needs to go. We'll still be able to make that case, but it will become much harder.

In short, impeaching Trump lets the Republican party — the party of McConnell, Graham, Kavanaugh, Pence, Cruz etc etc etc, — off the hook.

Now, I didn't say that was a good argument against impeachment, did I? It isn't. Because the obvious rejoinder is that as bad as Trump is for the Republicans, he is far worse for all the rest of us, here and abroad. As long as Trump is in the White House, the world is an immeasurably more dangerous world than it would be if he was out of there.*

And so, regardless of the consequences, including the near-certain delay of the demise of the modern Republican party that his impeachment will cause, Trump must be impeached.

*Would Pence be an improvement? One step at a time, please. No reason to stop with Trump.
Meanwhile in Bizarroworld

by digby

I just thought you'd want to know.

This is what Trump watches avidly to find out what's going on in the world.


The Great Negotiator strikes out. Again.

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Looking at polling during the Trump era, researchers have discovered that many voters are misinformed regarding something important about the president. They actually believe he's a massively successful self-made billionaire. Trump's lifelong penchant for hype and the exposure he got with the scripted reality show "The Apprentice" convinced many people that he was a tremendously gifted businessman.

As the New York Times reported in its massive exposé of the Trump family business going back to the 1960s, Trump was a millionaire before he was out of diapers --- and his repeated failures in business were all because of his lack of business acumen. The researchers discovered that had they known about this, it would have changed the minds of a meaningful percentage of Trump voters.

He gets a 5% boost in public approval when people think he came from humble roots because they believe he has empathy toward people like them. But when people learn that isn't true there is a big shift:
[A]ttitudes toward Trump may be polarized along party lines, but this information does have noticeable and statistically significant effects on evaluations of Trump’s character. For Democrats, who already see Trump as lacking empathy, this information makes them think of him as even less empathetic. But among Republicans, the information is even more damning, reducing perceptions of empathy by more than 10 percentage points.
The effects on people's perceptions of his business acumen, which are actually fairly high in both parties, are also significant. When they find out that his daddy bailed him out his whole life, Republicans reduce their admiration for his skills by 9 points and Democrats by 6. These are small differences but considering how close the election was in 2016, it's something worth thinking about for 2020.

They didn't know that then. He claimed to be the best negotiator in the world. He must have said it a thousand times. He even paid a ghostwriter to write his original book "The Art of the Deal" and all the subsequent ghosted books about his alleged negotiating prowess. Just before he announced his run, he put it this way:
Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.

I'm sure he preferred "big" deals but in the end all of his big deals were massive duds so he was reduced to getting his kicks making dozens and dozens of small deals, slapping his name on dicey condo developments and cheap consumer products for a few bucks to keep the cash flowing. He was smart enough to get his money up-front and when the products failed to sell, as they usually did, he and the family had already pocketed their profit.

Americans shouldn't have to refer to any of that in making a judgment about Trump's abilities today. We've seen him in action for two years now. And unsurprisingly, his particular expertise has turned out to be completely useless for a president. (He may have been able to put it to use with the illegal emoluments from businessmen seeking favors, but that's really not actually in the job description.) Despite his incessant bragging about non-existent accomplishments, so far we are seeing  failure in the negotiating department of epic proportions.

He said it would be "easy" to end Obamacare and create a new and better health care plan virtually overnight. Clearly, that didn't happen. That negotiation was a train wreck. He promised to end the nuclear threat in North Korea and even staged a big phony pageant that showed to the world what a fool he is when it produced an empty agreement which he didn't seem to understand. He insisted that he could end the Israeli Palestinian conflict. He did "renegotiate NAFTA which all the experts say was just a waste of time that resulted in very little change for no good reason. His trade war has produced nothing but bad feelings and rotting crops. And, needless to say, his big promise to make Mexico pay for his wall is turning out to have been his Waterloo.

Even his immigration muse Ann Coulter said this week that it turns out his negotiating skill was "exaggerated."

Trump doesn't seem to realize that simply demanding what he wants and then getting up and saying "bye-bye" when the other side doesn't immediately agree isn't actually negotiating. And he's shown more than once that his word is no good so nobody can trust him. Last year he had agreed to a very complex and difficult immigration deal in which both sides were able to win some priorities and he not only backed out after having agreed, he did it in a rude and dismissive fashion. This year he signed off on a Republican continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown and then cowered in the face of right wing media commentators like Coulter and reversed himself at the last minute. How do you make a deal with someone like this?

I must admit that I too gave him more credit for savvy than he has shown in this latest stand-off. I thought for sure he would take the available off-ramp and declare the emergency, thereby throwing the issue to the courts. His base would see him as a big hero taking matters into his own hands and the rest of the government could re-open. Sure, it would have set a bad precedent but since when does Trump care about such things?

It's fairly obvious that at this point it's as much about beating Nancy Pelosi as it is the wall. And he is outmatched there, I'm afraid. Pundits have taken to referring to her rescinding the invitation to give the State of the Union Address as some kind of  PR move. But she knows Trump was looking forward to it so denying him his platform until he agrees to open the government is a pressure point.  Trump's response was just petty retaliation with no other purpose.

The New York Times reported this week that he's taken to whining to his chief of staff, "we are getting crushed! Why can't we get a deal?" so it's pretty obvious he has no plan, no strategy or any idea how to get out of this mess.

The Democrats can't give in or this will be the only way he "negotiates" for the rest of his term. It would be a disaster. So, if he refuses to declare his bogus emergency and save face with Ann Coulter, it's going to be up to Mitch McConnell to bring him the bad news that he is going to have to call the vote and override his veto if necessary to get the government open again. So far, McConnell's been AWOL on the whole thing, but he may have to step up to get the Greatest Negotiator The World Has Ever Known out of his jam ---  just like Trump's daddy always did .

Schooling his henchmen

by digby

Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski:

"When I went up there," he says, recalling his installment as Watergate prosecutor, "I thought he had been victimized by his staff. I thought he had a staff that had done things on their own. That they had not let their chief know that they were participating in these cheap doings. I thought they had been doing this on their own primarily, and that Nixon was not aware of it. I thought he should have been aware of it, but that's a far different question from active participation in it, you know.

"What happened is, when I heard this tape recording where he was schooling [ chief of staff H. R.] Haldeman on how to lie, when I got to that part of it -- boy! I'll tell you! -- was it a new ball game as far as I was concerned! I just shuddered at the thought of what this was going to lead to."

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to "minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — "in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

Rudy said you can't believe Cohen, but according to this article, nobody has to take Cohen's word about this:

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

They knew about it before Cohen admitted it.

William Barr made it very clear in his testimony that a president was subject to legal sanction for suborning perjury. I wonder if he'll still be the nominee by this time next week.



"This is exactly the Watergate model..."

by Tom Sullivan

Image by Philip Cohen via Flickr.

All Thursday long, pundits reacting to Rudy Giuliani's antics on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" Wednesday insisted they fit a pattern.

"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign," the president's attorney told Chris Cuomo, remarkably implying in public that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election. There was just no collusion by the now-President of the United States, Giuliani insisted.

Pundits suggested Giuliani may not simply be crazed or the worst presidential lawyer ever. He knows something bad is coming out and wants to distract from it or in part inoculate his client from it. Last night after 10 p.m. Eastern, they were proved right.

In yet another BussFeed News scoop, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier reported, "President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter."

If true, that is conspiracy by the President of the United States to suborn perjury and obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Plus, perjury and lying to Congress by Cohen.

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks reacted on MSNBC's "The Last Word," saying, "This is exactly the Watergate model..." that brought down the Nixon presidency.

For context, BuzzFeed adds:
On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.
BuzzFeed's sources report the evidence for the accusation is not simply Cohen's statements:
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
BuzzFeed claims, however, this is "the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia." Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) contests that characterization, tweeting there is other evidence extant that Trump suborned perjury from subordinates, and that seems right. Expect more on that from Wheeler this morning. This onion has just begun peeling.

It is important to remember, Trump was a private citizen when these Trump Tower Moscow negotiations involving Cohen took place. Those discussions were not illegal. Yet, Trump lied about the deal and, if reports are confirmed, directed Cohen to lie about it to Congress. One might suspect there is a reason Trump and associates might have committed crimes to conceal it.

Leopold and Cormier have been tracking that, giving a close look to a series of suspicious 2016 money transfers. Following the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 and immediately after Trump's election, two "bursts" of transactions occurred between foreign and U.S. banks connected to "at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting," federal investigators found. Those cash transfers and their timing might be innocent. So might be Trump's reasons for his unprecedented confiscation of his translator's notes of his meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg. And his concealment of what was said in four other of their conversations.

Mueller will tell. Before then, the House Intelligence Committee will investigate whether Cohen lied to Congress at the behest of the sitting President of the United States. (I use that phrase to remind myself this presidency too will pass. It seems even more likely this morning to expire before its due date.)

Update: Marcy's take here.