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Sunday, July 15, 2018

"I would say that, you know, Brexit is Brexit" 

by digby

Trump can't learn. He can change positions if he has a personal motive. But he is incapable of "understanding" anything in terms other than how it affects him in the moment.

Here's one good example. You'll recall that during the campaign, long before the big book, Michael Wolff interviewed Trump for the Hollywood reporter.

"And Brexit? Your position?" I ask.




"The Brits leaving the EU," I prompt, realizing that his lack of familiarity with one of the most pressing issues in Europe is for him no concern nor liability at all.

"Oh yeah, I think they should leave."

Since that time he's bragged absurdly that he called the vote before everyone else when the press knows very well that he didn't. And he still doesn't know anything about Brexit even though he babbles about it as if he does, even claiming that he "told" Prime Minister Teresa May what she should do but she wouldn't listen.

But then that describes everything he says about foreign policy.
During a news conference on Thursday ahead of his trip to Great Britain, President Trump was asked an extremely basic question about Brexit.

“You are going to the U.K. — what will be your message on Brexit?” a reporter asked him.

Trump was completely unprepared to respond in any substantial or coherent way. Instead, he began by defensively claiming he has “been reading a lot about Brexit over the last couple days.” But after a few seconds of stammering, he admitted, “I have no message. It is not for me to say.”

The president quickly pivoted to providing a free plug for his private club in Scotland, talking about his family connections to the U.K., and offering platitudes like: “I would like to see them be able to work it out so it could go quickly, whatever they work out.”

After about a minute of Trump’s dissembling, the reporter followed up by trying to get him to be specific about the extent to which he’d like to see the U.K. withdraw from the European Union.

“Hard Brexit?” he asked.

But Trump was barely familiar with what the term means.

“I thought you said it was ‘heart breaking,'” Trump quipped. “I would say that, you know, Brexit is Brexit. It’s not like — I guess when you use the term ‘Hard Brexit,’ I assume that’s what you mean. The people voted to break it up, so I imagine that’s what they’ll do, but maybe they are taking a little bit of a different route.”

Trump finished his “answer” with complete non sequiturs about his 2016 electoral win, and his popularity in the U.K.

A day later, Trump held another news conference, this one in the U.K. alongside British Prime Minster Theresa May. Ahead of his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was asked “what your message will be to him on Syria?”

“What would you like him to say to [Putin], especially given Assad’s gains in the country recently?” the reporter said.

Trump was unable to cite a single specific concession he wants from Putin on Syria. Instead, he rambled about the dangers of nuclear weapons, bragged about how smart his uncle was (the implication being that Trump is smart too), and complained about the Mueller investigation. The only thing Trump said about Syria is that he would “bring it up” during his meeting with Putin.

The reporter followed up by asking Trump to be more specific.

“Can you spell out in terms of Syria what eactly you would like to hear from [Putin] and what you would like Russia to do?” he said.

Trump immediately started bashing former President Obama.

“Well that was another one — I mean, the red line in the sand was a problem, for us,” he said.

But the reporter cut Trump off and said, “aside from President Obama, what would you like President Putin to do now under your watch?”

Trump, however, was still unable to cite a single specific thing.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to talk to him about that before I talk about you, and if something happens it’ll be great, and if it doesn’t happen…” Trump said, tailing off.

“I’m not going in with high expectations, but we may come out with some very surprising things. But relationship is very important, and having a relationship with Russia and other countries as I’ve said a number of times — and I’ve been saying, actually, for years, and I’ve been certainly saying it during my campaign — having relationships with other countries is really a good thing.”

Trump concluded by talking about the “spirit” of NATO, bashing Hillary Clinton, and praising himself.

Trump has embarrassed himself while trying to discuss health care and tax policy, but there’s a straightforward reason why he has particular trouble with foreign policy.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that in a break from precedent established by previous modern presidents, Trump “rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.”

There have been a string of reports detailing Trump’s aversion to reading. The Huffington Post reported that memos prepared for the president “must be no more than a single page. They must have bullet points, but not more than nine per page.” According to the New York Times, “staff members are now being told to keep papers [for Trump] to a single page, with lots of graphics and maps.”
It's a blessing that he doesn't read the PDB. If he did he would surely share all the "juiciest" intel with his BFF Vlad to impress him. He already did that once, after all.

Those two press conferences were astonishing in their arrogance and ignorance, even for him.

Prison camp for kids

by digby

This New York Times story
about life inside the kids camps is just chilling:

Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.

Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

“You had to get in line for everything,” recalled Leticia, a girl from Guatemala.

Small, slight and with long black hair, Leticia was separated from her mother after they illegally crossed the border in late May. She was sent to a shelter in South Texas — one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup. They are reserved for the likes of Leticia, 12, and her brother, Walter, 10.

The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.
But more than 2,800 children — some of them separated from their parents, some of them classified at the border as “unaccompanied minors” — remain in these facilities, where the environments range from impersonally austere to nearly bucolic, save for the fact that the children are formidably discouraged from leaving and their parents or guardians are nowhere in sight.

Depending on several variables, including happenstance, a child might be sent to a 33-acre youth shelter in Yonkers that features picnic tables, sports fields and even an outdoor pool. “Like summer camp,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat of New York who recently visited the campus.

Or that child could wind up at a converted motel along a tired Tucson strip of discount stores, gas stations and budget motels. Recreation takes place in a grassless compound, and the old motel’s damaged swimming pool is covered up.

Still, some elements of these detention centers seem universally shared, whether they are in northern Illinois or South Texas. The multiple rules. The wake-up calls and the lights-out calls. The several hours of schooling every day, which might include a civics class in American history and laws, though not necessarily the ones that led to their incarceration.
Diego Magalhães, a Brazilian boy with a mop of curly brown hair, spent 43 days in a Chicago facility after being separated from his mother, Sirley Paixao, when they crossed the border in late May. He did not cry, just as he had promised her when they parted. He was proud of this. He is 10.

He spent the first night on the floor of a processing center with other children, then boarded an airplane the next day. “I thought they were taking me to see my mother,” he said. He was wrong.

Once in Chicago, he was handed new clothes that he likened to a uniform: shirts, two pairs of shorts, a sweatsuit, boxers and some items for hygiene. He was then assigned to a room with three other boys, including Diogo, 9, and Leonardo, 10, both from Brazil.

The three became fast friends, going to class together, playing lots of soccer and earning “big brother” status for being good role models for younger children. They were rewarded the privilege of playing video games.

There were rules. You couldn’t touch others. You couldn’t run. You had to wake up at 6:30 on weekdays, with the staff making banging noises until you got out of bed.

“You had to clean the bathroom,” Diego said. “I scrubbed the bathroom. We had to remove the trash bag full of dirty toilet paper. Everyone had to do it.”

Diego and the 15 other boys in their unit ate together. They had rice and beans, salami, some vegetables, the occasional pizza, and sometimes cake and ice cream. The burritos, he said, were bad.

Apart from worrying about when he would see his mother again, Diego said that he was not afraid, because he always behaved. He knew to watch for a staff member “who was not a good guy.” He had seen what happened to Adonias, a small boy from Guatemala who had fits and threw things around.

“They applied injections because he was very agitated,” Diego said. “He would destroy things.”

A person he described as “the doctor” injected Adonias in the middle of a class, Diego said. “He would fall asleep.”

Diego managed to stay calm, in part because he had promised his mother he would. Last week, a federal judge in Chicago ordered that Diego be reunited with his family. Before he left, he made time to say goodbye to Leonardo.

“We said ‘Ciao, good luck,” Diego recalled. “Have a good life.”

But because of the rules, the two boys did not hug.

Some of these kids are in nicer jails than others but they are all in jail. Why all the regimentation? It sounds like Dickensian punishment to me.

Yoselyn Bulux, 15, is a rail-thin girl from Totonicapán, Guatemala, with long dark hair and no clear memory of how she summoned the strength to climb the wall at the border. What followed was even harder: two days in a frigid processing center known as the “icebox,” then a two-day bus ride to a large facility somewhere in Texas. Her mother stayed behind in Arizona.

The new place had air-conditioning, but wasn’t as cold as the icebox, which had left her with a sore throat. There were windows, sunlight during the day. And beyond the perimeter, tall grass like the “zacate” you see along the highway.

At the intake area of the facility, which seemed to accommodate about 300 girls — some of them pregnant — she was given some clothes and a piece of paper with a number on it. There were rules.

“If you do something bad, they report you,” Yoselyn recalled. “And you have to stay longer.”

The days had structure. Yoselyn took classes with other teenage girls in math, language — she learned “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good night” in English — and civics, which touched on, among other things, American presidents. President Trump was mentioned, she said.

For an hour every day, the girls went outside to exercise in the hot Texas air. It was not uncommon to see someone suddenly try to escape. No whispers, no planning — just an out-of-nowhere dash for the fence. No one made it.

The government says they'll be reuniting all the kids with their parents soon. Let's hope they mean it. But this chapter will be a permanent stain on this nation.

What in the hell is John Bolton up to?

by digby

I never thought I'd see him behave like a potted plant but there you are:

He seems completely impotent which is not what I would have expected. Maybe it's the upside to Trump's lunacy. Still, one worries that if a crisis happens and Trump, being so far in over his head that he's clinically brain dead, will have to turn to him.

But how to make sense of this? 

I'm speechless. I have no idea how this all ends. But it doesn't look good.

The press and the Democrats are enemies of the people. "The people" are only Trump voters.

Just so you know.

Yes, it is insane

by digby

They really think this makes sense. They weren't acting or joking.


Fight for the future

by Tom Sullivan

Believe it or not, there are other issues on the table besides the traveling reality show now golfing in Scotland. Serious questions of what this country does to recover from the debacle of the current administration need addressing and will likely start at home.

After years of slow economic recovery, wages remain flat even as employers struggle to fill jobs. Working people know in their guts they work for the economy, not the other way around. Wage stagnation, manufacturing losses, offshoring and other and restructuring of the economy have left their American Dreams sitting on blocks rusting away in their front yards. In 2012 and 2016, Democrats tried to convince them things had improved under Barack Obama. The recovery was slow, but it was there. Numbers might have conveyed that, but a lot of Americans didn't feel it.

Enter Donald Trump with an alternative (actually alt-right) explanation, writes Paul Glastris at Washington Monthly:

Average Americans were suffering from long-term downward mobility because elites and Washington had abandoned them to the depredations of immigrants and China, and he would put things right. The particulars were wrong, and dishonest, but the overall portrait of generational decline hit home for much of the country.
What Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump enablers in Congress, and GOP-controlled legislatures across the country have demonstrated is, as Glastris asserts, there is "only one party committed to small-d democracy" in this country and it is not theirs:
It’s no longer acceptable for Democrats to look at politics as a way to win the next election so as to jam through a bunch of their preferred policies before the Republicans inevitably take back power. They must instead see the purpose of politics as building sustained power for Democrats, period—but, unlike the other side, they must do this in part by strengthening the democratic process, not by undermining it. If passing this or that liberal policy helps in that effort, fine, pass it. If not, don’t. The overriding aim has to be getting and holding power—not for its own sake, but to keep the flame of democratic self-government alive unless and until the Republican Party abandons its authoritarian ways or is replaced by a new, small-d democratic party.
Democrats will not be defending the status quo in 2018 and 2020. What they must do, if they can, is tell a deeper story of how we have gotten here and how they expect to change it:
The most important part of that story is the concentration of corporate power. With more and more industries controlled by fewer and fewer big firms, corporate managers face little pressure to raise wages, since many workers, especially in rural America, have nowhere else to go. Combine that with the continuing decline of unions, the erosion of the real value of the minimum wage, and the spread of employment contracts with anti-worker provisions—like mandatory arbitration and noncompete clauses—and you have an economy in which workers have little or no bargaining power. A growing chorus of economists now thinks that this phenomenon—more than trade, and certainly more than immigration—is the best explanation for why real wages aren’t rising even after nine years of economic expansion, near-record-low unemployment, and record corporate profits.
Democrats bear some responsibility for some of that trajectory away from an economy that produced gains not just for the top 10 percent of Americans, but for the rest as well. They should admit it and commit to changing it. It is a story few besides Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have told with any force. Their political adversaries scapegoat others for failures or blame impersonal economic forces for results that for most of us are very personal. Someone noted recently that when billionaires lay off employees, they blame the market. When they hire more employees, they take credit themselves. Voters need to know these outcomes are not simply unchangeable facts of nature or personal failures, but the results of policy choices.

Aided by nearly two dozen experts, Glastris offers a set of actions that should Democrats regain one house of Congress, they should use as a bully pulpit to advance. Health care is obvious. Democrats are running on it anyway. I cannot speak to the merits of the “all-payer rate setting” he recommends. Medicare for all is what people know, and it ranks favorably, but the term has become synonymous with a single-payer system. It is not, Ed Kilgore argues. Ironing out the details while not watering down the goal might require expanding access without a complete overhaul and disruption that makes consumers nervous. It is a complex issue on which I'm open to options.

Given Democrats' mid-term losses in 1994 and 2010, pushing universal health care in a low-government-trust environment (see below) is risky, Glastris believes, "unless you don’t mind losing power." Promoting instead some form of “universal public option” or Medicare buy-in that builds on what consumers already know has merit. Addressing the emergency in private insurance price rises may yield benefits felt more immediately by voters.

A new voting rights act. The GOP has worked assiduously to maintain power with a shrinking demographic base by enacting antidemocratic vote-suppression measures too numerous to detail here. Start with enacting vote-by-mail, Glastris suggests. "The system is almost impossible to hack, leaves a paper trail, and neutralizes suppression techniques like voter ID." Plus where it has been tried, participation has increased. Automatic voter registration and same-day registration, if passed immediately under a Democratic president in 2021, will help ensure they retain control to further America's comeback after 2022.

Reforming government itself will demonstrate to voters trained to distrust it that Democrats really mean to drain the swamp Trump promised to and expanded. Start with eliminating private contracting, Glastris suggests. Contracting out to for-profit firms what civil servants do in a non-profit environment is a sucker's idea of cost-efficiency. Contractors make "nearly twice as much as civil servants, with typically no improvement in outcomes." Another idea for restoring trust does an end-run around Citizens United. Rather than trying to reform that or fight an uphill battle for public funding, Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes advocates giving voters a tax credit to spend on whichever federal candidates they choose:
If that candidate agrees to certain limits (no money from PACs and a $1,000 cap on any donation), the federal government will match the voter’s contribution six to one. The point is to make it possible for candidates to raise all the money they need by reaching out to average voters rather than lobbyists and wealthy donors. That, in turn, would make them far more likely to do the bidding of the former than the latter.
One stumbling block Glastris leaves unaddressed is the structure of the U.S. Senate. Norm Ornstein tweeted in response to a Paul Waldman essay on our age of minority rule: By 2040, Philip Bump responds, "30 percent of the population of the country will control 68 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate. Or, more starkly, half the population of the country will control 84 percent of those seats."

That anti-democratic reality is an untenable artifact of the original constitution. Trends suggest the future House and the Senate "will be weighted to two largely different Americas," writes Bump. Fixing that, given the current balance of power and constitutional construction, will be perhaps a greater challenge to democracy than mere policy differences. Demographic trends may favor Democrats in terms of voting majorities, but Republicans have no incentive to fix democracy. All they have to do is stonewall until they can rule indefinitely via the Senate.

Update: Misidentified the first author. Corrected.

* * * * * * * * *

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday Night at the Movies

Torn, torn, torn – Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (**)

By Dennis Hartley

punk (noun)

[mass noun] A loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music, popular in the late 1970s. ‘punk had turned pop music and its attendant culture on its head’

1.1 [count noun] An admirer or player of punk rock, typically characterized by coloured spiked hair and clothing decorated with safety pins or zips. ‘punks fought Teds on the Kings Road on Saturday afternoons’

- from The Oxford Living Dictionary

So what does ‘punk’ really mean? I suppose it depends on who you ask. Tony James of Generation X likened it to “…my childhood, the glorious, very exciting naivete of rock n’ roll.” Kurt Cobain defined it as “…musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want.” David Byrne surmised that ‘punk’ was “…defined by an attitude rather than a musical style.” To Lester Bangs, it was “…a fundamental and age-old Utopian dream: that if you give people the license to be as outrageous as they want in absolutely any fashion they can dream up, they’ll be creative about it…and do something good besides.”

Seminal punk provocateur Malcolm McLaren explained it thusly (in an interview taken from Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk) … “I was just this strange guy with this mad dream. I was trying to do with the Sex Pistols what I failed at with the New York Dolls. I was taking the nuances of Richard Hell, the faggy [sic] pop side of the New York Dolls, the politics of boredom and mashing it all together to make a statement, maybe the final statement I would ever make. And piss off this rock ‘n’ roll scene.” Well, he certainly succeeded on that last part; but he also shook up the status quo. That said…he didn’t do it alone, despite his braggadocio.

Specifically, it’s possible that Mr. McLaren would have lived a life of quiet desperation sans acclaim or notoriety, had he never crossed paths with a Vivienne Westwood. Their longtime relationship was complicated; briefly romantic and fitfully platonic at best. Ultimately, they settled for pragmatic, as it was their creative partnership that fueled the U.K. punk scene-with McLaren on the music end, and Westwood covering the fashion front. The couple co-founded “SEX” in the mid-70s, the King’s Road boutique where future members of the Sex Pistols famously hung out. This was where Westwood fully realized her knack for couture, putting her on the map as a key architect of punk fashion.

Unfortunately, this fascinating chapter of Westwood’s life is largely glossed over in Lorna Tucker’s slickly produced yet curiously uninvolving documentary Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist. Granted, the feisty and ever-punky Westwood appears quite reticent to reminisce on-camera about the Sex Pistols era; but frankly, that is why most people would be intrigued to see this film in the first place (that’s my theory…I could be wrong).

Westwood herself is entertaining; as is her current husband/creative partner Andreas (he’s a trip…and so spookily close to Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno” character that I can’t help speculating if he was the inspiration). I did come away admiring Westwood’s dedication to various causes. However, I didn’t feel I learned much about who she really is or what makes her tick (e.g. there is very little regarding her life pre-McLaren). Still, if you’re attracted to the world of overblown couture and underfed models (I’m afraid I am not) then you might find this sketchy and somewhat hagiographic portrait more engaging.

Previous posts with related themes:

I saw Fear in the People’s Temple
Punk is a feeling
Dirty words and punky dads

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley
Brag, Lie, Whine, Blame, Rinse, Repeat

by digby

Trump is blaming Obama for not stopping the Russian government from trying to help him win. Because of course he is:

Later in the day:

The indictments show that there were a bunch of DNC servers. This is just another bullshit Hannity conspiracy theory about the whole thing being a "leak" that makes no sense. He's either too stupid, too guilty or both to let that one go.

Think Progress reminds us what Obama tried to do and who thwarted him:

From CNN:

Trump was personally warned in August 2016 by senior US intelligence officials that foreign adversaries — including Russia — would likely attempt to infiltrate his team or gather intelligence about his campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The security briefing included information about potential interference by foreign actors, including Russia, according to sources familiar with a memo that detailed the August 2016 briefing…
Trump was also told that the Russian government was trying to meddle in the election and that Russia played a direct role in hacks against the Democratic National Committee, NBC News reported in October 2016. Internal DNC emails were published by WikiLeaks about one month before Trump received the briefing.

Trump’s tweet bashing Obama also overlooks that Obama wanted to issue a bipartisan statement in the summer of 2016 detailing what the intelligence community knew about Russian meddling and offering federal help to states. But his effort was stymied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who expressed “skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims” about Russia interference, the Washington Post reported. McConnell ultimately blocked the release of a statement.

So, we know that Trump knew. And we know what he did:

No matter what is proven about what he knew at the time it's clear that once he found out he didn't give a damn and was happy to receive the help.

And he and the Republican Party are obviously happy to receive it again. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and all the rest of the Fox News traitors are the most cynical, power-mad politicians in American history. They will allow nothing to stand in their way.

If any of these people ever try to wrap themselves in the flag and sell themselves as patriots again I'm going to vomit.


Red vs Blue 2020

by digby

Ok, this may be the scariest thing you've heard all day:

He says it all depends on whether the Democrats can avoid the factionalization that characterized 2016.

Oh god ...


Who saw it clearly at the time?

by digby

While the rest of the press was drooling over HER EMAILS!!! searching madly for signs of the disgusting Hillary Clinton's obvious depravity, Franklin Foer saw the bigger picture:
A foreign government has hacked a political party’s computers—and possibly an election. It has stolen documents and timed their release to explode with maximum damage. It is a strike against our civic infrastructure. And though nobody died—and there was no economic toll exacted—the Russians were aiming for a tender spot, a central node of our democracy.

The Russian government knew us better than we knew ourselves. The press hated Clinton and was eager for anything to fill their bottomless need to humiliate her. The right has been primed for decades to see nasty trolling as the only legitimate form of politics. Donald Trump was speaking directly to the racist, misogynist lizard brain and millions of Americans were open to what he was saying. It was a perfect storm.


A hard-core Trumpie gets the boot

by digby

For not hating immigrants quite enough:

Senior White House official, Jennifer Arangio, was fired Thursday and escorted from her office, ending a turbulent tenure that saw her clashing with President Donald Trump’s most hard-line advisors over human rights and refugee issues, according to several current and former U.S. officials.

The officials said Arangio, a senior director for international organizations and alliances at the National Security Council, had fallen out of favor with Trump aide Stephen Miller over the number of refugees who should be allowed to enter the United States.

She had also sparred with Miller over continuing U.S. participation in international negotiations on a global migration compact, insisting that the United States could better shape international policies on migration from inside the tent.

She lost the argument, but Miller remained embittered by the rift, the officials said. When Arangio sought his endorsement for a position in the State Department, he refused to take a meeting with her.

Adding to the tension, Arangio had defended the State Department’s embattled refugee bureau amid campaigns by other top Trump aides to dismantle or defund it — efforts that were ultimately rebuffed by Congress.

“This is a disaster for the bureau,” one State Department official said. “She is really a good ally.”
Arangio, who has served Trump since his presidential campaign, was charged with overseeing the administration’s policies on migration and refugees, two of the White House’s most politically charged issues.

One of her duties was to promote the administration’s controversial candidate for a top international migration job. It ended in a high-profile failure. In June, United Nations members voted against appointing Ken Isaacs, the Trump administration’s handpicked candidate, to head the International Organization for Migration.

The vote was seen as a sharp rebuke of the president.

Isaacs, the vice president at Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, caught flak during his candidacy for past social media posts and radio interviews in which he disparaged Muslims. He denied he was anti-Islam.

Arangio defended Isaacs during his bid for the post. “He embodies what the United States believes,” she told reporters at a press event in March arranged by the U.S. mission to international organizations in Geneva.

Isaacs’s rejection was just one in a series of clashes between the Trump administration and international organizations.
Arangio had worked as the national director of women engagement for Trump’s presidential campaign in the run-up to his election in November 2016.

“The ironic thing is that she is all in for Trump — worked on the campaign, transition, talks all the time about her admiration for the president,” said one colleague.

She loved Trump which calls her judgment into question in the first place.

But clearly, unless you are willing to be a full-blown neo-fascist, you'd better watch your back.

And even then it might not be enough.

Russia was so very helpful

by digby

Emptywheel has a detailed analysis of the indictment yesterday. If you want to get the gist of what's new and important about it I'd recommend you read it.

Here she is on Chris Hayes last night:

In the meantime, she's put together a timeline of the hacking events which I am putting here for reference:


February 1, 2016: gfade147 0.026043 bitcoin transaction

March 2016: Conspirators hack email accounts of volunteers and employees of Hillary campaign, including John Podesta

March 2016: Yermakov spearphishes two accounts that would be leaked to DC Leaks

March 14, 2016 through April 28, 2016: Conspirators use same pool of bitcoin to purchase VPN and lease server in Malaysia

March 15, 2016: Yermakov runs technical query for DNC IP configurations and searches for open source info on DNC network, Dem Party, and Hillary

March 19, 2016: Lukashev spearphish Podesta personal email using john356gh

March 21, 2016: Lukashev steals contents of Podesta’s email account, over 50,000 emails (he is named Victim 3 later in indictment)

March 25, 2016: Lukashev spearphishes Victims 1 (personal email) and 2 using john356gh; their emails later released on DCLeaks

March 28, 2016: Yermakov researched Victims 1 and 2 on social media

April 2016: Kozachek customizes X-Agent

April 2016: Conspirators hack into DCCC and DNC networks, plant X-Agent malware

April 2016: Conspirators plan release of materials stolen from Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC

April 6, 2016: Conspirators create email for fake Clinton Campaign team member to spearphish Clinton campaign; DCCC Employee 1 clicks spearphish link

April 7, 2016: Yermakov runs technical query for DCCC’s internet protocol configurations

April 12, 2016: Conspirators use stolen credentials of DCCC employee to access network; Victim 4 DCCC email victimized

April 14, 2016: Conspirators use X-Agent keylog and screenshot functions to surveil DCCC Employee 1

April 15, 2016: Conspirators search hacked DCCC computer for “hillary,” “cruz,” “trump” and copied “Benghazi investigations” folder

April 15, 2016: Victim 5 DCCC email victimized

April 18, 2016: Conspirators hack into DNC through DCCC using credentials of DCCC employee with access to DNC server; Victim 6 DCCC email victimized

April 19, 2016: Kozachek, Yershov, and co-conspirators remotely configure middle server

April 19, 2016: Conspirators register dcleaks using operational email dirbinsaabol@mail.com

April 20, 2016: Conspirators direct X-Agent malware on DCCC computers to connect to middle server

April 22, 2016: Conspirators use X-Agent keylog and screenshot function to surveil DCCC Employee 2

April 22, 2016: Conspirators compress oppo research for exfil to server in Illinois

April 26, 2016: George Papadopolous learns Russians are offering election assistance in the form of leaked emails

April 28, 2016: Conspirators use bitcoin associated with Guccifer 2.0 VPN to lease Malaysian server hosting dcleaks.com

April 28, 2016: Conspirators test IL server

May 2016: Yermakov hacks DNC server

May 10, 2016: Victim 7 DNC email victimized

May 13, 2016: Conspirators delete logs from DNC computer

May 25 through June 1, 2016: Conspirators hack DNC Microsoft Exchange Server; Yermakov researches PowerShell commands related to accessing it

May 30, 2016: Malyshev upgrades the AMS (AZ) server, which receives updates from 13 DCCC and DNC computers

May 31, 2016: Yermakov researches Crowdstrike and X-Agent and X-Tunnel malware

June 2016: Conspirators staged and released tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents

June 1, 2016: Conspirators attempt to delete presence on DCCC using CCleaner

June 2, 2016: Victim 2 personal victimized

June 8, 2016: Conspirators launch dcleaks.com, dcleaks Facebook account using Alive Donovan, Jason Scott, and Richard Gingrey IDs, and @dcleaks_ Twitter account, using same computer used for other

June 9, 2016: Don Jr, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner have meeting expecting dirt from Russians, including Aras Agalarov employee Ike Kaveladze

June 10, 2016: Ike Kaveladze has calls with Russia and NY while still in NYC

June 14, 2016: Conspirators register actblues and redirect DCCC website to actblues

June 14, 2016: WaPo (before noon ET) and Crowdstrike announces DNC hack

June 15, 2016, between 4:19PM and 4:56 PM Moscow Standard Time (9:19 and 9:56 AM ET): Conspirators log into Moscow-based sever and search for words that would end up in first Guccifer 2.0 post, including “some hundred sheets,” “illuminati,” “think twice about company’s competence,” “worldwide known”

June 15, 2016, 7:02PM MST (2:02PM ET): Guccifer 2.0 posts first post

June 15 adn 16, 2016: Ike Kaveladze places roaming calls from Russia, the only ones he places during the extended trip

June 20, 2016: Conspirators delete logs from AMS panel, including login history, attempt to reaccess DCCC using stolen credentials

June 22, 2016: Wikileaks sends a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to “send any new material here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”

June 27, 2016: Conspirators contact US reporter, send report password to access nonpublic portion of dcleaks

Late June, 2016: Failed attempts to transfer data to Wikileaks

July, 2016: Kovalev hacks into IL State Board of Elections and steals information on 500,000 voters

July 6, 2016: Conspirators use VPN to log into Guccifer 2.0 account

July 6, 2016: Wikileaks writes Guccifer 2.0 adding, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefabl [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after”

July 6, 2016: Victim 8 personal email victimized

July 14, 2016: Conspirators send WikiLeaks an email with attachment titled wk dnc link1.txt.gpg providing instructions on how to access online archive of stolen DNC documents

July 18, 2016: WikiLeaks confirms it has “the 1Gb or so archive” and would make a release of stolen documents “this week”

July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks releases first dump of 20,000 emails

July 27, 2016: Trump asks Russia for Hillary emails

July 27, 2016: After hours, conspirators attempt to spearphish email accounts at a domain hosted by third party provider and used by Hillary’s personal office, as well as 76 email addresses at Clinton Campaign

August 2016: Kovalev hacks into VR systems

August 15, 2016: Conspirators receive request for stolen documents from candidate for US congress

August 15, 2016: First Guccifer 2.0 exchange with Roger Stone noted

August 22, 2016: Conspirators transfer 2.5 GB of stolen DCCC data to registered FL state lobbyist Aaron Nevins

August 22, 2016: Conspirators send Lee Stranahan Black Lives Matter document

September 2016: Conspirators access DNC computers hosted on cloud service, creating backups of analytics applications

October 2016: Linux version of X-Agent remains on DNC network

October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks releases first set of Podesta emails

October 28, 2016: Kovalev visits counties in GA, IA, and FL to identify vulnerabilities

November 2016: Kovalev uses VR Systems email address to phish FL officials

January 12, 2017: Conspirators falsely claim the intrusions and release of stolen documents have “totally no relation to the Russian government”

It's the week-end, time for a promotional appearance

by digby

This is what he does every week-end. It's his second job. Because he needs the money.

The New Yorker has the story of Trump's mysterious purchase of Turnberry Golf Course for which he paid 200 million in cash and continues to lose money. If it wasn't a money laundering scheme it should have been. It's perfect for it:

Between meeting the Queen of England and Vladimir Putin, President Trump will spend this weekend at Turnberry, the golf course he bought in 2014 and rechristened Trump Turnberry. This property has not received the attention it deserves. It is, by far, the biggest investment the Trump Organization has made in years. It is so much bigger than his other recent projects that it would not be unreasonable to describe the Trump Organization as, at its core, a manager of a money-losing Scottish golf course that is kept afloat with funds from licensing fees and decades-old real-estate projects.

No doubt, the President will be excited to visit. After buying the property for more than sixty million dollars, he then spent a reported hundred and fifty million pounds—about two hundred million dollars total—remaking the site, adding a new course, rehabbing an old one, and fixing up the lodgings. It is possible, though, that he will have some harsh words for his staff. The Turnberry has been losing an astonishing amount of money, including twenty-three million dollars in 2016. The Trump Organization argued that these losses were the result of being closed for several months for repair. However, revenue for the months it was open were so low—about $1.5 million per month—that it is hard to understand how the property will ever become profitable, let alone so successful that it will pay back nearly three hundred million dollars in investment and losses.

This is the first edition of a weekly column in which I hope to expose, explore, and analyze the financial activity of our President and his associates—including his family, his political appointees, and business partners—and make the case for greater transparency. We know, of course, that the Trump Organization has worked with some truly questionable business associates, that it has run afoul of anti-money-laundering laws, and that its most high-profile business expansion—a line of three- and four-star hotels—has all but collapsed. But, for all the coverage of Trump’s finances, there is so much we just don’t know. And Trump Turnberry offers a tantalizing and maddeningly incomplete glimpse into the ways in which our President makes and spends money.

President Trump has proclaimed himself the “king of debt,” a proud master of “doing things with other people’s money.” So it was quite surprising when Jonathan O’Connell, David A. Fahrenthold, and Jack Gillum revealed in a Washington Post story in May that Trump had abruptly shifted strategies and begun spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund projects. In the nine years before he ran for President, the Post reported, the Trump Organization spent more than four hundred million dollars in cash on new properties—including fourteen transactions paid in full. In fifteen years, he bought twelve golf courses (ten in the U.S., one in Ireland, and a smaller one in Scotland), several homes, and a winery and estate in Virginia, and he paid for his forty-million-dollar share of the cost of building the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.—a property leased to Trump by the U.S. government. But his largest cash purchase was the Turnberry, followed by tens of millions of dollars in additional cash outlays for rehabbing the property.

Using what appears to be more than half of the company’s available cash to purchase Trump Turnberry makes no obvious sense for any business person, but especially for Donald Trump. It is a bizarre, confounding move that raises questions about the central nature of his business during the years in which he prepared for and then executed his Presidential campaign.

While Trump has portrayed himself as uniquely aggressive in his use of debt, borrowing money is central to any real-estate business. By borrowing money, developers increase their profits when successful, reduce their losses when they fail, and are able to diversify their holdings to increase the likelihood of success. By 2014, Trump was seen by lenders as a high-risk bet because he had so many bankruptcies and so few successful projects. But, if he had used the three hundred million dollars he spent on Turnberry as a pledge, he could have surely received several hundred million in loans at a competitive rate. With, say, a billion dollars total, he could have invested in projects around the world. Instead, he chose to put nearly all of his available cash in an old, underperforming course in a remote corner of Scotland.

We know so little about the internal finances of the Trump Organization’s activities elsewhere that it is hard to understand where all of the money spent on Turnberry came from. Through the public disclosures required of someone running for and becoming President, many media outlets have tried to re-create a model for Trump’s business, recognizing that, by his own frequent admission, he often exaggerates his worth. Forbes came up with a figure of a net worth of just over three billion dollars, with less than two hundred million in available cash. This is an astonishing sum, of course.

However, the portfolio of assets that Trump owns does not suggest that he would have so much money that he can casually spend a few hundred million on a whim. Much of his wealth is tied up in properties that lose money or are not especially profitable. A comprehensive analysis by the Wall Street Journal, in 2016, concluded that Trump brought in about a hundred and sixty million dollars in income a year. (“The income number is wrong by a lot,” Trump said, though he provided no details.) With that money, Trump had to pay for his business, his taxes (if he paid any), his personal life style, and that of his family. His Boeing 757 alone cost more than ten thousand dollars per hour of use, not to mention the dozens of staffers at his various properties, the clothes and food and jewelry of a status-conscious family, and countless other expenses that could easily eat up all of that income. There simply isn’t enough money coming into Trump’s known business to cover the massive outlay he spent on Turnberry.

In congressional testimony, Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Christopher Steele to report out the document that became known as the Steele dossier, wondered aloud if the money really was Trump’s. If so, why would he have spent it in this location and not elsewhere? (A recent report by R&A, the world’s leading golf organization, shows that there is far more opportunity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—where golf is growing quickly—than in Scotland, the country most oversupplied with courses, clubs, and resorts.)

We don’t know. We can’t, until we learn far more about Trump’s internal finances. It can’t be dismissed, out of hand, that there is an innocent explanation for the Trump Turnberry purchase. Eric Trump told the Post that Trump had “incredible cash flow,” and that none of the cash used to purchase the fourteen properties in full came from outside investors or from selling off other assets. Perhaps Trump actually did make far more than we know. Perhaps he sees something in the business of golf that others have missed, and he has a vision for how to turn the money-losing property into a thriving concern. Or, as some have suggested, he may have become sentimental and wanted a deeper connection to his mother’s Scottish roots.

There is another way to view the investment in Trump Turnberry. Even before the financial crisis of 2008, Trump found it increasingly difficult to borrow money from big Wall Street banks and was shut out of the rapidly growing pool of institutional investment. Faced with a cash-flow problem, he could have followed other storied New York real-estate families and invested in the ever more rigorous financial-due-diligence capabilities required by pension funds and other sources of real-estate capital. This would have given him access to a pool of trillions of dollars from investors.

Instead, Trump turned to a new source of other people’s money. He did a series of deals in Toronto, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, and Georgia with businesspeople from the former Soviet Union who were unlikely to pass any sort of rigorous due-diligence review by pension funds and other institutional investors. (Just this week, the Financial Times published a remarkably deep dive into the questionable financing of Trump’s Toronto property.) He also made deals in India, Indonesia, and Vancouver, Canada, with figures who have been convicted or investigated for criminal wrongdoing and abuse of political power.

We know very little about how money flowed into and out of these projects. All of these projects involved specially designated limited-liability companies that are opaque to outside review. We do know that, in the past decade, wealthy oligarchs in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere have seen real-estate investment as a primary vehicle through which to launder money. The problem is especially egregious in the United Kingdom, where some have called the U.K. luxury real-estate industry “a money laundering machine.” Golf has been a particular focus of money laundering. Although the U.K. has strict transparency rules for financial activity within the country, its regulators have been remarkably incurious about the sources of funds coming from firms based abroad. All we know is that the money that went into Turnberry, for example, came from the Trump Organization in the U.S. We—and the British authorities—have no way of knowing where the Trump Organization got that money.

There's more.

The fact that he got away with not having his businesses vetted, particularly under these circumstances, remains one of the most obvious failures of our political system and our sick obsession with wealth. This man has serious and obvious personality defects which should have disqualified him from the beginning. But he is a business failure many times over and yet 60 million people believed his hype and assumed that because he lives a lavish lifestyle that he must be smarter than everyone else. He isn't. He's a fraud and a criminal.


Who didntit

by Tom Sullivan

Screengrab/YouTube/Washington Post via Daily Kos.

Perhaps the strangest element of the Russian indictment story yesterday was the White House's non-response. The sitting president visiting England found time to cut the knees from under his host, British Prime Minister Theresa May, in a London tabloid. Then he back-peddled when he next saw her in person, claiming he didn't say what he said in the recorded Sun interview. He found time to take high tea with the queen after reportedly keeping her waiting. He found time to blame Barack Obama for the Russian hacks aimed at helping the Trump campaign. What Donald Trump didn't find time for was any criticism of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller's Department of Justice investigators in Washington, D.C. indicted 12 named Russian military intelligence officers over a complex 2016 operation run from Moscow using cryptocurrency, malware, and fake identities to hack computers at the DNC, DCCC, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and state election boards. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had briefed Trump on the coming indictments days earlier. All the White House could muster was a series of bullet points on who didntit:

o “There is no allegation in this indictment that Americans knew that they were corresponding with Russians.

o There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime.

o There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”

Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”
Except the DOJ indictment includes a loudly silent yet to the end of the three bullets above.

After the prosecution and guilty pleas of campaign associates in connection to the investigation, the sitting president found time yesterday, for the nth time, to declare the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 elections a witch hunt even as his Department of Justice rolled out indictments he knew about in advance against the latest dozen witches.

Yet there was no allegation anyone in a White House charged with defending the United States of America was angry about a documented, coordinated attack on an American election by a hostile foreign power. A Trump accustomed to prompting rally crowds to chant "Lock her up" gave off no hint of condemnation for the alleged Russian crimes. Trump still plans to speak one-on-one, in private, with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki.

Humans are pattern-seeking animals. We want the world to make sense. Over the course of this Russia investigation and even during the Trump campaign, the unanswered question has been why the sitting president is so in thrall to Russia. Speculation has piled upon speculation, but the answer is not forthcoming. Perhaps that is special counsel Robert Mueller's problem. Perhaps the rest of us are approaching this conundrum all wrong.

The problem for protesting thousands in London struggling to express their distaste in words fit to print, and the problem for the United States of America and rest of the world Trump seems bent on destabilizing, is not why Trump behaves as he does, but that he behaves as he does.

What the world wants to know is if the United States has remaining enough integrity and self-respect to stop this administration before the damage to world order is irreparable.

* * * * * * * * *

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Night Soother: Scotland edition

by digby

Pour yourself a tall Scotch and enjoy these adorable babies. Get some rest. This hell isn't over yet.

Two rare Scottish Wildcats, born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo, may help provide a lifeline for the iconic species.

The kittens will join a conservation breeding programme, which it is hoped will save the species from extinction in the wild through future reintroductions.

David Barclay, RZSS cat conservation project officer, said, “Scottish Wildcats are facing severe threats due to cross-breeding with domestic and feral cats, disease transfer and accidental persecution.”

“Wildcat populations have suffered a sharp decline in Scotland in recent decades with studies suggesting there may be as few as 115 Scottish Wildcats left in the wild, making them one of the UK’s most endangered mammals. Our conservation breeding programme and work with partners in Scottish Wildcat Action, the national conservation project, is therefore vital.”

David continued, “Every birth is a potential lifeline and improves the chances of a genetically healthy population that can act as a source for future wildcat release.”

Born in April, the kittens have recently started to emerge from their den and explore their habitat.

These Scottish Wildcats aren't one bit happy that Trump is in their country. They'd like him to leave.


The Invitation

by digby

That's the original exchange between Trump and Katy Tur when he invited Russia to release Hillary Clinton emails. She was shocked, as were we all. He wasn't joking. It's obvious:

By the way, here's how this was handled during the campaign. That lying Hillary Clinton was at it again:

Hillary Clinton said that Donald Trump gave Russian president Vladimir Putin the thumbs up to hack away at U.S. emails.

Putin has "let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee," Clinton said during the first general election presidential debate at Hofstra University.

She continued:

"But we will defend the citizens of this country, and the Russians need to understand that. I think they've been treating it as almost a probing, how far will we go? How much will we do? And that's why I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is just unacceptable."

We will fact-check whether Clinton is right about what Trump said about Putin and the emails.

Trump’s comments about Russia hacking Clinton’s emails

A Clinton campaign spokesman pointed us to Trump’s comments at a press conference at Trump National Doral golf course July 27.

"Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said to a room full of TV cameras as well as reporters from the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

He also said: "By the way, they hacked -- they probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there. So let's see."

Clinton’s lawyers had turned over work-related emails but deleted thousands that she said were about personal matters.

FBI Director James Comey said earlier that month that Clinton should have known that some of the emails stored on private servers in her New York home were classified, but concluded there wasn’t enough evidence that she intentionally mishandled classified information.

Although the Justice Department declined to prosecute, Trump continued to hammer Clinton for the email controversy:

"That gives me a big problem," Trump said in Doral. "After she gets a subpoena! She gets subpoenaed, and she gets rid of 33,000 emails? That gives me a problem. Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I'd love to see them."

When Katy Tur, an NBC reporter, asked Trump whether he was encouraging a foreign country to hack into emails, Trump snapped back: "Be quiet. I know you want to save (Clinton)."

Trump also attacked the DNC over thousands of leaked emails published by WikiLeaks in July. Those emails showed its leaders — including party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida — favored Clinton over rival Bernie Sanders. Two days later Wasserman Schultz, a U.S. representative, announced she would step down from her party post.

As for any invitation to Russia to hack emails, a Trump campaign spokesman told PolitiFact that Trump said he was being "sarcastic" in an interview that Fox News posted the next day.

Trump told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, "You have to be kidding. His client, his person, deleted 33,000 emails illegally. You look at that. And when I’m being sarcastic with something ..." Asked by Kilmeade if he was indeed being sarcastic, Trump snapped, "Of course I'm being sarcastic."

Our ruling

Clinton says Trump "publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans’ (emails)."

Trump said at a press conference in South Florida that he hoped Russia was able to find "the 30,000 emails that are missing." That was a reference to Clinton’s emails, not Americans’ emails more broadly.

We rate this claim Half True.

I guess Hillary Clinton isn't American. Who knew?

Also, they hacked John Podesta, the DNC, the DCCC, Secretaries of State and local voting systems, all presumably Americans.

Defensive much?

by digby

Naturally Rudy Giuliani came out with the most fatuous comment about the indictments:

The White House statement:

“As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said today:

o “There is no allegation in this indictment that Americans knew that they were corresponding with Russians.

o There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime.

o There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”

Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.

Aside from the ridiculous implication that a lack of indictments of the White House in this indictment of a bunch of Russian agents means they are in the clear, they just can't bring themselves to condemn the interference. I wonder why?

QOTD: a stunned reporter

by digby

Tom Newton Dunn, the reporter from the Sun who interviewed Trump:

The Dotard

Mr Trump has sparked a backlash from UK politicians after telling The Sun the PM's Brexit plan would "probably kill" a UK-US trade deal.

He also said Boris Johnson would make a "great prime minister".

But after talks with Mrs May he claimed "tremendous things" he said about her had been left out of the Sun story.

He said the paper's story was "generally fine", but "it didn't put in what I said about the prime minister, and I said tremendous things".

"Fortunately, we tend to record stories now so we have it for your enjoyment if you'd like it," he said.

"We record when we deal with reporters, it's called fake news and we solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument."

The Sun's write-up of its interview, which was recorded, quoted him describing her as a "nice person" and saying they get along "very nicely".

Later in the press conference at the prime minister's country residence, Chequers, Mr Trump verbally sparred with the Sun reporter who had interviewed him, Tom Newton Dunn.

Mr Newton Dunn told the president that his positive remarks about Mrs May had been included in the story.

"If you reported them that's good," Mr Trump told the political correspondent.

"Thank you very much for saying that."

He added: "I didn't think they put it in, but that's all right.

"They didn't put it in the headline, I wish they put that in the headline, that's one of those things."

He's a sick puppy.


#MeToo among the Master of the Universe

by digby

Dave Dayen has written a fascinating long read about a Kafkaesque sexual harassment case on Wall Street. I've been wondering why there's been so little #MeToo action among those Masters of the Universe. This partially explains it, and it has a really surprising twist:

ON MAY 5, 2011, Mike Picarella’s first day at HSBC, his boss wanted to know if he was sexting. “No, no,” he reassured her—his wife was just curious how things were going, so he was texting her back. His boss then inquired whether his wife had ever heard of the three-minute rule. “What’s that?” Mike asked. Well, his boss said, leaning in, if she ever wanted her husband to do something, she would give him a blowjob that lasted exactly three minutes, and voila, her wish was his command. Surveying Mike’s blank stare, she belted out one of her giant, guttural laughs and plopped herself down at her desk, a mere two feet from his.

Mike, a 22-year veteran of Wall Street, learned quickly that this was just the way Eileen Hedges interacted with the world. She was raised in a well-off suburb in New Jersey and joined HSBC, one of the largest foreign-owned banks in the United States, shortly after graduating from college in 1991. It was a time when male behavior on Wall Street was particularly noxious. “Women started getting jobs … and men did everything they could to make them feel like they didn’t belong,” says Susan Antilla, author of Tales From the Boom-Boom Room, a history of women in banking. That meant parades of strippers in the office, Playboy centerfolds hung up at the desks, care packages for female employees containing dildos or calzones shaped like penises. It could also mean verbal abuse or sexual assault.

And yet, Eileen managed to thrive in this atmosphere, eventually becoming head of business development for HSBC in the Americas. She moved up, in large part, by cultivating a reputation for being brash, boisterous and profane. By becoming one of the boys. Short and stocky, with blond hair and a penchant for holstering her Blackberry in her bra, Eileen would pant like a dog with her tongue out when certain men walked by her desk, Mike said. Sometimes, he would overhear her musing about which executives would be better in bed: “Mike H. would be fun but Mike S. would be boring.” (Apparently, there is no shortage of men named Mike at HSBC.)

On most work nights, Eileen posted up in her favorite seat at Windfall, the neighborhood bar a block from HSBC’s offices, where bartenders treated her like Norm from “Cheers.” Mike had even been told there was a drink named in her honor, “The Eileen,” a pink concoction with vodka and club soda. She held at least one performance review with a subordinate at the bar. And from time to time, Mike discovered, Eileen would have an assistant book her a hotel room nearby while her husband and two kids slept across the river in New Jersey. Her drinking buddies became a support network for her, a club, an identity. As she wrote to a male co-worker after a night out: “I’d rather hang out with you guys and laugh. … I at least feel normal?”

Mike wasn’t sure what to make of Eileen, but he had strong incentives not to think about it too hard. “He was hired with a view to ultimately being her successor,” said Ian Mullen, a managing director who helped bring him to HSBC. If Mike did end up taking her job, he’d rise to the level of managing director, the fanciest position of his career, worth at least half a million dollars a year in salary and bonuses.

Mike’s arrival boded well for Eileen, too. Having a viable replacement would set up her own promotion to the upper echelons of the bank, maybe some posh new assignment in Hong Kong or London. “Did I tell you I love my new guy,” Eileen wrote a colleague on Sametime, HSBC’s internal chat network, a couple weeks into his tenure. “I am almost floored. ... I don’t have to go to meetings with him.”

Read on. You won't believe what happens. It's a real life dark thriller.

One little notice in today's indictment

by digby

Way back in early 2017,
I wrote this piece about GOP candidates benefiting from the Russian hacking:

If there's one thing you can say about the Donald Trump presidency so far, it isn't boring. From horror stories at the border to Trump's semi-triumphant teleprompter speech and Attorney General Jeff Sessions being personally connected to the growing Russia scandal, this week has been a doozy.

I was not surprised that Sessions finally recused himself from the campaign scandal. It was absurd that he was not required to do so before he was confirmed. What finally forced him to take the step was the report that he had met with the Russian ambassador twice during the summer and fall, after having told the Judiciary Committee that he had not had contact with any Russian officials during the campaign. Top Democrats are now calling for Sessions' resignation, and the story of his contacts with the Russian ambassador is still unfolding with new details about whether he discussed the Trump campaign.

The upshot is that at the very least Sessions showed appalling judgment in agreeing to meet the Russian ambassador the day after The Wall Street Journal reported that the director of national intelligence had declared that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. It's very hard to believe that this didn't come up in the conversation. Even if the two men were unaware of that comment, they must have been aware of the discussion the previous night in a presidential town hall forum with Matt Lauer, in which Trump praised Vladimir Putin in such florid terms that The New York Times story that morning began this way:

Donald J. Trump’s campaign on Thursday reaffirmed its extraordinary embrace of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, signaling a preference for the leadership of an authoritarian adversary over that of America’s own president, despite a cascade of criticism from Democrats and expressions of discomfort among Republicans.

One of those discomfited was House Speaker Paul Ryan who was quoted in the article saying, “Vladimir Putin is an aggressor who does not share our interests,” and accusing the Russian leader of “conducting state-sponsored cyberattacks” on our political system.

This was just one of the many times Ryan zigged and zagged during the campaign, constantly calibrating how far he could go in criticizing Trump while keeping Trump's passionate voters off his back. This particular issue was a tough one, since until quite recently the Republicans had been inveterate Russia hawks and the abrupt switch to dovish goodwill was undeniably disorienting.

Prior to Sessions' recusal on Thursday morning, Ryan held a press conference in which he blamed the Democrats for "setting their hair on fire" to prompt the press to cover the story. That was ridiculous. The press needs no prodding to cover this scandal; it's as juicy as they get. Ryan also pooh-poohed the idea that Sessions had any obligation to remove himself from the investigation unless he was personally implicated and robotically repeated the contention that nobody had seen any evidence that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

That may be true, and presumably we'll find out sooner or later. But it's important to remember that DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, were not the only targets of hacking. Russian agents also allegedly hacked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That story has been scandalously undercovered, something for which Paul Ryan is no doubt very grateful.

On Dec. 13 The New York Times published an article that laid out how the hacked material was used in various House races. At first the hackers just released a lot of personal information, which was used by hostile individuals to harass and threaten the candidates. Then the hacks and dumps by the person or group known as Guccifer 2.0 became more sophisticated and targeted certain close races, releasing politically valuable tactical information:

The seats that Guccifer 2.0 targeted in the document dumps were hardly random: They were some of the most competitive House races in the country. In [Annette] Taddeo’s district [in Florida], the House seat is held by a Republican, even though the district leans Democratic and Mrs. Clinton won it this year by a large majority.

To prepare for the race, the D.C.C.C. had done candid evaluations of the two candidates vying in the primary for the nomination. Those inside documents, bluntly describing each candidate’s weaknesses, are considered routine research inside political campaigns. But suddenly they were being aired in public.

Taddeo lost her primary race to another Democrat named Joe Garcia who used the hacked material against her. And then this happened:

After Mr. Garcia defeated Ms. Taddeo in the primary using the material unearthed in the hacking, the National Republican Campaign Committee and a second Republican group with ties to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, turned to the hacked material to attack him.

In Florida, Guccifer 2.0’s most important partner was an obscure political website run by an anonymous blogger called HelloFLA!, run by a former Florida legislative aide turned Republican lobbyist. The blogger sent direct messages via Twitter to Guccifer 2.0 asking for copies of any additional Florida documents.

By September, the hacker had released documents in close House races in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, working with Republican bloggers who disseminated the information for them. They also posted information on Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, even though he was effectively running unopposed.

Both Luján and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote letters to Ryan asking him not to use the material and received no response. His spokeswoman told the Times that Ryan had no control over how the stolen information was used. Nonetheless, there were some Republicans who refused to do so, saying it was inappropriate. They were rare.

I don't think anyone believes it's likely that Paul Ryan personally colluded with the Russians in this operation. The fact that many Republicans, some affiliated with the National Republican Congressional Committee and a group closely affiliated with Ryan, eagerly used it to win their campaigns is not surprising. But it is highly unlikely that Republican strategists or party officials with strong knowledge of the House campaigns didn't collude with the hackers at some point, because it's difficult to believe that Russians would have which House races to target without some help from people with expertise concerning the 2016 map.

Republican congressional leaders must be thanking their lucky stars daily that the Trump administration is such a scandal-ridden Dumpster fire. If things ever calm down in the White House, somebody might just turn his or her attention to the question of what Paul Ryan knew and when.