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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pivot in his pants

by digby

If we're supposed to believe that Trump's had an epiphany on immigration and is "open" to a path to citizenship as long as "both sides" compromise, I'd try to get Sessions, Bannon and Miller on the record about what changed their views on this issue:
One night in September 2014, when he was chief executive of Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon hosted cocktails and dinner at the Washington townhouse where he lived, a mansion near the Supreme Court that he liked to call the Breitbart Embassy. Beneath elaborate chandeliers and flanked by gold drapes and stately oil paintings, Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, sat next to the guest of honor: Nigel Farage, the insurgent British politician, who first met Sessions two years earlier when Bannon introduced them. Farage was building support for his right-wing party by complaining in the British press about “uncontrolled mass immigration.” Sessions, like other attendees, was celebrating the recent collapse in Congress of bipartisan immigration reform, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some undocumented people. At the dinner, Sessions told a writer for Vice, Reid Cherlin, that Bannon’s site was instrumental in defeating the measure. Sessions read Breitbart almost every day, he explained, because it was “putting out cutting-edge information.”

Bannon’s role in blocking the reform had gone beyond sympathetic coverage on his site. Over the previous year, he, Sessions and one of Sessions’s top aides, Stephen Miller, spent “an enormous amount of time” meeting in person, “developing plans and messaging and strategy,” as Miller later explained to Rosie Gray in The Atlantic. Breitbart writers also reportedly met with Sessions’s staff for a weekly happy hour at the Union Pub. For most Republicans in Washington, immigration was an issue they wished would go away, a persistent source of conflict between the party’s elites, who saw it as a straightforward economic good, and its middle-class voting base, who mistrusted the effects of immigration on employment. But for Bannon, Sessions and Miller, immigration was a galvanizing issue, lying at the center of their apparent vision for reshaping the United States by tethering it to its European and Christian origins. (None of them would comment for this article.) That September evening, as they celebrated the collapse of the reform effort — and the rise of Farage, whose own anti-immigration party in Britain represented the new brand of nativism — it felt like the beginning of something new. “I was privileged enough to be at it,” Miller said about the gathering last June, while a guest on Breitbart’s SiriusXM radio show. “It’s going to sound like a motivational speech, but it’s true. To all the voters out there: The only limits to what we can achieve is what we believe we can achieve.”

The answer to what they could achieve, of course, is now obvious: everything. Bannon and Miller are ensconced in the West Wing, as arguably the two most influential policy advisers to Donald J. Trump. And Jeff Sessions is now the attorney general of the United States. The genesis of their working relationship is crucial to understanding the far-reaching domestic goals of the Trump presidency and how the law may be used to attain them over the next four years. Bannon and Sessions have effectively presented the country’s changing demographics — the rising number of minority and foreign-born residents — as America’s chief internal threat. Sessions has long been an outlier in his party on this subject; in 2013, when his Republican colleagues were talking primarily about curbing illegal immigration, he offered a proposal to curb legal immigration. (It failed in committee, 17 to one.)

Talking to Bannon on air in September 2015, Sessions, who has received awards from virulently anti-immigrant groups, described the present day as a dangerous period of “radical change” for America, comparing it to the decades of the early 20th century, when waves of immigrants flooded the country. He said that the 1924 immigration quota system, which barred most Asians and tightly capped the entry of Italians, Jews, Africans and Middle Easterners, “was good for America.” Bannon is also uncomfortable with the changing face of the country. “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the C.E.O.s in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think — ” he said on the radio with Trump in November 2015, vastly exaggerating the actual numbers. “A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

I hate to be cynical but I just have to wonder if people like Bannon and Sessions might just have something sneaky in mind. These are hard core anti-immigration nativist white nationalists.

Keep this in mind as you listen to his happy horseshit:
Behind President Trump’s efforts to step up deportations and block travel from seven mostly Muslim countries lies a goal that reaches far beyond any immediate terrorism threat: a desire to reshape American demographics for the long term and keep out people who Trump and senior aides believe will not assimilate.

In pursuit of that goal, Trump in his first weeks in office has launched the most dramatic effort in decades to reduce the country’s foreign-born population and set in motion what could become a generational shift in the ethnic makeup of the U.S.

Trump and top aides have become increasingly public about their underlying pursuit, pointing to Europe as an example of what they believe is a dangerous path that Western nations have taken. Trump believes European governments have foolishly allowed Muslims with extreme views to settle in their countries, sowing seeds for unrest and recruitment by terrorist groups.
At the same time that the European share of migration has dropped, the overall foreign-born share of the U.S. population has increased, quadrupling in the five decades since the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act took effect. In 1960, the U.S. had 9.7 million foreign-born residents. In 2014, it had 42.2 million.

That change has alarmed right-wing nationalists like Miller and Bannon, who see Trump’s administration as an opportunity to change those migration trends for decades to come.

The two men see the country’s long-term security and wage growth entwined with reducing the number of foreign-born people allowed to visit, immigrate and work in the U.S.

Nations, including the U.S., are undermined by too high a level of diversity, Bannon has argued.

“The center core of what we believe, that we're a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, but we are a nation with a culture and a — and a reason for being,” Bannon said Thursday at the conservative gathering.

“Rule of law is going to exist when you talk about our sovereignty and you talk about immigration,” Bannon said.

The deportation orders and the travel ban were both designed to “protect the hardworking people” of the U.S. from income suppression, crime and terrorism, Miller said on Fox News last week.

“Uncontrolled immigration over many years has undermined wages, hurting prospects for people from all backgrounds and all walks of life and has made us less safe,” Miller said. “Proper controls will raise wages, improve employment, help migrant workers enter the middle class who are already living here and keep us safe from the threat of terror.”

Yeah. These guys are going to push through Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Trump said this a number of times during the campaign. He was often supposed to have "softened" his position on immigration and "pivoted". It's meaningless.

What isn't meaningless are his Executive orders allowing ICE and the CBO to "take off the shackles." That's real. It's actually happening.

He Ain't Goin' Nowhere 

by tristero

Don't kid yourself. He's goin' nowhere. They love their autocrats (and they hate democracy):
...Mr. Trump has more support among Republicans at this point in office than any president other than George W. Bush. 
“While there were deep divisions in the Republican Party during the campaign, it is clear that the G.O.P. rank and file are well unified behind Trump,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll.
So no, impeachment isn't on the table. And "engaging" Democrats isn't on the table. And "preventing the most egregiously wrong-headed things Trump/Bannon are planning" isn't on the table. And protecting ourselves from disaster isn't on the table.

And when it all goes poof - as it surely will, from sheer incompetence (but they might also push it along via an American Reichstag Fire ) - do you honestly think either Trump or Republicans have the slightest incentive to be introspective? As in "Wow, this is our fault, we are really fucking up?"

Please. They have the perfect herd of scapegoats: an African-American president (Obama), a woman Secretary of State (Clinton), a press that won't tow the (Republican) party line, and liberals.

Are you starting to get it yet? I certainly hope so because it really is that serious.
Thanks Vlad. 

by digby

Oh no! Is Trump becoming disillusioned with the Russian President?

Russia Vetoes U.N. Measure on Syria Backed by Trump 
* The Russian move was the first public clash at the Security Council between the Kremlin and the Trump administration.
 Maybe they don't see eye to eye after all. This could be the big break. What was the issue?
* The resolution would have punished the Syrian government for using chemical weapons.
Never mind.

Trump won't be upset about this. He's fine with Assad using chemical weapons on civilians. He's a strong decisive leader who's bring law and order back to his country. Trump would do the same if that's what it took.

It's just political correctness that makes the United States look weak by insisting that other countries shouldn't use chemical weapon. And if they want to use them on their own citizens who are we to say they shouldn't? It's not our country. And anyway, we might want to do it too.

Vlad did the dirty work for him this time. I'm sure, if he ever hears about it, Trump will be properly grateful that his buddy is helping preserve the prerogatives of national leaders doing what it takes to make their countries great again.

It's all fake I tell you, fake!

by digby

This is just nuts:
Asked about the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks and threats across the nation, President Trump on Tuesday told a group of state attorneys general that "sometimes it's the reverse," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said of Trump’s comments in his and other officials' meeting with the president.

"He just said, 'Sometimes it's the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,' and he used the word 'reverse' I would say two to three times in his comments," Shapiro said. "He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible."

Asked for further information about the purpose of the president's comments, Shapiro only said, "I really don't know what he means, or why he said that,” adding that Trump said he would be speaking about the issue in his remarks on Tuesday night.

Saying that he hoped to see clarification from the president in those remarks, Shapiro added, "It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.”

White House spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, said, "That is an absurd and obscene statement."

The Anti-Defamation League also questioned Trump’s reported remarks.

"We are astonished by what the President reportedly said. It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks. In light of the ongoing attacks on the Jewish community, it is also incumbent upon the President to lay out in his speech tonight his plans for what the federal government will do to address this rash of anti-Semitic incidents,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL, said in a statement.

It's pretty obvious what he's saying. Here's his close adviser Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci this morning:

He said earlier today that Obama is behind all the protests too.

Delusional? Nah. He's really just a sneaky little liar trying to shirk responsibility for what he's done. As usual.

He knows more than the generals

by digby

And when something goes wrong, it's their fault:
President Donald Trump on Tuesday dodged responsibility for a botched mission he ordered in Yemen last month, placing the onus on the military and Barack Obama’s administration instead.

Bill Owens, the father of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL who died in the operation, demanded an investigation into his son’s death over the weekend. Owens further revealed he couldn’t bear to meet Trump at the airport as Ryan’s casket was carried off the military plane last month.

Asked about the matter during an interview with Fox News’ “Fox ‘n’ Friends,” Trump repeatedly said “they” were responsible for the outcome of the mission, in reference to the military.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” he said. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.

He also said that they got tons of intelligence, which has been refuted. In fact, the pentagon is leaking like a sieve on this and Trump blaming the generals will likely encourage more of it.

Let's set aside the fact that he's refusing to take responsibility for a mission he authorized over dinner like he was ordering the molten lavacake. He has never taken responsibility for anything in his life and I doubt he ever will. The buck stops elsewhere.

But what's this drivel about "his generals"? He didn't create them. He didn't promote them. They came all generalled up when he took office.

This is the mindset that creeps me out the most about Trump. He sounds like Saddam Hussein.

By  the way, you'll like this little aside in a Reuters piece about Trump request for massive increases in military spending:
An official familiar with the proposal said Trump's request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and establishing "a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke points" such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea. 
That could put Washington at odds with Iran and China. The United States already has the world's most powerful fighting force and it spends far more than any other country on defense.
He's a refreshing populist, isolationist who doesn't use a private email server so it's all good, amirite?


Trump and Comey, together again

by digby

There are dozens of important political stories percolating at the moment, from President Donald Trump blithely saying,”nobody knew health care could be so complicated” to an administration proposal to slash necessary government programs to the bone to pay for a massive increase in military spending. There are also discussions about putting large numbers of troops on the ground in the Middle East and ongoing horror stories about the large-scale deportation of immigrants and harassment at the borders and other points of entry.

But there are two stories that keep bubbling up to the surface no matter what else is going on: the investigations of Trump’s possible connections to Russia and his holy war against the press. Indeed, according to Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the two are related. On Sunday’s show Todd reported an apparent pattern: Every time a news organization publishes another story about the Russian investigation, Trump has an additional tantrum about the media. It’s like clockwork.

This pattern doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that the Trump administration is touchy about the story. We can’t conclude it is consciously trying to punish the press for reporting the Russian-related stories or that the Trump team is attempting to distract attention from them. Nevertheless, how the administration has been dealing with the Russian investigations in other ways certainly raises questions.

On Sunday we found out that the White House was so obsessed with leaks that Sean Spicer gathered White House lawyers and forced his staff to turn over their personal and work phones for searching. On Monday it was revealed that Trump had personally signed off on the order. Calling such behavior “Nixonian” is a cliché, but there’s just no way around it. This is paranoid behavior. It’s also revealing, since Trump likes to say the media has no sources and is just making stories up — and yet he’s obsessed with leaks. Something doesn’t add up.

But that’s just a White House story. As revealing as it is, it’s not as important as the revelation that in the wake of stories that Trump campaign personnel had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,” press secretary Sean Spicer personally connected journalists with Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chair of the Intelligence Committee, who both are involved in current investigations of the matter. Spicer even stayed on the line while reporters spoke to those officials. Burr and Pompeo apparently told reporters the stories were “not accurate,” without offering details. (Assuming that they were telling the truth, all that means is that something in the stories was inaccurate, not that they were entirely false.)

This news came as a follow-up to an earlier report that the White House had reached out to Republican members of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate in an attempt to knock down the Russian-connection stories. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, also a member of Trump’s executive transition committee, denied that the White House had pressured him, but nonetheless went on record to assure the country there was nothing to the allegations. How could he possibly know that? The investigation hasn’t really even begun.

The point here is that it is improper for the White House to use the CIA director and the heads of congressional committees as its PR damage control department. It’s particularly improper for such collusion to happen in a case in which the latter are personally involved in the investigations in question. But let’s face facts. Scandals like these are almost always partisan affairs. Even if Spicer and the White House had not displayed outrageous disregard for normal protocol, a special prosecutor or a bipartisan commission likely would have been needed at some point to take up the investigation. That’s even more obvious now.

As troubling as all this White House outreach to congressional Republicans is, it’s nothing compared to inappropriate interactions between White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director. Their contact apparently related to a New York Times story concerning connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials before the election.

Priebus went on the Sunday talk shows and said he had been told by intelligence officials that there was nothing to the story and further that he had been authorized to say so publicly. That’s an odd thing to say and CNN reported that Priebus, like Spicer, had tried to get the FBI to “publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence.”

That’s not just inappropriate or unethical; it could be obstruction of justice. At the very least it violates longstanding Department of Justice rules in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal that prohibit such contacts between the bureau and the subjects of an FBI investigation. (One of the articles of impeachment introduced against President Richard Nixon was for “interfering or endeavoring to interfere” with an FBI investigation.)

This is undoubtedly why the White House amended Priebus’ comments days later, saying that the FBI’s McCabe had actually approached Priebus to tell him the Times story was “bullshit.” It was then that Priebus asked the FBI to “knock down” the story publicly, which the FBI told the White House it could not do. But CNN has reported that, according to the White House, both McCabe and the FBI’s director, James Comey, “gave Priebus the go-ahead to discredit the story publicly, something the FBI has not confirmed.”

It’s certainly possible that the White House is misrepresenting the FBI’s involvement. The Trump administration’s credibility gap is the size of the Grand Canyon and growing. But if the Priebus account is correct, we are once again looking at an FBI that is behaving in a partisan and unprofessional manner on behalf of Donald Trump. In this case, its conduct may even be illegal. After Comey’s overt interference in the election and refusal to sign on to the original reports of Russian interference, it’s mind-boggling that everyone in the bureau, especially Comey himself, would not go to epic lengths to avoid even the slightest whiff of impropriety.

This might all add up to nothing in the end. But at this point these unethical and possibly illegal contacts between the White House and various agencies, congressional officials and the FBI have made an independent investigation an absolute necessity.


Blond tufted silverback theory

by digby

This piece by Susan Glasser in Politico about Trump's alpha-male foreign policy is interesting since she interviews a group of female FP experts to analyse it. I think a lot of us already knew that this was the basic premise of everything Trump's doing. I wrote about it extensively in Salon during the election. Josh Marshall even coined a phrase for it called "dominance politics." But an article about Trump's looney tunes adviser Sebastian Gorka in which he happily blurted out "the alpha-males are back" has made it explicit. 

What Glasser adds to the literature on this isn't even the female perspective, although that's interesting in itself. It's that experts are unable to grasp how to think about Trump and the United States without a normal policy framework. For instance, she remarks on former Obama administration's Michelle Flournoy's inability to make the leap:

I was struck throughout the wide-ranging conversation by how difficult it still is to analyze Trump’s foreign policy by any of the standard Washington measures; Flournoy, in particular, kept struggling to offer rational, academic even, arguments about why an Alpha Male foreign policy wouldn’t work, citing studies about the benefits of diversity and the like. In explaining the Alpha Maleness of the new administration, Sherman looked to the politics of anger Trump has stirred up and, interestingly, connected the president’s disdain for the regular order of the interagency process that generally helps shape national security policy for an administration to his desire to play the strongman. That interagency process, developed over time by administrations of both parties, she argues, is “the difference between a democrat and an autocrat.”
I think that's the leap that must be made although it sounds as though Flournoy may still be grappling with how to do that.

You have to look at Trump the way you look at other autocrats. If anyone should have an idea about how to do that it should be the foreign policy experts. They're the ones who have actually had to think about this in the course of their work. But I think there is resistance to fully accepting that this is happening in America and I suppose that's understandable. But it is happening and people had better figure out how to think about it and counter it. Soon.


Baby steps...

by Gaius Publius

Photographing Baltimore cops at play (story here)

Slowly but surely, the courts are dealing with the militarized police state. ArsTechnica:

Divided federal appeals court rules you have the right to film the police

Filming cops, 2-1 court rules, ensures that they "are not abusing their power."

A divided federal appeals court is ruling for the First Amendment, saying the public has a right to film the police. But the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in upholding the bulk of a lower court's decision against an activist who was conducting what he called a "First Amendment audit" outside a Texas police station, noted that this right is not absolute and is not applicable everywhere.

The facts of the dispute are simple. Phillip Turner was 25 in September 2015 when he decided to go outside the Fort Worth police department to test officers' knowledge of the right to film the police. While filming, he was arrested for failing to identify himself to the police. Officers handcuffed and briefly held Turner before releasing him without charges. Turner sued, alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful arrest and detention and his First Amendment right of speech.

The 2-1 decision Thursday by Judge Jacques Wiener is among a slew of rulings on the topic, and it provides fresh legal backing for the so-called YouTube society where people are constantly using their mobile phones to film themselves and the police. The American Civil Liberties Union says, "there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply."

Just in time for certain-to-appear spring and summer conflicts in Beauregard Sessions' America.

Be carefully, though, as you wield those dangerous digital lenses. There's a lot of yes-but in the article, including this one:
The Supreme Court still has not ruled on the issue.





"Managing" to make a mess

by Tom Sullivan

Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States. Not up to the job?

Well, after all it is complicated. Like health care that way:

WASHINGTON — President Trump, meeting with the nation’s governors, conceded Monday that he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
Well for one, Bernie Sanders knew. Via Raw Story:
“Well some of us who were sitting on the health education committee, who went to meeting after meeting after meeting, who heard from dozens of people, who stayed up night after night trying to figure out this thing, year—we got a clue,” Sanders told Anderson Cooper on Monday’s AC 360.

“When you provide health care in a nation of 300 million people, yeah, it is very, very complicated,” he continued. “And maybe now, maybe the president and some of the Republicans understand you can’t go beyond the rhetoric, ‘We’re going or repeal the Affordable Care Act, We’re going to repeal Obamacare and everything will be wonderful,’ a little bit more complicated than that.”

In further remarks, Trump told the governors, Obamacare is a "failed disaster." So a little ambivalence there from the chief executive.

Politico's Michael Kruse spoke with several former Trump employees. Bruce Nobles ran Trump Shuttle airline and spoke of the problem Trump had with scaling up to the big-time:
“It surprised me how much of a family-type operation it was, instead of a business kind of orientation where there is a structure and there is a chain of command and there is delegation of authority and responsibility,” Nobles told a reporter from Newsday in the fall of 1989. “As the organization gets bigger, and it seems to be getting bigger all the time, he’ll have to do a better job of actually managing the place as opposed to making deals.”
That hasn't happened, Nobles told Politico.

“I don’t think there’s anything of scale that he’s had his hands on that he hasn’t made a hash of,” says biographer Tim O’Brien. “He’s a performance artist pretending to be a great manager.”

Now Trump has his hands on the biggest organization in the country, and he's "managing" the Oval Office the way he manages everything else: by impulse. One long sentence spells out Trump's way:
In recent interviews, they recounted a shrewd, slipshod, charming, vengeful, thin-skinned, belligerent, hard-charging manager who was an impulsive hirer and a reluctant firer and surrounded himself with a small cadre of ardent loyalists; who solicited their advice but almost always ultimately went with his gut and did what he wanted; who kept his door open and expected others to do the same not because of a desire for transparency but due to his own insecurities and distrusting disposition; who fostered a frenetic, internally competitive, around-the-clock, stressful, wearying work environment in which he was a demanding, disorienting mixture of hands-on and hands-off—a hesitant delegator and an intermittent micromanager who favored fast-twitch wins over long-term follow-through, promotion over process and intuition over deliberation.
His loyalists think behind his disorienting style he's playing shrewd, eleventy-dimensional chess. Right.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Women for Coat Hangers??

by tristero

As feared (and sadly, expected), responsible media outlets have decided to prostrate themselves to the extreme right. Today, the New York Times published an article by an advocate of coat hanger abortions who complained that her position was excluded from the Women's March.

Oh, she gussied up her screed with all sorts of fancy rationalizations and buzz phrases reeking of empowerment.  But she knows very well that if abortion was once again banned, it wouldn't end as she claims. Instead, thousands of poor women (especially of color) would die at the hands of back alley butchers.

And despite knowing this, she calls herself "pro-life." Ah, yes, "pro-life," a phrase so familiar now we don't even think about how utterly meaningless it is.  But when you actually examine the actual ideas it disguises it's obvious: There is nothing positive about the advocacy of illegal abortion. And the position hidden by the phrase "pro-life" has nothing whatsoever to do with life. But it does have everything to do with politics, politics that are deadly for the poor.

Most importantly, the majority of American women do not support forcing poor women  to terminate pregnancies in a back alley.

And that is why it is essential that we make it impossible for people to hide their violent, cruel positions behind meaningless, anodyne phrases.

"Let it be a disaster" Trump's new credo

by digby

A horrific little nugget of  malignant stupidity, even for Trump, came out of his mouth this morning, talking about the ACA:
"Let it be a disaster, because we can blame that on the Dems that are in our room -- and we can blame that on the Democrats and President Obama," Trump said in remarks to the National Governors Association. "But we have to do what's right, because Obamacare is a failed disaster."

He also used some strained logic to explain why Obamacare’s popularity has continued to generally tick up, with a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last week finding that 43 percent of voters think the law was a good idea, while 41 percent said it was a bad idea. (It was a slight dip from January, in which 45 percent said the law was a good idea, but overall, the law’s popularity has been steadily rising over the past two years).

Trump on Monday theorized that polls show the program’s approval rating climbing not because people like it, but because they know Republicans will soon repeal it. He did not offer more of an explanation for the claim.

“People hate it, but now they see that the end is coming, and they're saying, ‘Oh, maybe we love it,’” Trump said. “There's nothing to love. It's a disaster, folks.”

He also seemed to express surprise at the complexity of the reform process. “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

Yeah, nobody knew. He thought he could have one of his hideous little minions write up an executive order and make it all happen.

Just a little reminder about our new president's "compassion" about sick people:

Donald Trump has admitted cutting off medical treatment to his nephew’s sick baby after he allegedly had his alcoholic brother’s children cut out of his father’s will.

In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said he retaliated because he was ‘angry because they sued’.

His brother Freddy, a pilot, had died an alcoholic in 1981, aged 43.

He had two children – named after his parents Fred and Mary – with a stewardess he married at age 23 called Linda Clapp. The couple later divorced.

When the family patriarch Fred Sr., died in 1999, Freddy’s son, Fred III, spoke at the funeral. Later that night, his wife went into labor but the baby had cerebral palsy.

The Trump family promised to pay the medical bills.

But when Fred Sr.’s will was read, it revealed that the majority of his inheritance would be split between his children – except Freddy Trump Jr.

Freddy’s children sued and alleged that Donald - who helped draft the will - and his surviving siblings had influenced Fred Sr., who had suffered from dementia.

They also said an earlier version of the will had said they would receive a share of their grandfather’s fortune – believed to have been more than $20million.

So the real estate mogul, the frontrunner for the GOP's presidential nomination, got his revenge by withdrawing the medical care for his nephew’s sick child.

He's a truly malevolent human being. Don't underestimate his willingness to inflict pain and horror upon others. Look what he did to his own family.


We're going to start winning wars again IYKWIM

by digby

Trump's America bashing is not an advocation for the US to be a more humble country. I wish people would put that one to rest. It's fatuous nonsense. He's advocating for American to ramp up into a much more monstrous, aggressive, violent power than it already is unshackled by any laws, rules or norms. It is sickening to even think about what Trump and the apocalyptic weirdos he's surrounded himself with have in mind.

Remember his motto: to the victors belong the spoils. He has said it in the context over and over again. Here's just one example from his speech to the CIA:

When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We'd win with trade. We'd win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, "The United States has never lost a war." And then, after that, it's like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore. The old expression, "to the victor belong the spoils" -- you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that's where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you'll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.


GOP is the PR department for The Trump Presidency Inc

by digby

People who think the government should be run like a business naturally believe that everyone answers to the president like he's the CEO of America. That isn't actually how it works:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer reportedly enlisted the CIA director and a Republican senator in an effort to discredit a newspaper report about the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia.

After the New York Times reported Feb. 15 that Trump campaign aides had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence officials, Spicer connected reporters from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC), reported Axios.

Spicer also gave reporters’ phone numbers to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who offered to make the calls himself but “was in and out of an event,” according to a senior administration official who described the press secretary’s campaign to the website.

The Axios report adds new details and reveals Pompeo was involved in a pushback campaign reported Friday by the Washington Post.

Spicer personally picked up the phone and connected Pompeo and Burr with the reporters and then remained on the line for their brief conversations, Axios reported.

Those calls were orchestrated after White House chief of staff Reince Priebus tried unsuccessfully to get the FBI’s director and deputy director to speak with news organizations to dispute the accuracy of reporting on the alleged campaign ties to Russia, the Post reported.

Pompeo and Burr told the reporters simply that the Times report was not accurate but frustrated the journalists by declining to offer specifics.

And the Republicans in congress and the administration are happy to toss aside all the normal procedures and sell their reputations to protect that cretinous imbecile. Here's one now:
President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia have been well documented, but it doesn’t sound like Rep. Devin Nunes — the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a Republican — is that eager to investigate them.

During a press conference with reporters on Monday, Rep. Nunes downplayed claims that the White House had asked members of the CIA and FBI to squelch reports of contact between Russia and members of Trump’s presidential campaign, saying that there was “nothing wrong” with what he characterized as attempts to have a better working relationship with the press. He also said that the committee wanted evidence of any American citizens who may have talked to Russian officials, implicitly broadening the issue beyond the Trump campaign and administration. He characterized the FBI as being “very upfront” with his committee about what they know about Trump’s potential connections with Russia, although he admitted that he’d like to know more.

When asked if they have any evidence of contacts specifically from the Trump campaign, Nunes replied: “It’s been looked into and there’s no evidence of anything there. Obviously we’d like to know if there is.” He also dismissed concerns that Flynn had violated the Logan Act as “ridiculous” and said that they would not subpoena Trump’s tax returns, which puts him at odds with Senate Intelligence Committee member Susan Collins, R-Maine. Throughout the press conference, Nunes insisted that both he and the White House were simply trying to be “transparent” and claimed to be confused as to why the Trump administration providing his phone number to a reporter would be a news story. He also repeated his earlier statements about wanting to avoid “McCarthyism” and “witch hunts” based on reports that Americans may have connections to the Russian regime.

“This is almost like McCarthyism revisited,” Nunes told reporters at the California Republican Party’s spring convention on Saturday. “We’re going to go on a witch hunt against, against innocent Americans?”

I don't think I need to articulate how inane this is. Trump has a responsibility to be transparent about his business dealings from which he continues to benefit directly. It's not a witch hunt to demand he do that.

Neither is it a witch hunt for the head of the Intelligence Committee to keep an open mind about the Russian connections at this early stage. It may turn out to be nothing but there is a process and he's supposed to recognize it. It's one thing for him to criticize the leaks. That's a legitimate complaint. It's not legitimate for him to exonerate the administration and the campaign before the facts are in.

But then, he should not be involved in the investigation in the first place because he was a member of the president's transition team. At the very least he should be strictly following protocol in order to avoid the appearance of being a partisan stooge as the head of the Intelligence Committee. But I guess that's old fashioned in the Trump era. A Republican's job is to defend The Trump Presidency Inc ™ and that's what he's going to do.


"People that wear uniforms like us" --- Donald Trump

by digby

I wrote about the latest anti-immigrant and deportation atrocities in the Trump regime for Salon this morning. It's ramping up people.

At Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony, actor Gael García Bernal told the worldwide audience, “As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I am against any form of wall that wants to separate us.” Iranian-American engineer and entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari (the first Iranian to go to space!) read a statement from director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” won the foreign-language Oscar and who decided not to attend the event due to the Trump administration’s travel ban. His message said, in part:

My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhuman law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. Dividing the world into the “us” and “our enemies” categories creates fear. A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.

Farhadi released to the press a longer statement. And these comments from a Mexican and an Iranian are poignant in themselves. But they also illustrate that the Trump administration’s policy about undocumented workers and his policy banning travelers, immigrants and refugees from certain countries are actually the same policy. He is on a crusade to deport and ban a variety of foreigners of different statuses under various premises, for the supposed purpose of keeping what he calls “bad dudes” out of the United States.

We know that a serious concern about the threat of terrorism is not the motivation for the travel ban. In an echo of the George W. Bush administration’s treatment of intelligence analyses that showed little evidence that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear program, the Trump administration has apparently rejected a Department of Homeland Security report saying that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” Claiming that the report was politically motivated and poorly researched, a White House spokesman said, “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.” That’s not how this works.

At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference gathering Trump gave a speech making it clear that he sees immigration of all kinds in the same light. He wove the various strands together using very similar language:

[L]et me state this as clearly as I can, we are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country. We will not be deterred from this course, and in a matter of days, we will be taking brand-new action to protect our people and keep America safe, you will see the action. . . .

As we speak today, immigration officers are finding the gang members, the drug dealers and the criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out of our country. And we will not let them back in. They’re not coming back in, folks. They do; they’re going to have bigger problems than they ever dreamt of.

The merging of these separate strands of immigration policy beyond Trump’s rhetoric and into practice is beginning to become clear as reports of Customs and Border Patrol as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents implementation of draconian new policies all over the country have started filtering into the media. The early days of the Muslim ban were chaotic and at times abusive. But that could have been chalked up to bad communication and poor implementation. What we’re seeing now is much more systematic.

A report in The New York Times on Friday revealed that government agents are thrilled and having “fun” in their jobs since, as Sean Spicer said, Trump has “taken the shackles off.” Officers told reporters how ecstatic they were to be free to deport any undocumented immigrant they come across:

[F]or those with ICE badges, perhaps the biggest change was the erasing of the Obama administration’s hierarchy of priorities, which forced agents to concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent and serious criminals, and mostly leave everyone else alone.

This clearly indicates that what Trump and his Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers call “bad dudes” are all undocumented immigrants, and they want to deport every one of them. Horror stories are multiplying like the one of agents’ arresting a woman seeking shelter from an abusive boyfriend, and another tale of officials detaining a woman with no criminal history who was in the hospital seeking treatment for a brain tumor. Incidents of Customs and Border Patrol agents demanding that all passengers on a domestic flight provide their IDs when disembarking the airplane have been reported, which is highly unusual.

Trump’s new travel ban is scheduled to be released sometime in the next week, but it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to be much of an improvement over what’s already been happening. We hear stories daily of inept customs agents harassing innocent people, like a visiting scholar in Houston, who was mistakenly held and nearly sent back to France, or even someone as obviously American as Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the legendary boxer, who was reportedly asked, “Where did you get that name?”

The number of errors in both law and common sense among customs and border officials since Trump first implemented his ban does not bode well for an orderly or professional implementation. Now, according to Foreign Policy, the desperate need for thousands more agents has made it difficult to find people who can pass polygraph tests and background checks — so the administration wants to drop those requirements. What could possibly go wrong?

Donald Trump ran on an anti-immigrant platform and his voters consider that the most important issue facing the nation. He’s moving fast to fulfill those promises. But he also ran as the “law and order” candidate and his CPAC speech made it very clear that there’s a second phase to his program:

I’m also working with the Department of Justice to being reducing violent crime. I mean, can you believe what’s happening in Chicago as an example. . . . We will support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.

He’s not being coy. African-Americans and Latinos in urban neighborhoods can be sure that he plans to “take off the shackles” in this area, too.

At his recent rally in Melbourne, Florida, Trump said, “Basically people that wear uniforms like us.” He’s right. All through the government, career professionals are appalled by his approach to immigration, along with numerous other policies. But the federal police agencies are over the moon about Donald Trump. And that is very disturbing.
Dubya steps up

by digby

It must be dire for Dubya to come out of retirement to say something:
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need the media to hold people like me to account,” Bush told Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” Monday morning. “I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.” 
Trump has raised alarm by his recent references to critical media outlets as “fake news” and as “the enemy of the people.” 
Bush also expressed concern about the extent of Trump’s relationship with Russia’s ruling class, which has been extensively chronicled and led to the resignations of former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 
“I think we all need answers,” Bush told Lauer. “I’m not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.” 
Given Bush’s own record as the president who governed America during the infamous Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, his criticism of Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban may have been the most pointed.
“I think it’s very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we’re in retreat,” Bush said.

Ok, first of all, look at those erudite, complete sentences.  My God:

"... power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere."

They always used to compare him to Winston Churchill and I thought it was daft. But compared to what we have now, he really is.

More importantly, he is criticizing Trump which is unusual for him. He's been very reticent to offer an opinion since he left office.  He's showing some leadership by speaking out. I don't know if anyone in the GOP coalition cares anymore about anything but being crude and thuggish but maybe a few of them have fond memories of Dubya. Good for him.

An anniversary to learn from

by digby

History never repeats itself exactly, but some strategies are evergreen:
On February 27, 1933 the German Parliament building burned, Adolf Hitler rejoiced, and the Nazi era began. Hitler, who had just been named head of a government that was legally formed after the democratic elections of the previous November, seized the opportunity to change the system. “There will be no mercy now,” he exulted. “Anyone standing in our way will be cut down.”

The next day, at Hitler’s advice and urging, the German president issued a decree “for the protection of the people and the state.” It deprived all German citizens of basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly and made them subject to “preventative detention” by the police. A week later, the Nazi party, having claimed that the fire was the beginning of a major terror campaign by the Left, won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections. Nazi paramilitaries and the police then began to arrest political enemies and place them in concentration camps. Shortly thereafter, the new parliament passed an “enabling act” that allowed Hitler to rule by decree.

After 1933, the Nazi regime made use of a supposed threat of terrorism against Germans from an imaginary international Jewish conspiracy. After five years of repressing Jews, in 1938 the German state began to deport them. On October 27 of that year, the German police arrested about 17,000 Jews from Poland and deported them across the Polish border. A young man named Herschel Grynszpan, sent to Paris by his parents, received a desperate postcard from his sister after his family was forced across the Polish border. He bought a gun, went to the German embassy, and shot a German diplomat. He called this an act of revenge for the suffering of his family and his people. Nazi propagandists presented it as evidence of an international Jewish conspiracy preparing a terror campaign against the entire German people. Josef Goebbels used it as the pretext to organize the events we remember as Kristallnacht, a massive national pogrom of Jews that left hundreds dead.

The Reichstag fire shows how quickly a modern republic can be transformed into an authoritarian regime. There is nothing new, to be sure, in the politics of exception. The American Founding Fathers knew that the democracy they were creating was vulnerable to an aspiring tyrant who might seize upon some dramatic event as grounds for the suspension of our rights. As James Madison nicely put it, tyranny arises “on some favorable emergency.” What changed with the Reichstag fire was the use of terrorism as a catalyst for regime change. To this day, we do not know who set the Reichstag fire: the lone anarchist executed by the Nazis or, as new scholarship by Benjamin Hett suggests, the Nazis themselves. What we do know is that it created the occasion for a leader to eliminate all opposition.

In 1989, two centuries after our Constitution was promulgated, the man who is now our president wrote that “civil liberties end when an attack on our safety begins.” For much of the Western world, that was a moment when both security and liberty seemed to be expanding. 1989 was a year of liberation, as communist regimes came to an end in eastern Europe and new democracies were established. Yet that wave of democratization has since fallen under the glimmering shadow of the burning Reichstag. The aspiring tyrants of today have not forgotten the lesson of 1933: that acts of terror—real or fake, provoked or accidental—can provide the occasion to deal a death blow to democracy.

That's just the beginning of a great piece by Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books. Well Worth reading.

I don't know how this is going to go here. But it's the first time in my life that I've felt like the elements are lined up in a way that makes it very possible.


Shape, don't chase public opinion

by Tom Sullivan

"Democrats rely on polling to take the temperature; Republicans use polling to change it," Anat Shenker-Osorio wrote last week in The Hill. Republicans shape opinion; Democrats chase it. That's pandering, not leadership. People won't vote for that.

When Fight for $15, a movement to raise the minimum wage in the retail sector, came on the scene in 2012, the odds were against them. They faced prominent Democrats — including President Obama and Hillary Clinton — balking at what seemed too audacious a demand, out of step with public opinion.

But instead of using the moderation approach, the Fight for $15 movement used a bold strategy reminiscent of the right: They demanded a hike to $15 on the proposition that people who work for a living ought to earn a living — not as a means to grow or help the economy.
Screw "the economy." Help the people without whom there is no economy. Fight for $15 didn't chase public opinion. Fight for $15 reshaped it. Never out front of an issue, Democrats are always playing catch up. Always playing defense. Never offense. Obama and Clinton didn't lead on Fight for $15. They followed.

Osorio writes:
Democrats' reflexive desire to refashion their appeal to appease even a committed opposition in order to court a mythically fixed middle demonstrates lessons still not learned. The job of an effective message isn't to say what is popular; it is to make popular what we need said.

This requires understanding not merely where people are but where they are capable of going.
That takes vision. It takes leadership.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Policy anarchy with people's lives in the balance

by digby

This would be how the sausage is made when the president is an imbecile:
A meeting Friday afternoon between President Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, his former rival in the GOP primaries, had no set agenda. But Kasich came armed with one anyway: his hope to blunt drastic changes to the nation’s health-care system envisioned by some conservatives in Washington.

Over the next 45 minutes, according to Kasich and others briefed on the session, the governor made his pitch while the president eagerly called in several top aides and then got Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on the phone. At one point, senior adviser Jared Kushner reminded his father-in-law that House Republicans are sketching out a different approach to providing access to coverage. “Well, I like this better,” Trump replied, according to a Kasich adviser.

The freewheeling session, which concluded with the president instructing Price and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to meet with Kasich the next day, underscores the un­or­tho­dox way the White House is proceeding as Republicans work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else. The day after Kasich delivered his impromptu tutorial, Trump spent lunch discussing the same topic with two other GOP governors with a very different vision — Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida.

Scott said Sunday that he used the lunch to press for principles he has pushed publicly, such as financial compensation for states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA and the importance of providing competition and cutting required benefits to allow people to “buy insurance that fits them.”

While leaving most of the detail work to lawmakers, top White House aides are divided on how dramatic an overhaul effort the party should pursue. And the biggest wild card remains the president himself, who has devoted only a modest amount of time to the grinding task of mastering health-care policy but has repeatedly suggested that his sweeping new plan is nearly complete.
This conundrum will be on full display Monday, when Trump meets at the White House with some of the nation’s largest health insurers. The session, which will include top executives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Cigna and Humana, is not expected to produce a major policy announcement. But it will provide an opportunity for one more important constituency to lobby the nation’s leader on an issue he has said is at the top of his agenda.

Democrats and their allies are already mobilizing supporters to hammer lawmakers about the possible impact of rolling back the ACA, holding more than 100 rallies across the country Saturday. And a new analysis for the National Governors Association that modeled the effect of imposing a cap on Medicaid spending — a key component of House Republicans’ strategy — provided Democrats with fresh ammunition because of its finding that the number of insured Americans could fall significantly.

Trump, for his part, continues to express confidence about his administration’s ostensible plan. He suggested Wednesday that it would be out within a few weeks.

“So we’re doing the health care — again, moving along very well — sometime during the month of March, maybe mid- to early March, we’ll be submitting something that I think people will be very impressed by,” he told reporters during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room.

Yet some lawmakers, state leaders and policy experts who have discussed the matter with either Trump or his top aides say the administration is largely delegating the development of an ACA substitute to Capitol Hill. The president, who attended part of a lengthy heath-care policy session his aides held at Mar-a-Lago a week ago, appears more interested in brokering specific questions, such as how to negotiate drug prices, than in steering the plan’s drafting.

“The legislative branch, the House first and foremost, is providing the policy,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who noted that the White House lacks “a big policy shop” and that Price and some key principals just recently got in place. Seema Verma, whom Trump has nominated to head the Centers for Medicare and Medi­caid Services, should play a key role in any reform effort if she is confirmed.

In the current process, the White House becomes “the political sounding board” in altering Obamacare, as the 2010 law is known, “and the final voice of reason is what the Senate can accept,” Cole said.

Within the administration, aides are debating how far and fast Republicans can afford to move when it comes to undoing key aspects of the ACA. White House officials declined to comment for this story.

Several people in Trump’s orbit are eager to make bold changes to reduce the government’s role in the health-care system. That camp includes Vice President Pence, who told conservative activists last week that “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end,” as well as Domestic Policy Council aides Andrew Bremberg and Katy Talento and National Economic Council aide Brian ­Blase.

Blase, who most recently worked as a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, published a paper in December titled “Replacing the Affordable Care Act the Right Way.” Its conservative blueprint emphasized the “need to reduce government bias towards comprehensive coverage” for all Americans and a revamping of Medicaid, which was expanded under the ACA and added 11 million Americans to the rolls.

“Medicaid needs fundamental reform with the goals of dramatically reducing the number of people enrolled in the program and providing a higher-quality program for remaining enrollees,” Blase wrote.

Other White House advisers, according to multiple individuals who asked for anonymity to describe private discussions, have emphasized the potential political costs to moving aggressively. That group includes Kushner, NEC Director Gary Cohn, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

Asked by George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” whether Trump “won’t touch Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid,” White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Look, the president is committed to doing that. . . . And I don’t see any reason to start thinking differently.”


Kasich has proposed paring back some of the ACA’s more generous aspects, such as reducing the number of benefits insurers are required to offer and potentially cutting the eligibility level for Medicaid recipients from 138 percent of the poverty level to 100 percent if there is a stable marketplace with adequate subsidies they can join. He also wants states to have more flexibility in how they manage their Medicaid programs, as well as aspects of the private insurance market.

But he has expressed skepticism about turning Medicaid funding into a block grant and opposes any move that would eliminate the coverage many adults in his state now have without a clear path to transition them to new plans.

“Frankly the reason why people are on Medicaid is because they don’t have any money,” he said Friday. “So what are we supposed to say, ‘Work harder?’ ”

Asked to describe Trump’s reaction to his overall approach, the Ohio governor replied, “What he said is, he found it interesting. . . . It takes time, so you have to explain it, and explain it again.”

What a trainwreck.

A fine tuned machine

by digby

Gosh this seems like such a fun place to work:

Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing, with increased security measures that include random phone checks of White House staffers, overseen by White House attorneys.

The push to snuff out leaks to the press comes after a week in which President Donald Trump strongly criticized the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorized sharing of information by individuals in his administration.

Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room.

Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide.

Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.

There, he explicitly warned staffers that using texting apps like Confide — an encrypted and screenshot-protected messaging app that automatically deletes texts after they are sent — and Signal, another encrypted messaging system, was a violation of the Presidential Records Act, according to multiple sources in the room.

The phone checks included whatever electronics staffers were carrying when they were summoned to the unexpected follow-up meeting, including government-issued and personal cellphones.

Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media. It's not the first time that warnings about leaks have promptly leaked. The State Department's legal office issued a four-page memo warning of the dangers of leaks, and that memo was immediately posted by The Washington Post.

But with mounting tension inside the West Wing over stories portraying an administration lurching between crises and simmering in dysfunction, aides are increasingly frustrated by the pressure-cooker environment and worried about their futures there.

Within the communications office the mood has grown tense. During a recent staff meeting, Spicer harshly criticized some of the work a more junior spokesperson, Jessica Ditto, had done, causing her to cry, according to two people familiar with the incident. "The only time Jessica recalls almost getting emotional is when we had to relay the information on the death of Chief Ryan Owens," Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL killed in action in Yemen.

Spicer declined to comment about the leak crackdown.

The campaign to sniff out a series of damaging leaks, which Spicer is convinced originated from his communications department, has led to a tense environment in the West Wing. During meetings, the press secretary has repeatedly berated his aides, launching expletive-filled tirades in which he’s accused them of disclosing sensitive information to reporters and saying that they’ve disappointed him.

As word of the hunt has ripped through the office, talk has turned to the question of whether firings are to come.

Spicer was particularly incensed by revelations last week that Michael Dubke had been tapped as the new White House communications director — a hire that became public before it was officially announced.

“In general,” said one senior administration official, “there is a lot of insecurity.”

While other parts of the White House appear to be stabilizing, the press shop is often a center of frustration about how things are going — and not just from Spicer, who fumes to aides about stories he doesn’t like.

For Trump, a cable TV addict who has long obsessively tracked news coverage about himself, the ongoing turmoil in the White House communications wing threatens to derail the media narrative that will help to define the opening days of his presidency. His decision to hold a free-flowing news conference last week, two senior officials said, stemmed from a recognition that he was no longer breaking through in a news cycle that had turned against him.

“He reached a breaking point where he wanted to do it himself,” said one senior White House aide.

It has not been lost on senior White House officials that Spicer is overseeing an overwhelmed press office, where work often begins just after 6 a.m. and ends close to midnight.

To help streamline the office, the administration has tapped Dubke, a veteran under-the-radar Republican operative known for his organizational skills. Yet the move has infuriated Trump campaign aides, who argue that someone who’d been a vocal Trump supporter — which the establishment-minded Dubke hadn’t been — should have gotten the job.
“People are on fire about it,” one campaign veteran said of the Dubke hire.

Multiple former campaign aides said they were under the impression that RNC veterans pushed through Dubke, who is close with Republican strategist Karl Rove, with relatively little consultation with others in Trump world. (Several other people interviewed for the post, including Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence, and Scott Jennings, a former political aide in the George W. Bush White House.)

To some degree, the challenge Spicer and other press aides face is unique — they are working for a president who takes an unusually intense interest in the work his communications office does. Trump is known to watch Spicer’s daily press briefings while eating lunch in the White House dining room. While the president was critical of his press secretary in the administration’s first month — especially after he was parodied on “Saturday Night Live” — he more recently has offered the press secretary his private assurances that his job is safe.

The push to crack down on leaks follows a week in which the president ratcheted up his criticism of the press and condemned the free flow of information from parts of his administration. On Friday, Trump called the media the “enemy of the American people” during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he railed against journalists for using anonymous sources.

“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Trump said. “A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”

Later on Friday, Spicer blocked certain media, including CNN, The New York Times, BuzzFeed and POLITICO, from attending an off-camera press briefing in his office. Time and The Associated Press boycotted the briefing out of solidarity.

On Saturday, Trump said he would not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington.

He's running the government like he ran the Trump Organization. Into the ground. Just as he promised.

Remember folks, this isn't normal.


Commander in Tweet

by digby

Oh my. It appears this sort of thing isn't just for Republicans after all:

The father of a Navy SEAL killed during a mission that Donald Trump approved just a week into his administration blames the president for his son’s death.

William Owens told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with Trump when the remains of son, William “Ryan” Owens, were returned to Dover Air Force Base.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,” Owens recalled explaining to the chaplain. “I told them I don’t want to meet the president.”

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.”

Owens questioned Trump’s motivation for signing off on a mission just six days into his presidency.

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” he asked. “For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”

Although U.S. military officials told The New York Times that “everything went wrong” during the mission, the Trump administration has called the operation a success. Administration officials have claimed that an investigation would tarnish the memory Owen’s son, but the father disagrees.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he remarked. “I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation.”

In any other administration this would be a huge scandal, especially the fact that Trump was reportedly gobbling dinner when he made the decision and didn't even bother to go to the situation room when it was happening:

Amid claims that Mr Trump ordered the operation in the early hours of Sunday morning without sufficient intelligence, ground support or back-up, it has emerged that the President was not in the Situation Room at all.

“The President was here in the residence. He was kept in touch with his national security staff,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

“Secretary Mattis and others kept him updated on both the raid and the death of Chief Owens as well as the four other individuals that were injured. So he was kept apprised of the situation.”

It has also been pointed out that in the morning after the attack, one of the first things Mr Trump did was tweet angrily about the New York Times, writing:

Experts suggest different presidents have taken a different approach on how hands on they want to be in such situations. But as questions have emerged about who is leading America’s national security policy – Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s white nationalist political advisor, has been made a member of the national security council’s so-called principals committee – US media has seized on the President’s absence.

“Usually, a President goes down to the Situation Room and is presented with what they call a full package for the attack. There’s a legal assessment of the legal authorities under which they’re doing these,” David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times, told PBS.

“There’s a risk assessment to the commandos who would be doing it. There is a risk assessment of what could happen to civilians who are in the area.”

He added: “It looks like President Trump got briefed on it, by and large, at a dinner, not in the Situation Room, not with legal advisers around.”

Mr Sanger said that present along with Mr Trump were Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, Vice President Mike Pence, and Mr Bannon.

Remember this despicable lie?

In a June 22 speech, Trump said Clinton’s decisions as secretary of state "spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched. Among the victims was our late Ambassador Chris Stevens. I mean what she did with him was absolutely horrible. He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed. That’s right. When the phone rang, as per the commercial, at 3:00 in the morning, Hillary Clinton was sleeping."

Yeah, that was bullshit:

The, attack took place at about 9:30 p.m. Benghazi time, or 3:30 in the afternoon Washington time on a Tuesday. Clinton was at her State Department office.

None of the numerous congressional investigations into the attacks have faulted Clinton for her actions as the attacks unfolded that day or said she could have done something different on Sept. 12 that would have saved lives.

Trump couldn't be bothered to walk down to the Situation Room for his first action as Commander in Chief. Which he causally ordered over dinner in between the appetizers and the soup.