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Thursday, November 30, 2017


So much winning

by digby

Wild route to victory:

Trump has always crushed convention and been ready to step on racial, cultural and behavioral taboos, evidenced in his response for instance to Charlottesville riots and willingness to exploit foreign terror attacks to push his immigration policies. In many ways his spurning of political correctness has been key to his appeal. But some close observers of the President say they believe he has become even more unmoored in recent weeks.

"Something is unleashed with him lately," said New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who wrote about Trump's return to Birther conspiracy theories in on Wednesday morning.

"I don't know what is causing it, I don't know how to describe it," said Haberman, who is also a CNN contributor.
Whatever is causing it, some of Trump's fellow Republicans are worried about the detrimental effect of his behavior.
"I think it's risky," South Dakota Sen. John Thune told CNN's Dana Bash on Wednesday.

"In light of what's going on in the world right now, and things that we're trying to accomplish, and the threats and the adversaries that we face, I think it's important that our leader, our commander in chief, set the kind of tone that's measured," Thune said.

Sounds right. It's good they're noticing. Except:

In some ways, Trump's latest wild behavior turn gives Republicans yet another problem.

GOP senators will shortly vote on a tax reform bill that if it passes will give Trump a long awaited victory.
But that win will also bolster his prestige and power as President, leaving some to question whether the likes of Flake and Corker are putting principled objections to Trump's leadership aside for their own political reasons.

Ya think?

They are about to give him all the validation and encouragement he could ever hope for to let his monumental freak flag fly.

I an imagine that some of them might think that passing the tax atrocity will take some of the air out of Steve Bannon's primary campaign against "the swamp." But that's wishful thinking. Bannon doesn't care about "getting things done" and Trump's followers don't make fine distinctions. If they want to appease those people they are going to have to go full Orrin Hatch and say Trump is one of the best presidents he's ever served under.

No really, he said that. A US Senator said he "serves under" the president.

Good boy Orrin! Here's a treat:



Trump is targeting the elderly for his latest scam.

by digby

Old people are the easiest marks. They're often the victims of nefarious cons. Here's the latest one:

Millions of senior citizens could see tax increases under the Senate version of the GOP's tax-reform plan, according to an analysis from the AARP.

In an article published Wednesday on the group's website, the AARP's vice president and policy director argue that 1 in 5 seniors, about 6.3 million taxpayers, will see either no change or a tax increase in 2019 under the plan passed by the Senate Budget Committee. Of those individuals, 1.2 million people would get a tax hike.

The authors argue that number will jump "more than four times" by 2027 to 5.2 million seniors "as a result of sunsetting the middle-class tax cuts."

Another issue of concern for older Americans, the AARP says, is the automatic cuts to Medicare and other services under the GOP plan.

"The bottom line is that even today’s 65+ as well as those who turn 65 by 2027 who benefit initially may end up paying higher and ever increasing taxes soon thereafter," the authors write.

So many of them voted for him because he hates all the people they hate. They just didn't realize they were among them.


Huckleberry Graham slaps himself in the face

by digby

He's on a mission to try to be Trump's best friend, I would guess because he thinks he's so special he can guide him to do what he wants him to do.

Newsflash, Huck. Trump thinks you're a fey, effete loser. Don't kid yourself. Go ahead and flatter him. He loves it. But he doesn't hear anything else you say.



"States' Rights" neo-confederates show their stripes

by digby

It was always obvious that the confederate "States' Rights" fetish was just an excuse to discriminate against black people. We knew that. And there was nobody who was more of a staunch defender of states' rights than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Now that he has the federal government at his disposal to enforce his own beliefs, he sees things differently:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested in a press conference on Wedenesday that the Department of Justice is looking at changing Obama-era policies that allowed states to decide what to do about marijuana despite the drug remaining illegal under federal law, according to McClatchy DC.

He said: 
"In fact, we're looking at that very hard right now, we had a meeting yesterday and talked about it at some length. It's my view that the use of marijuana is detrimental, and we should not give encouragement in any way to it, and it represents a federal violation, which is in the law and is subject to being enforced."

He's always said that "good people" don't smoke pot.  So he's just going after the "bad people." 

He may be surprised at how many of these "bad people" are also Trump voters. Pot isn't partisan, not anymore.



He pushed the wrong button

by digby

Trump really upset Britain yesterday with his tweeting out of "Britain First" neo-fascist videos. Number 10 Downing St issued a statement saying that he should not have done it and Trump issued a nasty retort to Prime Minister Teresa May last night:

That tweet was originally aimed at a Teresa May who had 6 followers instead of the UK Prime Minister. Someone later went back and changed it.

The "other" Teresa May has been inundated with inquiries in the wake of this. She told the press:

“It's amazing to think that the world's most powerful man managed to press the wrong button,” she said, adding, “I'm just glad he was not contacting me to say he was going to war with North Korea.”

So are we all. But it just goes to show how easy it would be for him to do it.


I wonder if he had his fly open during the interview

by digby

It burns me up to go back and watch these recently exposed misogynist harassers condescending, disdainful interviews with Hillary Clinton during the general election last year. Here's Charlie Rose brow-beating her over those fucking emails in the summer of 2016:

In an interview with "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addressed perceptions of her trustworthiness and her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

While the FBI recommended no charges be brought against Clinton after their investigation into the scandal, a recent CBS News/New York Times poll shows 67 percent of registered voters do not find Clinton "honest and trustworthy."

"Do you think the email crisis contributed to the question of trust?" Rose asked Clinton Monday.

"Well, I have said that I am very sorry about it, that I made a mistake. It was certainly not a choice I would do again," Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton denies careless handling of classified material
"I want to hear you out on this. You've said, 'I'm sorry.' 'I made a mistake.' 'It was the wrong thing to do,'" Rose said.

"I have said that. Yes," Clinton said.

Clinton: Donald Trump is dangerous
Clinton: Donald Trump is dangerous
"And some say, what were you thinking about the national security risk when you made this decision? ... And it hasn't been determined that there was no hacking," Rose said.

"Well, there is no evidence of it," Clinton said.

"But some would suggest that that's the reason that they were very good at it, 'cause there's no evidence of it, and that you exposed--" Rose said.

"Charlie, there is no evidence of that," Clinton said.

"But Comey, the director of the FBI, had said, you know, 'But we don't know,'" Rose said.

"No, that's not what he said," Clinton said.

"'Can't rule it out,' he said," Rose said.

"Well, but you can't rule it in either. And there is no evidence. So we could go back and forth on this," Clinton said. "I go where the evidence leads, and there is no evidence."

"Let me go to what he said. He said, 'careless,'" Rose pointed out.

Hillary Clinton on search for running mate
Hillary Clinton on search for running mate
"Well, I would hope that you, like many others, would also look at what he said when he testified before Congress. Because when he did, he clarified much of what he had said in his press conference," Clinton said. "And I appreciated that."

"But he said it was sloppy," Rose said.

"No, he did not," Clinton said.

"Correct me if I'm wrong. ... Someone said, 'What's the definition of careless?' And he said, 'Real sloppiness,'" Rose said.

"Well, let me say this: There were three at-- probably at least 300 people on those emails, the vast majority of whom are experienced professionals in handling sensitive material. ... And I have no reason to have second-guessed their decision to send or forward me information," Clinton said. "Do I wish I hadn't done it? Of course. Was it a mistake? Yes."

"Was it wrong?" Rose asked.

"Well, it was wrong because -- look at what it has generated," Clinton said.

"But was it careless?" Rose asked.

"Well, I think you would have to say 300 people who communicated with me on email are among the most careful people I've ever had the privilege of working with," Clinton said.

"Do you think it contributed and became a controversy because it fed trust issues?" Rose asked.

"Well, I'm sure it didn't help. Yes, I am sure it didn't help," Clinton said. "But I'll tell you this, I am the last person you will ever have to worry about, ever -- not being 100 percent as specific and precise as I can be so that nobody ever raises any questions like that ever again."

Sanctimonious interrogations about her trustworthiness! From Charlie Rose! It makes me see red.

Look at his body language. What a pompous, supercilious ass.

I got this link through this piece talking about how these men shaped the presidential race from Amanda Marcotte at Salon.


The enablers feeding the megalomania

by digby

So John McCain says he all in on the tax plan. That's probably that. But he and Corker and the others who have concerns about Trump either aren't thinking this through or are even more craven than the rest of these craven wingnuts.

In my piece for Salon this morning I wrote about the fact that the Republican congress feels compelled to deliver Trump a win because their base is down the rabbit hole with Trump and they figure they have to join them. But I don't think these people have fully grasped what it will mean to give Trump this big win.

Here's a look at it:

Exhausted by the Trump presidency? Brace yourself: White House officials expect Trump to be even more outrageous and cocksure in coming months.

What we're hearing: Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.

Imagine Trump if he signs a huge tax cut into law, which seems likely, amid soaring stocks and rising economic growth.

Imagine if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, which seems likely, too. It surely won't humble Trump — or hem him in.
He's like the Incredible Hulk, after the media and Mueller made him mad.We just witnessed the most unthinkable 96 hours of Trump's reign:

He called for a probe of the chairman of NBC News, a boycott of CNN, global skepticism of CNN International, and a public contest to crown the king of Fake News.

He told friends that the "Access Hollywood" tape may have been doctored, and that former President Obama may have been born abroad.
He re-tweeted conspiracy theorists.

He unapologetically circulated videos aimed at demeaning an entire religion, Islam. He sent his press secretary out to argue it doesn't matter if the tapes are fake, because the threat is real.

Be smart: Elected Republicans, at least in public, seem fine with it all. They chuckle and say it's simply Trump being Trump. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his staff seem fine with, or at least resigned to, this reality. No one who matters is doing anything but egging him on.

Case in point: Amid all of this, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) calls Trump "one of the best presidents I've served under."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gushed that he's never seen Trump in finer form than digging into the tax bill this week.

Update via Crooks and Liars:

Joe Scarborough needs to talk to his pals in the GOP about these concerns and ask them if it's really a good idea to feed his megalomania with this grotesque tax cut:

"The problem, Mika, is that we are not fine in this country," Scarborough said.

"I said America will be strong. We will survive this. But right now, at this particular moment -- and we will get to this in a moment with Richard Haas, we are headed towards a nuclear showdown, most insiders say it matches everything we've heard from inside the administration, we are closer to war on the Korean peninsula that most Americans know, we said this months ago, we will have a ground war, they've believed that inside the White House for a very long time.

"Yet, he seems completely detached from reality. We had a New York Times and Washington Post piece saying so a couple of days ago: if this is not what the 25th Amendment was drafted for... I would like the cabinet members to serve America. You know you don't serve Donald J. Trump, scam developer, scam, you know, Trump University proprietor. Reality TV show host, you don't represent him. You represent 320 million people whose lives are literally in your hands and we are facing a showdown with a nuclear power and you have somebody inside the White House, somebody at the New York Daily News says is mentally unfit, people close to him say is mentally unfit, people close to him during the campaign told me had early stages of dementia.

"Now listen, you can get mad at me," he said. "You can say it's not okay to say, but it is reality.

"When are we supposed to say this -- after the first nuclear missile goes, is that when it's proper to bring this up in polite society?

"Tell me. General Mattis, when is it polite to bring this up in polite society? Rex Tillerson, when is this the right time to talk about a mentally unstable president in the White House and a nuclear showdown with another unstable madman in North Korea? Is it after the first nuclear missiles fly? What exactly is the right time, Steve Mnuchin?

"Mike Pence, guess what, Republicans want you to be president. The Republicans in the House would love you to be president of the United States. You know why? Because you're stable.

"And here's the thing. Everybody around Donald Trump knows he's not stable. Everybody around Donald Trump knows he's not stable," he emphasized. "Everybody. And yet, this continues."


Trump delusional? Sure. But so is the whole GOP

by digby

I wrote about the tax cut Armageddon for Salon this morning:

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, he called together all the opinion leaders in Washington and announced that he was planning to propose a Grand Bargain that would include a cut in "entitlement" spending in exchange for the Republicans agreeing to allow the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans to expire. It had progressive Democrats in a state of agitation, feeling that the president was selling out the signature achievement of the New Deal for a temporary tax hike.

The Tea Party right refused to take yes for an answer. The Democrats were offering to take the heat and cut those hated "entitlements," yet the far right couldn't bear raising taxes on rich people. Silly Tea Partyers, didn't they realize that they were walking away from a great deal?

It turns out they were biding their time until they held all the levers of power again so they could slash taxes for the wealthy, raise taxes on everyone else and institute "triggers" to cut vital programs as soon as their deep cuts start to raise the deficit, as they inevitably will. Why take half a loaf when you can hold out and get the whole bakery?

They even did a trial run in one of the "laboratories of democracy" to prove to everyone how slashing taxes on the wealthy and cutting all those "entitlements" that encourage dependency will boost growth dramatically and make everybody richer, happier and more successful. This was what we might call Sam Brownback's "Make Kansas Great Again" plan, which he literally sold to his constituents by saying their state was going to be the "Petri dish" for all the supply-side economic lunacy the right has been trying to enact for decades.

He did it, too. And it didn't work out very well. As one Kansas Republican lawmaker told the Atlantic:

“It was supposed to increase the GDP, and it didn’t. The feds will have that same problem,” said state Senator Jim Denning, a conservative who originally supported the tax cuts. In a phone interview, Denning told me he had done his own economic modeling in 2012 and “proved to myself that the tax cut would work.” But the new policy did not prevent a rural recession in Kansas or a dip in its oil-and-gas business. “It generated hardly any measurable economic activity,” Denning said. By the beginning of this year, he had changed course and voted along with Democrats and a coalition of Republicans to reverse most of the cuts, erasing Brownback’s economic legacy.

Donald Trump generously relieved Kansans of Brownback himself, by nominating him to be the ambassador-at-large for "international religious freedom." He has not yet been confirmed.

Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, has been getting an earful from his constituents who are gobsmacked that he is planning to vote to do to the whole country what they did to their state. The Kansas City Star editorial board recounted a conversation the senator had with one of his voters who asked him: “Why would you take this failed experiment nationwide? Our members of Congress should be the ones leading the way for tax reform that actually affects normal people, not just millionaires and billionaires.”

Sadly, that's unlikely. Certainly Sam Brownback won't be issuing the warning. He's in Washington this week trying to push through his confirmation -- and telling outrageous lies, as Salon's Sophia Tesfaye wrote earlier. Apparently, Donald Trump shared with Brownback some of that strange brew that makes people believe that up is down and black is white:

Surely the Republicans all know this. Moran even admitted that Kansas is "discussed" in Washington, one assumes as a cautionary tale. And yes, the federal government is not like a state for a hundred different reasons, which makes it unlikely that the consequences would be exactly the same. Nonetheless, it's patently obvious that this tax plan will be a disaster on a national scale, probably resulting in some kind of crisis these same Republicans will then insist requires deep austerity measures to fix. That's the game as it's been played for 30 years, and it's always worked out fine for them. They cut taxes on the rich and the economy eventually goes to hell, at which point Democrats are voted in to clean up the mess, and the GOP insists on spending cuts to vital programs to pay off the debt they incurred with their tax-cutting spree.

Unlike in the past, these tax cuts are extremely unpopular. According to FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten, this bill is more unpopular than most tax hike bills are. Why? Because everyone knows it's a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the middle class. The GOP Congress could take its time and fashion a bill where the numbers add up. That could at least pass muster with most Republican voters. So why are they in such a frenzy to pass this monstrosity?

It's hard to know. It's almost as if congressional Republicans are on autopilot, unable to exercise free will. Many of them, like Moran of Kansas, know very well that this plan is an utter disaster that will result in higher taxes for everyone but the top 1 percent, along with the degradation of important programs like Medicare, all of which will be used against them in upcoming elections. If I had to guess, I'd say they are simply mesmerized by what Trump has been able to do.

All week long we've been reading stories about how he is creating his own reality, unmoored from facts and truth. People are whispering about the 25th Amendment and wondering if the president of the United States might actually have a breakdown. But these GOP officials watched Trump give a speech in Missouri on Wednesday, where the crowd cheered wildly while he claimed that his plan has wealthy people like himself complaining about having their taxes increased so ordinary people can have a big tax cut.

Republican senators all know that's a brazen lie. It is literally the opposite of the truth. But they see those Trump voters believing every word he says, and they understand that the truth is now irrelevant to the Republican base. All Trump's supporters want is to see their hero win. If he loses yet again because the Republican Congress fails to deliver a bill for him to sign, members of that Congress know there will be hell to pay.

Republicans are happy to pass a tax cut, of course. It's what they live for. But this is a Kansas-level economic debacle in the making, and they are not stupid enough not to understand that. They're betting that their seats are safer if they go along with Trump's magical thinking than if they stay in the real world. After all, the Republicans have been lying almost as much as Trump -- about almost as many things -- for a long time. This time they've decided to hold their collective breath and dive down the rabbit hole with him. Maybe some of that Trump Teflon will rub off on them.


Another momentous day in the #TrumpRepublic

by Tom Sullivan

Our sitting president will lie if asked for the time of day, just for practice, it's been said. One might call that evil. Unless he is simply delusional. Why not both?

He has enablers, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker observe:

Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.
Not that he could. Rucker and Parker cite outside advisers who say the president's weekends at his Palm Beach resort allow friends and club members to plant ideas in his head that wind up as tweets. “Mar-a-Lago stirs him up,” said one of the unnamed advisers.

Reports of the last 24 hours have a certain "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" quality:
  • Incited violence against Muslims without reason or regret by retweeting unverified anti-Muslim videos.
  • Insinuated Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a former intern.
  • Insinuated TV heads and critics should be investigated for unknown reasons.
The anti-Muslim videos got him into a Twitter spat with our closest ally:
Trump also strained, at least temporarily, the special relationship with Britain. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a rare rebuke from 10 Downing Street: “British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: decency, tolerance and respect.”

On Wednesday evening, Trump responded on Twitter: “Theresa May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”
That's not how it feels. But there's an upside, quips Rich Lowry, "Mark Twain is supposed to have said of Wagner’s music, 'better than it sounds.'” Aside from the anti-Muslim videos, the suggestions that Joe Scarborough murdered an intern, and the daily proofs he is unfit for office, the president is pretty conventional, the editor of National Review believes. The sitting president is rolling back DACA, Obama's Clean Power Plan, and Obamacare subsidies, so it's all good:
It is difficult to see how Ted Cruz would have governed any differently on any of these issues. Unlike Cruz, Trump is an accidental constitutionalist. Trump’s social conservative base demands originalist judges, and his alliance with the Federalist Society produces them. Meanwhile, Trump’s deregulatory reflex and desire to reverse Obama’s legacy mean he’s clawing back his predecessor’s overreach.
The president may be unhinged, but hey, it's Republican party time. Truth has been rendered irrelevant, the Post adds:
In any given case, Trump is not trying to persuade anyone of anything as much as he is trying to render reality irrelevant, and reduce the pursuit of agreement on it to just another part of the circus. He’s asserting a species of power — the power to evade constraints normally imposed by empirically verifiable facts, by expectations of consistency, and even by what reasoned inquiry deems merely credible. The more brazen or shameless, the more potent is the assertion of power.
It's what the conservative movement has been working towards for decades and Christmas has come early. History will not look kindly on this bunch if the sane get to write it.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


"You can do anything when you're a star..."

by digby

He believes he is omnipotent and nothing can touch him. He knows he's always gotten away with everything and believes he always will:

Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.

For years, Trump has fired off incendiary tweets and created self-sabotaging controversies. The pattern captures the musings of a man who traffics in conspiracy theories and alternate realities and who can’t resist inserting himself into any story line at any moment.

“In an intensely polarized world, you can’t burn down the same house twice,” said Alex Castellanos, a GOP campaign consultant. “What has Donald Trump got to lose at this point?”

Castellanos added that for many voters, and especially Trump’s base, there’s an “upside” to his bellicosity. “A strong daddy bear is what a lot of voters want,” he said. “Right or wrong, at least he’s fighting for us.”


In Missouri, he was talking about taxes, but he might as well been describing his mind-set.

“Hey, look, I’m president,” Trump said. “I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.”

Trump’s advisers and friends said he feels emboldened, even invincible, to communicate as he chooses — especially on cultural issues, believing that his stances work for him politically by galvanizing his base.

Having long trafficked in conspiracy theories — his political rise was fueled by his role as one of the nation’s leading champions of the false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States — Trump continues as president to promote falsehoods and reject facts.

Trump has recently told friends that he believes special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation will be winding down by the end of the year and that he will be exonerated, even though many experts and others close to the wide-ranging probe say that view is overly optimistic.

Trump has watched as other high-profile men’s careers have crumbled under the weight of public accusations of sexual misconduct. Yet Trump has faced no disciplinary repercussions, even after bragging on a 2005 tape about having sexually assaulted women. “Grab ’em by the p---y. You can do anything,” Trump told “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush, who lost his job over the incident.

"You can do anything."

When he said that he meant "I can do anything."



Dispatch from the Hague: war criminals drinking poison

by digby

Hey, why not?

A UN court has suspended an appeals hearing after a Bosnian Croat wartime commander claimed to have drunk poison.

A court spokesperson said Slobodan Praljak was still alive and is being treated.

Praljak is one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders who were appealing their sentences in The Hague.

The 72-year-old tilted back his head and took a swing from a flask or glass as the judge read out that his 20-year prison sentence had been upheld.

"Judges, I am not a war criminal, I reject the verdict with contempt," he said after drinking. The presiding judge called for a doctor and halted the proceedings.

Praljak was originally sentenced in 2013 for his involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat mini-state in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

Good lord, what a day...


Samantha Bee stings O'Keefe

by digby

You probably need a little levity right about now. I know I do:

The comedian mocked the recent failed sting on The Washington Post, apparently led by the far-right group Project Veritas, in a new clip shared online Tuesday.

The satirical segment mocked the attempt to discredit the newspaper’s reports on GOP Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct towards teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

It begins with Bee interviewing a prospective male employee for a role on her team. “I just really love girl things and feminism,” he says, as he tries to convince Bee he’s perfect for the job. But his chances soon take a nosedive after inconsistencies in his story come to light.


Let's talk about judgment some more, shall we?

by digby

Today, I'm reminded of that "Commander in Chief Forum" last fall for some reason. I can't help but think of how the first 10 minutes of the show unfolded:

LAUER: What is the most important characteristic that a commander-in-chief can possess?

CLINTON: Steadiness. An absolute rock steadiness, and mixed with strength to be able to make the hard decisions. Because I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents. And these are not easy decisions. If they were, they wouldn’t get to the president in the first place.

And when you’re sitting in the Situation Room, as I have on numerous occasions, particularly with respect to determining whether to recommend the raid against bin Laden, what you want in a president, a commander-in-chief, is someone who listens, who evaluates what is being told to him or her, who is able to sort out the very difficult options being presented…

LAUER: You’re talking about judgment.

CLINTON: … and then makes the decision. Makes the decision, that’s right.

LAUER: So judgment is a key.

CLINTON: Temperament and judgment, yes.

LAUER: The word “judgment” has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year-and-a-half, and in particular concerning your use of your personal e-mail and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You’ve said it’s a mistake.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

LAUER: You said you made not the best choice. You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn’t it more than a mistake? Why wasn’t it disqualifying, if you want to be commander-in- chief?

CLINTON: Well, Matt, first of all, as I have said repeatedly, it was a mistake to have a personal account. I would certainly not do it again. I make no excuses for it. It was something that should not have been done.

But the real question is the handling of classified material, which is I think what the implication of your question was. And for all the viewers watching you tonight, I have a lot of experience dealing with classified material, starting when I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee going into the four years as secretary of state. Classified material has a header which says “top secret,” “secret,” “confidential.” Nothing — and I will repeat this, and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice — none of the e-mails sent or received by me had such a header.

LAUER: Were some of the e-mails sent or received by you referring to our drone program, our covert drone program?

CLINTON: Yes, because — of course, there were no discussions of any of the covert actions in process being determined about whether or not to go forward. But every part of our government had to deal with questions, and the secretary of state’s office was first and foremost. So there are ways of talking about the drone program…


LAUER: And you said you thought your communications on that were fairly routine?

CLINTON: Well, let me say, the FBI just released their report about their investigation, they discussed drone matters in the unclassified section of their report.

LAUER: But Director Comey also said this after reviewing all the information. He said there is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

CLINTON: Well, Matt, I just respectfully point to the hundreds of experienced foreign policy experts, diplomats, defense officials who were communicating information on the unclassified system because it was necessary to answer questions and to be able publicly to go as far as we could, which was not acknowledging the program.

But I would be in Pakistan, as I was on several occasions. There might very well have been a strike. I would be asked in a public setting, in an interview, about it. It was known to have happened. We had to have an answer that did not move into classified area. And I think we handled that appropriately.

LAUER: You mentioned you’re in Pakistan. Some of the e-mails you sent and received happened while you were overseas. And Director Comey also said that while they have no proof, we assessed that it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail accounts.

CLINTON: Matt, there is no evidence. Of course anything is possible. But what is factual is the State Department system was hacked. Most of the government systems are way behind the curve. We’ve had hacking repeatedly, even in the White House. There is no evidence my system was hacked.

LAUER: Let us bring in Hallie Jackson of NBC News who’s been covering this campaign. She’s getting questions from our veterans. Hallie, who are you with?

JACKSON: Hi, Matt. I’m with Lieutenant Jon Lester (ph), who will stand with me here. He began his military career by enlisting in the Air Force and then switched over to the Navy before he retired, where he flew P-3 Orions in Desert Storm and in Desert Shield. He’s a Republican, and he has this question for you, Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Thank you.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our warfighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.

Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?

CLINTON: Well, I appreciate your concern and also your experience. But let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question.

First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified.

And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential.

I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled, I went into one of those little tents that I’m sure you’ve seen around the world because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked, and headed as classified.

LAUER: Let us…


CLINTON: So I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously, always have, always will.

LAUER: Sir, thank you. Thank you very much for your question. Secretary Clinton, let’s talk about your vote in favor of the war in Iraq. You’ve since said it was a mistake. ...

She was widely criticized for not being a good girl and allowing herself to look annoyed at that endless line of bullshit questioning.

Now recall how Lauer treated Trump. He just let him lie and lie and lie, and never challenged him on any of them:

LAUER: You heard me say to Mrs. Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and it didn’t completely work out toward the end there, as much as possible I’d like you to tell our veterans and our people at home why you are prepared for the role of commander-in-chief and try to keep the attacks to a minimum. We’ve had a year of that and maybe 60 more days of it.

TRUMP: To a minimum, absolutely.

LAUER: OK, perfect. To a minimum. I guess that’s a question of definition.

TRUMP: I guess.

LAUER: Any time you interview a president, sitting or past president, they will tell you that the most daunting…

TRUMP: Was I supposed to answer this question?

LAUER: No, no, no, I mean just keep the attacks to a minimum. Any time you talk to a president, they’ll tell you the most daunting part of the job is the role of commander-in-chief.

TRUMP: Right.

LAUER: What have you experienced in your personal life or your professional life that you believe prepares you to make the decisions that a commander-in-chief has to make?

TRUMP: Well, I’ve built a great company. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve dealt with foreign countries. I’ve done very well, as an example, tremendously well dealing with China and dealing with so many of the countries that are just ripping this country. They are just taking advantage of us like nobody’s ever seen before.

And I’ve had great experience dealing on an international basis. I look today and I see Russian planes circling our planes. They’re taunting us. I see in Iran, I see the boats taunting our ships, our destroyers, and I think…


LAUER: But what have you done in your life that prepares you to send men and women of the United States into harm’s way?

TRUMP: Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I have good judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots. And I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. From a — you can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.

And I was against the war in Iraq because I said it’s going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war, and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.

LAUER: People talk about you and commander-in-chief, and not just Secretary Clinton, but some of your Republican opponents in the primary season, and they wonder about your temperament. They say, does Donald Trump have the temperament to be commander-in-chief?

You said something recently that I found interesting. You admitted that sometimes in the heat of a debate or when you’re talking about a lot of issues you say things that you later regret. So can we afford that with a commander-in-chief — to have a commander-in-chief who says things that he later regrets?

TRUMP: Well, when you say regret, yeah, sure, I regret. But in the meantime, I beat 16 people and here I am. So, you know, to a certain extent there is a regret. I would have liked to have done it in a nicer manner. But I had 16 very talented people that I had to go through. And that was a lot of people.

LAUER: But when you say…

TRUMP: That was a record, Matt. That was a record in the history of Republican politics. I was able to get more votes than anybody ever has gotten in the history of Republican politics.

LAUER: But when you say inflammatory things… (CROSSTALK)

LAUER: … in a presidential campaign, it’s different than saying them when you’re commander-in-chief. If you say things you regret…

TRUMP: I agree with you.

LAUER: … when you’re commander-in-chief, you can spark a conflict, you can destabilize a region, you can put American lives at risk. Can we afford to take that risk with you?

TRUMP: Well, I think absolutely. I think if you saw what happened in Mexico the other day, where I went there, I had great relationships, everything else. I let them know where the United States stands. I mean, we’ve been badly hurt by Mexico, both on the border and with taking all of our jobs or a big percentage of our jobs.

And if you look at what happened, look at the aftermath today where the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That’s how well we did.

LAUER: Back in August…

TRUMP: And that’s how well we’re going to have to do, Matt.

LAUER: Back in August, when you admitted that you regret some of the things you said, you also said this. “I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.”

TRUMP: It’s true.

LAUER: So let me read some of the things you’ve said. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” Was that the truth?

TRUMP: Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful. ISIS…

LAUER: Do you know more about ISIS than they do?

TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing for our country. You have a force of 30,000 or so people. Nobody really knows. But probably 30,000 people. And I can just see the great — as an example- General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat. We had the greatest…


LAUER: Yeah, you’ve said if we had MacArthur today or if we had Patton today, we would not have ISIS, that the rise of these military commanders that we have today, they come up the chain of command, and by the time they get to the top, they’re too politically correct. And we know that’s not a compliment coming from you. Have you lost faith in the military commanders?

TRUMP: I have great faith in the military. I have great faith in certain of the commanders, certainly. But I have no faith in Hillary Clinton or the leadership. You look at what’s happened. And, you know, when she comes in and starts saying, oh, I would have done this, I would have — she’s been there for 30 years. I mean, we need change, Matt. We have to have it, and we have to have it fast.

LAUER: Let’s go to Hallie Jackson in our crowd. Hallie?

That was a shitshow of a candidate forum. Lauer made the stupid emails the center of the "commander in chief" discussion for Clinton and he let Trump lie his ass off about how he was against the Iraq war and ramble on about his qualifications and incoherent plans to defeat ISIS.

They were very friendly.

Lauer was criticized at the time for not being adept at dealing with Trump and it was mentioned in passing that he's interrupted Clinton to tell her to speed it up while letting Trump ramble like a moron unchallenged. But as Rebecca Traister has so insightfully written, men like Lauer and Halperin and Charlie Rose along with many others who may not be blatant sexual harassers but whose misogyny colored their coverage of the 2016 race can give themselves a big pat on the back for helping to make Donald Trump possible.

Some of us watched it unfold in real time, appalled and shell-shocked. After it was over we were told that it was all her fault for being a "terrible candidate" despite the fact that she still won the popular vote by a substantial margin even as she faced the headwinds of am unpredictable demagogic circus clown from hell who sucked up all the oxygen, an FBI director who lived in his own world, foreign hacking and other interference on Trump's behalf and a media that was led by people who commonly treat professional women like chattel and seemed determined to see her humbled come hell or high water. Despite what we all saw with our own eyes in real time, after the fact the overarching narrative was that she lost because she didn't coddle insecure white men enough in her campaign. How very convenient.

So here we are. I guess there's some justice that some of these men are paying a price for their more blatantly sexist behavior. But that pig is still in the oval office and the he might just get us all killed.

The full story on Lauer is here. It's graphic. He's another exhibitionist weirdo who waved his penis at people.

Money quote: "the protected the shit out of Matt Lauer"

Update: This piece about that debate by Adele Stan got it in real time.



QOTD: Senator Brian Schatz

by digby

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Americans are going to be screwed in this bill six ways to Sunday.


Hump day for cray-cray

by digby

It's hard to know what set him off this morning but something did. Maybe he read all those stories showing that everyone knows he's looney tunes. Whatever it was he went on a twitter this morning like no other, even earning a rebuke from British Prime Minister Teresa May.

President Donald Trump spent his Wednesday morning on Twitter, and the results were jaw-dropping—even for him. He used the platform to share fringe anti-Muslim content and then appeared to promote a false conspiracy theory that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a former congressional intern.

Trump kicked off his eyebrow-raising activities Wednesday morning by retweeting three videos that claimed to capture Muslims assaulting people and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary. The videos were shared by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First. (It’s unclear whether all the alleged perpetrators featured in the videos are actually Muslim.)

“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said while defending the president. “His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”

Other observers, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, also denounced Trump’s decision to share the videos. But by then, Trump had moved on to the news that NBC’s Matt Lauer had been fired over accusations of sexual misconduct. The president took the opportunity to attack NBC—a network he has frequently slammed as “fake news”—and to suggest that its top executives should be fired, as well.

Less than two hours later, Trump followed up with a cryptic tweet aimed at Scarborough.

Scarborough responded to Trump’s attacks Wednesday morning, tweeting that the president was “not well.”

The man that assassinated British MP Jo Cox was Britain First, the fascist group that disseminated those videos.

This is an official statement from the British Prime Minister:
"Britain First seeks to divide communities in their use of hateful narratives which pedal lies and stoke tensions. This causes anxiety to law abiding people. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudice rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents; decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the president to have done this."

He seems to be unraveling.

Keep in mind that he's got people in congress also doing his crazy bidding, not just with their tax cut wet dream but bogus inquiries into Hillary Clinton and covering for the Russia interference.

And speaking of which, does anything think this freak couldn't have said or done something insane that a foreign government couldn't blackmail him with? Please.



The tax plan deepens a crack in the GOP

by digby

I wrote about the GOP's tax plan and the future for Salon this morning:

On the morning of the presidential election last year, The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein wrote about some long-term trends in the electorate and the possibility that the 2016 race, with its distinctive odd features of a celebrity demagogue and the first woman nominee, might just accelerate the change. His thesis was that the unfolding electoral order would see the GOP relying on "preponderantly blue-collar, white, and older Rustbelt states that have mostly favored Democrats in recent years," while Democrats would "depend on white-collar, diverse, and younger Sunbelt states that as recently as the 1990s leaned reliably toward the GOP." He concluded the piece with what turned out to be a stunning prophecy:
The worst-case scenario for [Hillary Clinton] is that Trump’s blue-collar blitz narrowly pushes him past her in some of the Rustbelt states she needs, while she cannot advance quite enough among minority and college-educated white voters to overcome his non-college-educated, non-urban, religiously devout coalition in Sunbelt states like North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado, much less Arizona and Georgia. Transitioning between her party’s past and future, Hillary Clinton’s nightmare is that she might be caught awkwardly in between.
Since the election we have had a flood of postmortems blaming everything from Facebook to Russia to racism, misogyny, bad campaigning and good old James Comey. I'd guess it could be any of those things plus a dozen more. Maybe all of them in some measure led to Trump's narrow victory in several states that won him enough votes in the Electoral College.

Trump likes to say that it was a great landslide (it wasn't), that winning the electoral college is very difficult for Republicans (it isn't) and that his overwhelming defeat in the popular vote was the result of voter fraud, mostly by undocumented immigrants (it wasn't). While that historic election will undoubtedly provide fodder for political arguments for the next quarter-century at least, I'm more interested in whether or not the Trump circus and general Republican dysfunction has derailed those long-term trends Brownstein identified.

On Tuesday, Brownstein wrote a piece for CNN analyzing whether the appalling tax bill working its way through the Senate might fracture the GOP coalition. He goes some distance toward answering that question. The Republican Party has long operated on two tracks, the first of which appeals to cultural conservatives (with a strong strain of racial resentment), who include the Christian right and blue-collar and rural whites resistant to social and demographic change.

The GOP's other track is all about big business, Wall Street and free-market capitalism. It appeals to plutocrats and wealthy heirs to large fortunes like the Trumps. Brownstein points out something that many have failed to recognize: Despite his outrageous behavior and alleged populist iconoclasm, Trump has not deviated from this dual track. He has "complicated this balance nonetheless by intensifying the pressure on each side of the fulcrum."

We are all well aware of how Trump has pushed every button of racial resentment, apparently to the delight of his white, blue-collar base. His belated embrace of Roy Moore after the former judge was accused of assaulting underage girls has further bonded Trump with the religious right. But where Republicans in the past would produce tax cuts that merely tilted toward the rich, he's given the green light to the GOP Congress to deliver massive tax cuts for the wealthy while actually raising taxes on everyone else to help fund them. Despite this, so far the GOP coalition has mostly held together. The defections that cost the Republicans a victory on Affordable Care Act repeal (which operated on the same logic) came mostly from representatives in suburban districts and senators whose constituents cannot stand Trump's outrageous style.

One thing is for sure: The tax plan is tremendously unpopular, even among white-collar white voters one might expect to be enthusiastic about it. According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, they oppose it by two to one, and largely believe that it helps the rich at the expense of the middle class. In fact, they like it a lot less than the blue-collar workers the Democrats have assumed would be open to their own populist agenda. Those voters are sticking with Trump and the Republicans, at least so far, for reasons that have nothing to do with their economic situation.

In the Virginia elections and others around the country earlier this month, college-educated whites went with the Democrats, while working-class and rural whites stayed with the Republicans. As Brownstein says, that pattern "suggests the GOP has more to fear from well-off voters who believe the Trump-era party is violating their values than from working-class voters who conclude it's betraying their interests."

A majority of college-educated whites have voted Republican since political scientists first started keeping track of such things, but the margin has been growing smaller over time. White, college-educated women in particular have been moving to the Democratic Party in recent years, which makes sense given that the gender gap overall between the two parties is large and growing. Donald Trump seems to be accelerating that change.

This article in The Washington Post about the Virginia elections last month focuses on suburban Chesterfield County outside Richmond, formerly a bastion of traditional Republican voters, which went for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the first time in 56 years. This was because of a huge jump in turnout, driven by grassroots energy and mostly organized by local women.

This phenomenon may even have an effect down in deep red Alabama, where the Trump base is defiantly sticking with Moore, despite the accusations by numerous women that he pursued or attacked them when they were teenagers. According to this article in the Post, "the percentage of women in the state who had a favorable view of Moore dropped 11 points between mid-October and mid-November, from 47 percent to 36 percent; among men, Moore dropped by just two points." Once again it's the suburban white GOP women who are defecting. Nobody thinks these women are likely to shift permanently to the Democratic Party. They are very conservative -- only 16 percent of them voted for Barack Obama. But Roy Moore is a bridge too far.

Donald Trump's over-the-top appeals to racism and his eagerness to rescind regulations and give tax cuts to the wealthy may be keeping the Republican coalition of blue-collar rural whites and the richest one percent happy. But that's not enough. Without white, suburban, college-educated voters, particularly women, they will lose. Every day that Trump says something crude and obnoxious to excite his dedicated fans, he alienates more of the faction that is repulsed by that tactic. Each time Republicans in Congress try to stage giveaways to their donors at the expense of the middle class, they lose a few more.

Trump didn't create this dilemma for the GOP. The cracks in its coalition have been growing for some time. But he has taken a sledgehammer to the party, and a huge chunk of it has fallen off all at once. Republicans hold power, for the moment. Holding onto it will be quite another story.



Only in it for the money?

by Tom Sullivan

Ordinary billionaires? They can measure their manhood by it, as James Taylor sings. So when the Koch brothers say their interest in purchasing Time, Inc. via the Meredith Corporation is purely about money, you can trust them, right?

Except with the Koch brothers, money is never enough. They want control. Jane Meyer writes for The New Yorker:

Those familiar with the Kochs’ history, however, have reason to be skeptical about their professed passivity. Charles Koch, in particular, is known for the unusually tight control he exerts over Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., and also over his and his brother’s political and philanthropic ventures. As I wrote in my book “Dark Money,” a former political partner of the Koch brothers, Murray Rothbard, once testified that Charles “cannot tolerate dissent” and will “go to any end to acquire/retain control.” His brother David, meanwhile, has been quoted saying that “if we’re going to give a lot of money, we will make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent.”

This year, among the Kochs’ aims is to spend a projected four hundred million dollars in contributions from themselves and a small group of allied conservative donors they have assembled, to insure Republican victories in the 2018 midterm elections. Ordinarily, political reporters for Time magazine would chronicle this blatant attempt by the Kochs and their allies to buy political influence in the coming election cycle. Will they feel as free to do so now?
Amazon's Jeff Bezos burnished his public image by purchasing the Washington Post, Meyer writes. The Kochs may be attempting to do the same with Time, Inc. And more.
“There is zero chance that the Koch brothers are going to keep their hands off the content of these magazines,” Mary Bottari, the deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit that documents right-wing and corporate influence-buying, told me. “When they donated six hundred and fifty million dollars to Florida State University, they wrote a contract giving them control over hiring decisions in the economics department,” she said. “The entire point of the purchase is to infuse the mainstream media with their extreme views.”
That is assuming Meredith hangs onto Time magazine. The deal my put it within reach of David Pecker, the pro-Trump CEO of American Media, Inc., publisher of National Enquirer. Pecker has wanted to purchase Time himself.

The Daily Beast reports:
John Huey, the former editor in chief of Time Inc., told The Daily Beast: “It’s logical to assume that Meredith will dump Time and Fortune, which they never wanted. Perhaps the Kochs have already bought them, or arranged to sell them to suitable proprietors.”
Making the deal part of a larger picture?
Since Time has long been a strong force in warning of the consequences of climate change, handing it over to a pro-Trump publisher would achieve two of the Kochs’ aims in one stroke: It would silence a respected journalistic campaign and it would, if under Pecker’s direction, be transformed into a megaphone for the Kochs’ favorite causes including Trump’s ever-widening attacks on environmental regulations that the Kochs have long resisted.

One way of reading the appearance of the Koch brothers in the deal is that it fits a pattern that is only now emerging in which the Trump administration is actively attempting to rearrange the landscape of media ownership. The most salient example of this is the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the $85.4 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner.
So. In case you haven't, and you'd like to keep the Internet as an information source not controlled by media giants or the Koch brothers, let Congress know how you feel about the FCC's intent to eliminate net neutrality.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Or maybe he's just batshit crazy

by digby

The New York Times is reporting tonight
that our president creates his own reality.And he's been doing it since he took office. In fact he's been doing it for years. That "you can believe me or you can believe your lyin'eyes" thing is not a strategy. He may not even know it isa lie. In case anyone's wondering, this is very abnormal behavior:

Shortly after his victory last year, Donald J. Trump began revisiting one of his deepest public humiliations: the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of him making vulgar comments about women.

Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording’s authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.

Most of Mr. Trump’s aides ignored his changing story. But in January, shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording that had him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals.

“We don’t think that was my voice,” Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.

As the issue of sexual harassment has swept through the news media, politics and entertainment industries, Mr. Trump has persisted in denying allegations that he, too, made unwanted advances on multiple women in past years. In recent days, he has continued to seed doubt about his appearance on the “Access Hollywood” tape, stunning his advisers.

More generally, Mr. Trump’s views on the issue have changed depending upon the political party involved. He has praised women for coming forward after accusations were made against a Democrat, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. But in the case of Roy S. Moore, a Republican candidate for Senate from Alabama, Mr. Trump has said he believes Mr. Moore’s denials that he behaved inappropriately with teenage girls, and he has effectively endorsed Mr. Moore’s candidacy.

Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about the “Access Hollywood” tape are part of his lifelong habit of attempting to create and sell his own version of reality. Advisers say he continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact.

In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.

One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. The senator asked not to be named to discuss private conversations.

Mr. Trump’s journeys into the realm of manufactured facts have been frequent enough that his own staff has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump in meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain.

To the president’s critics, his conspiracy-mongering goes to the heart of why he poses a threat to the country.

“It’s dangerous to democracy; you’ve got to have shared facts,” Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said in an interview on Tuesday. “And on so many of these, there’s empirical evidence that says no: You didn’t win the popular vote, there weren’t more people at your inauguration than ever, that was your voice on that tape, you admitted it before.”

Mr. Flake, who is not running for re-election, said in the interview that he was about to begin a series of speeches on the Senate floor outlining his concerns about Mr. Trump. The first, he said, will be dedicated to what Mr. Flake called the president’s disregard for the truth.

Many Republican lawmakers — not wanting to undermine the party’s fragile negotiations over a much-sought tax overhaul — declined to talk on the record about Mr. Trump’s pattern of plunging into what one senator called “his rabbit holes.” But the president’s success last year has also left some in his party in awe of his achievement and uneasy about angering his base of supporters.


“He’s nobody’s choir boy, but neither were people like Winston Churchill, for example,” said the senator. “This guy, I think, is a historic person of destiny at a time and place in America when we’ve got to make a right-hand turn here.” Asked if the truth still matters, Mr. Perdue said: “Oh, absolutely. Facts are what you base decisions on.”

But Mr. Trump seems to not want to fully accept those facts that are embarrassing or inconvenient.

In October 2016, when The Washington Post first emailed Mr. Trump’s aides about the dialogue from the “Access Hollywood” tape, Mr. Trump said the words described by the newspaper did not sound like things he would say, according to two people familiar with the discussions. However, when an aide played the audio after the newspaper posted it online, Mr. Trump, who had been preparing for his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, did not deny it.

“It’s me,” he told people in the room as he listened. Yet after The New York Times published an article last weekend revealing that the president had questioned the authenticity of the recording, White House aides refused to answer questions about whether Mr. Trump still believes it was him on the tape.


Mr. Trump’s friends did not bother denying that the president was creating an alternative version of events. One Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Trump’s false statements had become familiar to people over time. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, the lawmaker said, and of receiving 52 percent of the women’s vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him.

Remember, Trump wasn't talking to himself. Billy Bush was on that tape too. Weirdly he doesn't share Trump's delusion. He said:
"Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed. It's no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago—I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I'm very sorry."


“Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. [Trump] liked TV and competition. I could’ve said, ‘Can you believe the ratings on whatever?’ But I didn't have the strength of character to do it.”

Instead, Bush characterizes his younger self, who rode that bus with the future President of the United States, as a “sycophantic” “pleaser.” Describing the nerve-wracking assignment of covering both Trump and The Apprentice at the time, Bush lays out a scenario that might sound familiar to anyone who follows the civil-war currently raging inside the White House. According to Bush, Trump “decided a lot of times from day to day, moment to moment, who he liked, who was in and who was out. And my job was to remain in. I needed to be in, or maybe I’d be out.”

He seems to accept that it was Trump he was talking to that day and that he said what we heard. It is on tape after all.

Trump isn't doing this as a strategy. He's doing it because he has forced people to buy into his lies simply by asserting them for years. He may even believe them after he tells them enough times. He is so narcissistic that he thinks he can alter reality itself. He is ill.

You might wonderhow this can go on. Who knows? But at least they'll get their motherfucking tax cuts.

Update: The Washington Post has more:

President Trump has expressed certainty that the special-counsel probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia will be finished by the end of the year, complete with an exoneration from Robert S. Mueller III, according to several friends who have spoken with him in recent days.

Trump has dismissed his historically low approval ratings as “fake” and boasted about what he calls the unprecedented achievements of his presidency, even while chatting behind the scenes, saying no president since Harry Truman has accomplished as much at this point.

Read on, there's more. Good God.


A Satanic Majesties Christmas

by digby

What holiday? Day of the Dead?

The Daily Beast:

Anyone thinking of getting drunk at a White House Christmas party these next few weeks, or even President Trump on one of his nocturnal ambles, should be warned: the East Colonnade has become the most terrifying domestic space in America.

Melania Trump, with what looks like the help of Tim Burton, has designed an anti-Christmas wonderland of white branches set stark against the wall and casting creepy shadows on the ceiling, leading to—at the end of the corridor—in the East Garden Room, a traditional Christmas tree bathed in golden light.

The only thing missing is a dragon breathing fire, intent on stopping you getting your hands on a magic amulet.


About that State Department redesign...

by digby

It seems to have hit a snag:

The senior State Department official charged with overseeing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s effort to overhaul the agency has resigned after just three months on the job, according to a department official.

Maliz Beams was named counselor to the department on Aug. 17, according to her biography on the State Department’s website. She has decided to return to her home in Boston, and Christine Ciccone, Tillerson’s deputy chief of staff, will step in to lead the redesign effort, according to the official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

The departure is a blow for Tillerson, who had brought in Beams to oversee the signature initiative of his term so far -- a restructuring intended to eliminate inefficiencies and overlap at the department. The plan has run up against resistance within the department and in Congress, where critics say it has contributed to key positions going unfilled and plummeting morale.

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said Tillerson’s staff isn’t “anywhere close to having a plan to present relative to the reforms that they want to make there.”

Request to Congress

In the face of such criticism, the State Department official said that Tillerson will ask Congress to expedite approval of nominees for undersecretary for management and legal adviser.

Beams had led “highly successful organizational transformations in a variety of financial services industry sectors,” according to her State Department biography.

Beams was one of Tillerson’s most high-profile hires, and one of the few people appointed to a top post amid a wave of departures by senior officials. Before becoming counselor, she had been chief executive of Voya Financial Retirement Services, and before that president of TIAA Institutional and Individual Client Services.

I wrote about the "problems at State" yesterday for Salon. It looks like it's getting worse.



Flips and Flops and the Russia investigation

by digby

I'm not sure what to make of this but it seems interesting:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey dined with President Donald Trump last weekend at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida — where, a report said, they had a "lengthy conversation" at the main dining table surrounded by several of Trump's friends, associates, and political allies.

A tipster told Politico's Playbook about the conversation, which raised eyebrows given Woolsey's centrality to the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.

Woolsey, who served on the board of Flynn's lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, was at a meeting on September 19, 2016, with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which they discussed removing the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from US soil, Woolsey has said.

Woolsey apparently notified Vice President Joe Biden through a mutual friend about the meeting, which he thought could have been an illegal discussion, Woolsey's spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said earlier this year.

Franks confirmed late last month that Mueller's team had interviewed Woolsey about the meeting. He said Woolsey and his wife had been in touch with the FBI since before Mueller began overseeing the bureau's Russia investigation in May.

"Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI regarding the September 19, 2016, meeting Ambassador Woolsey was invited to attend by one of General Flynn's business partners," Franks said in a statement at the time. "Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have responded to every request, whether from the FBI, or, more recently, the Office of the Special Counsel."

Franks released another statement responding to Politico Playbook's tip on Monday. "Ambassador Woolsey has served 4 Presidents," the statement said. "He has never communicated the contents of his conversations with any of them to a third party and doesn’t intend to start now."

Woolsey's participation in the September 19, 2016 meeting and another one the next day with two Turkish businessmen — during which he reportedly pitched a $10 million contract to help discredit Gulen — may have landed him on the FBI's radar even before Trump won the presidency.

Now, Mueller has reportedly gathered enough evidence against Flynn and his son to charge them with crimes related to their previously unregistered lobbying work for Turkish government interests.
"Whenever a subject of a criminal investigation talks to a witness, the prosecution will ask questions about what was discussed during that meeting," said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. In this case, he said, the subject is Trump and the witness is Woolsey.
Woolsey is not a naif and he had to know he was going to be spotted and that it would raise eyebrows. Unless he's reporting back to Mueller, which he very well might be, this is a very odd thing for him to do.  I do not believe he'll lie to the feds for Trump. He's a terrible person but he isn't a Trump loyalist.

This crew never fails to amaze does it?

Update: here's something more:

A Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of violating US sanctions on Iran pleaded guilty on Tuesday, prompting speculation that he could be cooperating with prosecutors building a case against Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser whose lobbying work for Turkish government interests is under federal investigation.

The trader, Reza Zarrab, was arrested in March 2016 in Florida. His case was set to go to trial in New York this week on charges of fraud and money laundering, but he took a plea deal that will require him to testify against his codefendant in the same conspiracy, a defense lawyer said on Tuesday.

Former US attorney Preet Bharara wrote a memo last May alleging that Zarrab "facilitated millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of Iran ... through a global network of companies located in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates " designed to evade US sanctions.

Bharara also accused Zarrab of wrongdoing that implicated top Turkish government officials. Zarrab, he alleged, had "engaged in a massive bribery scheme ... paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and US dollars" to facilitate his transactions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fiercely lobbied high-level Obama administration officials for Zarrab's release, beginning shortly after Zarrab was arrested in Miami last March. Erdogan made personal appeals to both Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama, and he sent his justice minister at the time to meet with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to argue that the case was "based on no evidence."

Zarrab was not released, but Erdogan apparently continued lobbying for his release into January. By the time Obama left office, the Turkish government had already begun establishing ties to people close to President Donald Trump, including former Flynn and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani joined Zarrab's legal team in March, shortly after Flynn was fired over his conversations with Russia's former ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.

Federal prosecutors are now pursuing a separate but parallel investigation into whether Flynn used his cabinet position to secure Zarrab's release from a New York jail and return to Turkey a controversial Muslim cleric loathed by Erdogan — in exchange for as much as $15 million.

Zarrab could have information about Flynn's ties to Erdogan that could be useful to federal investigators examining the extent to which Flynn was working for the Turkish government both before and after the election.

"You can fill in the gaps that federal investigators are looking for any relation between Erdogan and Flynn," criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos told NBC last week. "So, to the extent that Zarrab has any connection or knowledge of that, it is very important that they're flipping him."

I'd say so ...