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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pray for the planet, Trump thinks his "Great Man" moment has arrived

by digby

If you thought the cretin had hubris when he ran for president knowing that he'd left a trail of evidence about his criminal enterprises, sexual deviancy and confidence schemes all over the world and wouldn't be found out, hold his beer:

President Trump views the North Korean crisis as his “great man” of history moment.

The big picture: He came into office thinking he could be the historic deal maker to bring peace to the Middle East. He’s stopped talking about that. There’s very little point. The peace deal looks dead and cremated. But Trump wants to sign his name even larger into the history books, and he views North Korea as his moment.

Sources close to him say he genuinely believes he — and he alone — can overcome the seemingly intractable disaster on the Korean Peninsula.

A source who has discussed North Korea with Trump: “He thinks, ‘Just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong-un] and I’ll figure it out.’”

His aides are much more skeptical, and some believe the idea of meeting with Kim Jong-un is naive and guaranteed to be fruitless.

Trump “definitely thinks it’s a duel of personalities,” says another source familiar with his thinking about North Korea:
“There are important strategic considerations ... but he also very much conceives it as a test of wills and of a contest of one man and another. How they’re going to react, how they’re going to shadow box with each other, and ultimately how they’re going to choose to act.”
“During the war of insults between Trump and Kim last year, Trump’s tweets and ‘little Rocket Man’ were pretty carefully calibrated — in his mind, was more intentional, not just popping off.”

“He never clearly articulated what he was trying to do. But it seemed he wanted to demonstrate he and the U.S. were unafraid, prepared to take whatever steps necessary and were willing to be direct. He wanted to show dominance over Kim.”

“This was something he took a personal interest in and was personally invested in. I’m not sure people thought it was a coherent strategy, and certainly I don’t think the Pentagon signed off on it.”

Trump mostly projects strength internally. But there’s also been at least one quiet moment when a source saw Trump reflect on how he doesn’t know what Kim is capable of.

That happened during the escalating verbal sparring between Kim and Trump last year: “The stakes had moved so far beyond what he’s dealt with before, he definitely became aware of that.”

P.S. Trump on his planned summit with North Korea, speaking last evening at a joint press conference at Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe:
" If we don't think it's going to be successful, ... we won't have it. ... If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."

Right. He'll just get up and "respectfully" walk out.

Oh my God.

The two amigos back together

by digby

Scraping the bottom of the barrel, Trump has hired Rudy Giuliani, who hasn't handled a case in three decades, to be his lead attorney in the Mueller probe. Rudy told CNN he thought he'd have it wrapped up in a couple of weeks because he knew Mueller back in the 80s and they'll get it all worked out.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this scathing piece from the Gothamist about Trump's treatment of Rudy during the transition when he was dying to be Secretary of State:

Rudy Giuliani, ...was an early favorite—Trump didn't pick him, though, because he didn't have enough "stamina" for the job. Rudy, meanwhile, says he's got STAMINA FOR DAYS, he'll take you to the Hamptons and show you just how much stamina he's got! (Send the bill to the taxpayers.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, Giuliani at least thought he was the favorite for the gig, despite his lack of experience and a few financial conflicts. But a transition official told reporters that Trump wasn't sure Giuliani had the stamina for the job, ostensibly because of his age (72) and the fact that he is possibly insane.

But Giuliani won't let the MEDIA get away with these LIES. "My stamina is unbelievable," he told WSJ. UNBELIEVABLE. TREMENDOUS. HE CAN SAVE US FROM 9/11 ALL OVER AGAIN.

Not that Rudy's fortitude got him hired, though he did manage to hang on as a top four pick into the end of November. At that point, by the way, Trump had apparently decided he was 95 percent going to choose Romney, though whether that meant for Secretary of State or for his personal taxidermy art collection is unclear. In the end, Giuliani allegedly pulled his name from consideration, possibly because he realized his stamina wasn't quite as impressive as he thought, but also perhaps because he can make way more money/have way more unhinged television interviews in the private sector.

“This is not about me," Giuliani said, after announcing he dropped out. "It is about what is best for the country and the new administration. Before I joined the campaign I was very involved and fulfilled by my work with my law firm and consulting firm, and I will continue that work with even more enthusiasm. From the vantage point of the private sector, I look forward to helping the president-elect in any way he deems necessary and appropriate.”

Well, he's been called back into service. Godspeed Rudy.


He must be so proud of his base

by digby

Just don't call them deplorable because that would be very rude:

Three right-wing militiamen from rural Kansas were found guilty on Wednesday in a 2016 plot to slaughter Muslim refugees living in an apartment complex in Garden City.

Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were found guilty on charges of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also found guilty on a charge of lying to the FBI. The defendants will face a potential life sentence when they come back to court in late June.

The jury decided the case after slightly less than a day of deliberations. The three defendants showed little outward emotion as the verdicts were read. Afterward, defense attorneys comforted the defendants’ family members, who did not wish to speak to members of the media.

In closing arguments, attorneys for the defendants had accused the FBI of overstepping and targeting the group because of rhetoric that, while hateful, was protected by the First Amendment.

The prosecution’s case depended largely on secret recordings made by Dan Day, an FBI informant who masqueraded as a militia member, infiltrating the three men’s group for months. An undercover officer working on behalf of the FBI had also met with Stein, posing as an arms dealer who shared the group’s anti-Muslim beliefs and was willing to build them a bomb.

Jurors heard recording after recording of the men expressing a murderous hatred of Muslims, who they called “cockroaches.”

“The fucking cockroaches in this country have to go, period,” said Stein, who went by the code name “Orkin Man” in text messages with other militia members. “They are the fucking problem in this country right now. They are the threat in this country right now.”

In another recording, the men could be heard mapping out targets on Google Earth, dropping a “pin” labeled “cockroaches” over areas they knew to have a high concentration of Muslims. They eventually settled on a main target: a Garden City apartment complex that’s home to many Somali Muslim immigrants and the mosque where they worship.

The prosecution presented evidence that the men had started to collect explosive materials. Per the recordings made by Day, their plan was to detonate bombs at the apartment complex in November 2016. They wanted the explosions to occur during Muslim prayer times when more potential victims would be there, “packed in like sardines,” as Stein put it. The bomb’s shock waves, he hoped, would make “Jello out of their insides.”

Defense attorneys had attempted to characterize such comments as mere bluster. But prosecutors pre-empted this line of argument, in part, by calling another militia member to the stand.

Brody Benson, part of the Kansas Security Forces militia, held anti-Muslim beliefs himself. “Fucking Islam,” he wrote in a Facebook post in June 2016. “I’m done. Kill them all. Bring on the DOJ.”

But Benson testified that when he heard Stein talk about his plan to kill Somali immigrants in Garden City, he knew Stein was for real.

“I actually thought it was not just talk — it was more of an actual action, action,” Benson said in testimony. “I had a gut feeling that what was just banter back and forth, ranting and everything else, was turning into something more serious and concrete.”

“This isn’t a case about the thought police,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi said during closing arguments. “The defendants plotted to murder dozens of innocent men, women and children. They didn’t just talk. They’re not here because of their words.”

In his final comments to the jury, Mattivi focused on a recording of a discussion the men had about what type of shrapnel to pack their bomb with to inflict the most damage. Stein suggested blades for drywall knives. Allen said ball bearings. “Anything that will kill and maim,” Wright said.

They loved the man they call "The Man" so much they delayed their attack until after the election:

The men were enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump, who vilified Muslims during his presidential campaign and has continued to do so while in office. During the plotting, Stein reportedly referred to then-candidate Trump as “the Man.” The men had planned their attack for after the 2016 election, so as not to hurt Trump’s chances of winning. Delaying the attack until then would avoid giving “any ammunition” to their political opponents, Stein said.

But he had nothing to do with this criminal activity:

Trump had frequently spoken out against Muslim refugees in the runup to the 2016 election. Kansas’ top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister, brushed aside a question from HuffPost about what effect the now-president’s words had.

“I can’t say whether his rhetoric impacted the case or not,” McAllister, a Trump nominee, said. He later added that this case wasn’t about the rhetoric the defendants used, but about the bomb plot they agreed to participate in.

He is their hero. As far as I know he has not denounced them.

For all we know, he'll pardon them along with Cohen, Jared and Mike Tyson.

He must really kiss the King's ring just the way he likes it

by digby

Another day, another Scott Pruitt scandal and no sign that Trump will ever fire him:

Newly released calendars for one of the most controversial trips of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure were largely blacked out before being shared with ABC News.

The 47-hour journey in Morocco was already drawing congressional scrutiny and criticism from outside groups because of the lack transparency over why Pruitt was in the country and what he was doing while he was there.

In Morocco, he spent at least a portion of his time promoting exports for U.S. energy firms. Conservative congressional estimates put the cost of the trip at more than $40,000, and because of travel snags, Pruitt and his aides spent two days in Paris at high-end hotels.

Pruitt did not publicly announce he was going ahead of time, did not bring reporters along, and when he finally released copies of his itinerary in response to Freedom of Information requests from ABC News and other news organizations, the bulk of the schedule was blacked out.

“The substantial redaction of calendars from his trip to Morocco, in which he apparently spent substantial taxpayer money to work on an issue that could benefit donors and those with ties to him, seems like just the latest example of the inappropriate secrecy he has brought to every aspect of his job.,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, said in a statement.

What is known about Pruitt’s trip to Morocco last December comes from a press statement he released as he departed to fly back to D.C. According to the EPA press release, he discussed U.S. environmental priorities and the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement with Moroccan leaders and, to the surprise of some, promoted benefit of liquid natural gas imports in Morocco.

At the time of the trip, the only U.S. company that exported liquid natural gas was represented by a top Washington lobbyist who arranged $50-a-night housing for Pruitt when he first moved to town. The company, Cheniere, and the lobbyist, Steven Hart, both told ABC News they did not ask Pruitt to promote the exports in Morocco.

A spokesman for Hart told ABC News that he did not lobby the EPA in 2017, but federal lobbying records show that he was registered as a lobbyist for Cheniere at the time Pruitt lived in the condo co-owned by his wife, also a prominent DC lobbyist.

The EPA's inspector general is looking into Pruitt's travel as part of its audit of whether all the agency's travel decisions followed the proper procedure. That inquiry was expanded to include the Morocco trip after a letter from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the ranking member of the Senate committee with oversight of EPA, expressed concern about the cost. Pruitt's first-class flight alone cost $17,000 and at least one of his aides and members of his security detail also flew first class.

Most agency heads are authorized to travel first class on trans Atlantic flights, but the cost of the trip concerned members of Congress who were already looking at his high domestic and international travel costs.

He went there to talk about a natural gas deal. But natural gas is not part of the EPA's responsibilities.

Nobody knows what in the hell this guy is up to. Personally, I think he's got issues on top of being a greedhead and an ideologue. This isn't normal.

A Disgrace Hidden in Trump's Noise - Chapter 1,256,253,744

by tristero

Buried deep in the Business section of the print edition of today's Times is a story so disgraceful that if it weren't for Donald Trump's obliterative pink noise, it would be front page news:

The Senate voted on Wednesday to overturn an Obama-era rule that restricted automobile lenders from discriminating against minorities by charging them higher fees for car loans, in the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to roll back financial regulations. 
Republican lawmakers, along with one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, seized on the Congressional Review Act to overturn guidance issued in 2013 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The 1996 law gives Congress the power to nullify rules formulated by government agencies but has primarily been used to void recently enacted rules. 
After the Government Accountability Office determined late last year that the consumer bureau’s 2013 guidance on auto lending was technically a rule that could be rolled back, Republicans, led by Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, targeted it for rescission by using the Congressional Review Act. The House is expected to follow suit and also use the Congressional Review Act to void the guidance. 
Republicans have long derided the consumer bureau, created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, for exceeding its authority, and President Trump’s pick to lead the agency on an interim basis, Mick Mulvaney, has largely frozen its rule-making and enforcement. 
Democrats and consumer watchdogs criticized the move and warned that Republicans were making broader use of the Congressional Review Act to advance their deregulatory agenda. 
“By voting to roll back the CFPB’s work, senators have emboldened banks and finance companies to engage in racial discrimination by charging millions of people of color more for a car loan than is justified,” said Rion Dennis of Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group. “Lawmakers have also opened the door to challenging longstanding agency actions that are crucial to protecting workers, consumers, civil rights, the environment and the economy.” 
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, warned that rescinding the guidance would lead to a flood of unfair, predatory lending. 
“This truly repugnant resolution ignores the unacceptable, undeniable truth that consumers’ interest rates are regularly marked up based on their race or ethnicity — a disgusting practice that continues to run rampant across the country,” he said. 
The Department of Justice can still bring lawsuits against auto lenders for discriminatory practices, even if the guidance is nullified. However, legal experts say the government could be less successful in bringing such cases without the guidance from a government agency saying the practices are viewed as improper. 
A 2011 report from the Center for Responsible Lending analyzed loan level data and found that African-Americans and Latinos were receiving higher numbers of interest rate markups on their car loans than white consumers. The bureau issued guidance in 2013 urging auto lenders to curb discriminatory lending practices and used that guidance to justify lawsuits that they brought against auto finance companies.

There's so much of this going on, this gratuitous maliciousness towards nearly everyone except a few money-stuffed cronies.

I just don't get it. I've been told I have a pretty good imagination but for the life of me, I can't figure how anyone can be so systematically cruel, petty, and bigoted. What is wrong with these people?

Michael Cohen and his goombahs

by digby

I wrote about Cohen's mob ties for Salon today:

Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, once told Vanity Fair: "I’m the guy who stops the leaks. I’m the guy who protects the president and the family. I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president."

During a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci confirmed that Cohen is as loyal as the day is long, telling Katy Tur there was no chance Cohen would turn state's evidence against the president because he "is a very loyal person." Scaramucci didn't even pretend to believe that Cohen would have nothing to offer prosecutors. It seems to be a given that he knows where bodies are buried but is willing to go to jail rather than betray Trump. That arguably says more about the latter than the former.

I wrote recently that I think this passionate belief in Cohen's loyalty may be wishful thinking on Trump's part. Apparently I'm not the only one. According to a Wednesday article in The Wall Street Journal, Trump's former attorney Jay Goldberg has issued exactly the same warning:
One of President Donald Trump’s longtime legal advisers said he warned the president in a phone call Friday that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and close friend, would turn against the president and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. 
Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump. . . . “Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president. . . . 
[H]e stressed to the president that Mr. Cohen could even agree to wear a wire and try to record conversations with Mr. Trump. “You have to be alert,” Mr. Goldberg said he told the president. “I don’t care what Michael says.”
Goldberg has some experience dealing with people like Michael Cohen --- he has represented such criminal luminaries as Matty “The Horse” Ianniello, Joe “Scarface” Agone and Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes" Alo. He sounded quite sure of his assessment that Cohen's alleged loyalty would not hold.

Even setting aside Cohen's foolish antics last week -- hanging around on the street outside the New York courtroom smoking cigars with his buddies -- Trump knows what he has with this guy. Recall that Cohen has threatened media organizations with charming comments like: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?” We know that Cohen is credibly accused of being the man who put together hush agreements with women whom Trump wanted to ensure never spoke publicly about their affairs with him. Dubious conduct is in his job description.

Nonetheless, Cohen is not exactly a made man. According to this report by ProPublica and WNYC, before he joined up with Trump in the mid-2000s Cohen was involved in a series of scams, including insurance and IRS fraud, for which he always avoided indictment while others were jailed or fined.

Many of his associates in these businesses came from the former Soviet Union and had connections to Russian organized crime. Cohen married a Ukrainian immigrant whose father had pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy to defraud the IRS in a taxi medallion fraud case. Cohen himself has made millions in the New York taxi business, which is reportedly one of the areas the FBI cited in its search warrant.

Cohen first hooked up with Trump by buying a number of apartments in Trump buildings, which led to Trump hiring him as an executive vice president of the Trump Organization. Cohen has been a part of the Trumpian inner circle ever since, whose main job, as he has said, is "protecting the family."

We learned a few months ago that Cohen had been working with another Russian-born investor, the infamous Felix Sater, on a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the presidential campaign. Sater reportedly boasted to Cohen about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming that they could "engineer" the election for Trump. Nobody knows exactly what he meant by that; Cohen has said that Sater was just using "colorful language" and it added up to nothing. But Cohen's relationship with Sater is likely a central aspect of this whole tangled history.

Sater himself is an extremely complicated figure, a man who was himself involved in stock fraud and spent time in prison for badly injuring a man in a bar fight. He has been associated with both the New York Mafia and the Russian mob and has also allegedly been both an FBI informant and a CIA asset. He has known Michael Cohen since they were kids in Brooklyn. (Sater was born in Russia but apparently moved to New York as a child.)

According to Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, Cohen's father and uncle were both doctors, but the uncle also owned a "social club" in Brooklyn called El Caribe that was a known Mafia hangout in the 1970s and '80s. The Russian mob, then run by a legendary godfather named Evsei Agron, then by his successor, Marat Balagula, (who was suspected of killing Agron) had offices in El Caribe and pretty much ran their nefarious business out of it for some years. Sater's dad, Marshall reports, was "a reputed capo in the Mogilevich organized crime syndicate."

So Cohen has been associated with mobsters and con men his whole life, which probably explains the widespread assumption that he would adhere to the pledge of omertà, the mafia code of silence. But that code isn't what it used to be. In 2001, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano finally turned on Gambino crime boss John Gotti and sent him to prison. Do you know who made the deal with Gravano? It was an assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Department of Justice. His name was Robert Mueller.

Michael Cohen may be mobbed up, but he's no Sammy the Bull. Those who know him best seem to believe he'll crack even before he has his fingers printed.



Fight back while you still can

by Tom Sullivan

Mr. Trump already doesn't like the Washington Post. The Post this morning gave him another reason not to.

The Editorial Board spotlights a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron delivered to the European Parliament on Tuesday. In it, Macron pushes back against the rise of intolerance and anti-democratic impulses across the Europe. That the Post devotes space and attention to Macron's warning gives the back of the hand to the avatar of that foul trend here at home.

Macron warns of “national selfishness and negativity” and a “fascination with the illiberal” spreading across Europe in the emergence of far-right movements and parties:

But his words also apply more broadly to the surge of illiberalism in Turkey, Egypt, Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Venezuela, among other places, where leaders have actively snuffed out civil society, suborned or faked elections, asphyxiated free expression, ignored rule of law, and repressed basic human rights. Leaders in such countries learn from one another as they refine methods to crush democracy, by banning or restricting nongovernmental organizations, creating laws to single out independent voices as “foreign agents,” imposing censorship on the news and social media, and, most tried and true, jailing those who dissent. They also echo one another’s claims that their imposed order offers a viable alternative to democracy, which can be so unpredictable and messy.

Mr. Macron wisely denounced a “deadly illusion” that “has precipitated our continent toward the abyss” in previous generations: “the illusion of strong power, nationalism, the abandonment of freedoms.” Democracy is not being “condemned to impotence,” he insisted. “Faced with the authoritarianism that surrounds us everywhere,” he declared, “the answer is not authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy.”
“I do not want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers," Macron told leaders in Strasbourg. "I do not want to belong to a generation that will have forgotten its own past or that will refuse to see the torments of its own present. I want to belong to a generation that has decided firmly to defend its democracy.”

Nor do believers in democracy want to belong to a nationalist movement training members to kiss up to the powerful and kick down at the weak. The Post is blunt: "President Trump cannot find a voice for such essential principles." No, he cannot, because he has none to draw upon.

Each day this administration by Local 12 of the Villains, Thieves, and Scoundrels Union persists, America grows a little darker. Fight back while you still can.

As if to drive home the Post's point about jailing dissenters (if indeed the editorial is not in reaction to this news), eleven Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to prosecute an enemies list of Trump foes. The list includes former FBI Director James Comey, former Secretray of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Counsel Lisa Page.

The target list also includes "FBI personnel connected to the compilation of documents on alleged links between Russia and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump known as the 'Steele dossier,' including but not limited to" the aforementioned Comey and McCabe, plus former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente. We shall have more anon.

All but two of the House members who signed the joint letter come from the House Freedom Caucus. They are: Ron DeSantis, Andy Biggs, Dave Brat, Jeff Duncan, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Andy Harris, Jody Hice, Todd Rokita, Claudia Tenney, and Ted Yoh. If they fancy living in the kind of authoritarian autocracy where leaders jail their political opponents, here are a couple of lists of countries they might prefer to the the land of the free and the home of the brave. They'll feel right at home.

* * * * * * * *

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Millie's pups

by digby

This is my favorite Bush Sr White House moment:

Here's a whole clip tape
First Dogs Millie, Ranger and the pups during the administration.

I love all White House pets. And Millie and her puppies were among the best ever. Barbara Bush was a big animal lover and I always liked that about her. RIP.



by digby

Everyone seems to think Nikki Haley is a heroine for saying "with all due respect, I don't get confused" and getting Sad Sack Kudlow to apologize. Big deal. She's working for the most sexist piece of work to ever sit in the Oval Office so her #MeToo moment is weak. She doesn't have to work for him. She should resign.

But I will admit that I'm enjoying this:

Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Ms. Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, possibly to run as a ticket in 2020.

Aides to both scoff at such suggestions, but the slightest hint of such a pairing would be likely to enrage Mr. Trump, who has made it clear that he plans to run for re-election. The talk was exacerbated in recent days when Mr. Pence named Jon Lerner, Ms. Haley’s deputy, as his new national security adviser, while allowing him to keep his job at the United Nations.

That plan collapsed within 48 hours when Mr. Trump grew angry at reports that Mr. Lerner had made anti-Trump ads for the Club for Growth, an economic conservative advocacy group, during Republican primaries in 2016. Mr. Lerner stepped down from the job in Mr. Pence’s office.

Lol. If Trump were a smart man he'd keep her close but he's not a smart man so I'd guess she's not long for his administration.

If we want a stand-up heroine today, pick the Southwest Airlines pilot who saved lives yesterday:
For any pilot in this situation the most difficult and urgent thing to judge is how responsive the airplane is to their commands. An airplane as crippled as this one becomes difficult to handle. With only one engine working and damage to the other causing unusual air drag, the pilot must correct for asymmetrical power and drag—the airplane naturally tends to swing away from its direct course.

Here it is striking to compare Captain Shults’ plight with that of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in his legendary “miracle on the Hudson” landing. Sullenberger lost both engines to a bird strike, but his airplane, the Airbus A320, had “fly-by-wire” controls that gave him an automatic safety margin by restricting the control movements to a computer-dictated “envelope.” In contrast, the flight controls of the Southwest 737, although monitored through computers, remain as they were in the analog age, with the pilot controlling directly through a “yoke.”

And this is where Captain Shults’ background came into play. She is an ex-Navy pilot and one of the first women to fly the “Top Gun” F-18 Hornet, eventually becoming an instructor. Landing supersonic jets on the decks of aircraft carriers is one of the most demanding skills in military aviation. Now, flying on the one engine called for her to use all of her “seat of the pants” instincts to nurse the jet to the runway.

Normally a 737 on final approach would deploy its wing flaps to their full extent, to reduce landing speed to around 140 mph. But Captain Shults’ skills and experience forewarned her that an airplane flying that slowly with its flaps fully extended and with asymmetrical power could become fatally unstable in the final stage of the landing, so she used a minimal flap setting to maintain a higher speed and stability—taking the risk that the landing gear and particularly the tires could survive a higher speed impact.

As the jet came into land the controllers in the Philadelphia tower, looking at it through binoculars, could see that there was an open gash in the side of the cabin. At the same time it was reported that a large piece of the left engine’s cowling had fallen to the ground 60 miles northwest of the airport.

Captain Shults faced another problem with the speed of the landing: she could not deploy the airplane’s engine thrust reversers to help brake the speed after touchdown because of the damage to her left engine. However the touchdown was perfect and, once slowed, the jet came to rest on a taxiway where a fire crew sprayed the damaged engine with foam and put out a small fire from leaking fuel.

I sat next to a pair of guys on a flight not too long ago who were talking that they'd get off any plane piloted by a woman because they can't keep their heads in anemergency. Uh huh.


Take the money, leave the cannoli

by digby

I don't know how many of these people there are out there, but polling suggests that there are a few. These more mainstream Republican types should be worried about Trump's erratic behavior. They have as much to lose as the rest of us.
Boston-area billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman will now start funding mostly Democrats after a history of giving large donations to Republicans.

“The Republicans in Congress have failed to hold the president accountable and have abandoned their historic beliefs and values,” Klarman said in a statement to The Boston Globe. “For the good of the country, the Democrats must take back one or both houses of Congress.”

Klarman told the paper that he wanted to use the money he was saving from the Republican tax overhaul to “invest” in Democrats.

Trending: Women's March Leader Suggests Jewish Rights Group Working with Starbucks is Racist Against Blacks, Stirring Controversy

Klarman is the CEO and President of Baupost Group, a hedge fund in control of $32 billion, according to Forbes. The business magazine pegs his net worth at around $1.5 billion.

While not a registered Republican, Klarman has a long history of donating to the GOP, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Klarman has donated to candidates, political action committees and the Republican National Committee. Klarman has given to Democrats in the past, but the recent shift is a marked change in his donations.

According to an analysis by the Globe, Klarman has given over $200,000 to Democrats since the election of President Donald Trump, after spending more than $7 million on Republicans and their organizations while Barack Obama was president.

Klarman has always had a distaste for Trump, even backing Hillary Clinton in the past presidential election, after Tump won the Republican nomination.

“His words and actions over the last several days are so shockingly unacceptable in our diverse and democratic society that it is simply unthinkable that Donald Trump could become our president,” Klarman told Reuters in 2016.

No need to make any promises to these folks on policy. It's all about holding Trump accountable and restoring some sense of normalcy to our politics.  That should be enough.

Just don't call them fascists. That would be ridiculous.

by digby

This is grotesque. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like it in American politics but I might be wrong. Trump is an asinine imbecile, but now he's got members of congress making official requests to carry out his thuggish agenda:

Eleven House Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging him to prosecute Hillary Clinton and more than a half-dozen current or former Justice Department officials, including former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The letter complains that the investigations into Clinton and President Trump’s campaign have been marked by “dissimilar degrees of zealousness.”

“Because we believe that those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American, we want to be sure that the potential violations of law outlined below are vetted appropriately,” the House Republicans said.

The letter — which also went to FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney John Huber, whom Sessions named to oversee the investigation into GOP-fueled anti-DOJ allegations — comes after the FBI raided Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, last week.

It goes on to cherry-pick certain details reported about the ongoing Russia probe, as well as other speculation and disputed accusations, to allege that crimes may have been committed by Clinton and certain DOJ officials.

They accuse Comey of leaking classified information for Trump-related memos he handed over to a law professor friend, who in turn leaked them to the New York Times, among other allegations. Lynch is accused in the letter of potentially obstructing an agency investigation, with the Republicans pointing to extremely flimsy reporting on the so-called “Uranium One” deal.

They raised the DOJ Inspector General’s report about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to refer him for potential criminal violations. Clinton, meanwhile, is accused of potential campaign finance allegations because her campaign’s lawyer facilitated financing for the opposition research project that led to the “dossier” of Trump-Russia allegations assembled by Christopher Steele.

Among the other individuals singled out in the letter are the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who sent each other anti-Trump texts during the campaign, as well as former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and the current FBI general counsel Dana Boente. Yates and Boente get called out for their involvement vetting the surveillance warrant applications for ex-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

We are going to depend upon Jeff Session and Donald Trump to be the calm leaders who would never consider such actions. Indeed, assuming that we don't find ourselves in a major crisis I'd guess that Sessions and most other officials would oppose this.

It's good that there's no chance of a crisis, amirite? Everything's perfectly normal and in control thank goodness.


From the man who invented truthiness

by digby

.... comes the best Comey interview ever:

When late-night host Stephen Colbert sat down with former FBI Director James Comey on "The Late Show" Tuesday night, he naturally asked Comey for one thing: devout loyalty.

Colbert's joke was met with a long, blank stare from Comey, until the late-night host poured a glass of Pinot Noir into paper cups, a nod to what Comey drank on his private flight home after he was fired by President Donald Trump.

"I thought maybe we could recreate that happy moment for you right now," Colbert said as he prepared the toast. "To the truth."

It was the former FBI head's first late-night appearance, and while he was there to promote his new tell-all, "A Higher Loyalty," it wasn't long before he began cracking some jokes of his own. Colbert asked him about the relentless insults Trump has hurled at him on Twitter and whether he had any rebuttal.

"In the last few days, he has called you 'Slippery Jim,' and he has called you a slimeball," Colbert noted. "Anything to say back?"

"No. He’s tweeted at me probably 50 times. I’ve been gone for a year. I’m like a breakup he can’t get over," Comey replied, as the crowd roared. "I’m out there living my best life. He wakes up in the morning and tweets at me."

Becoming more serious, Comey explained the importance of not normalizing Trump's infamous Twitter tirades.

"Does that mean we’ve become numb to this? It’s not OK for the president of the United States to say a private citizen should be in jail," he said. "It’s not normal, it’s not acceptable, it’s not OK. But it’s happened so much, there’s a danger we’re now numb to it, and the norm has been destroyed. And I feel that norm destroying in my own shrug. So we can’t allow that to happen. We have to talk about it and call it out. It’s not OK."

Over the course of the 30-minute interview, Comey offered some public assurances of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's job, and more importantly, the overall investigation Mueller's leading into alleged Trump campaign ties to the Russian government.

"I think most likely it goes on. I think you would need to fire everyone in the Justice Department and the FBI to stop that investigation," Comey said when asked what he thought would happen if Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were fired. "I could imagine U.S. attorney's offices picking it up, FBI field offices picking it up. I think it would be very hard to shut that down by firing."

Colbert also pressed Comey quite a bit on his decision to speak out about the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

"What was the consideration to sending a letter to Congress saying you were reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after Anthony Weiner’s laptop was found to have 100,000 emails on it?" Colbert asked. "Again, the norm and the standard was that the FBI does not discuss anything having to do with a political campaign 60 days out from the election."

But Comey shot down that so-called 60-day norm. "That’s not true — the 60-day thing, I don’t know where that comes from."

He added, "You take no action, if you can avoid it, that might have an impact on any election."

Colbert shot back, "Well, you had to imagine this would have an effect."

The two went on to debate back and forth over Comey's decision to speak out just 11 days before the election, but they eventually moved on, as Colbert wanted to address the salacious allegations in the Steele dossier.

"How did you tell him that there was a — and I want to put this delicately — pee-pee tape?" Colbert asked.

"I spoke about information, unverified, that related to an allegation that he was with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow, and that the Russians had videotaped it," Comey answered. "I didn’t go into the rest of it."

"So you didn’t mention the salacious detail of the two prostitutes getting up on the bed that the Obamas had stayed in — because it was the presidential suite — and, you know, engaging in some water play?" Colbert asked.

Comey, consistent with his recent interview with ABC New on Sunday, confirmed he did not get too explicit and told Colbert that the president denied all of the allegations profusely.

However, Colbert couldn't help but mention that he actually rented the room used by Trump when he traveled to Moscow last summer.

"Would you like to ask me anything about that room?" Colbert said to Comey.

Comey asked, "Is it big enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity?"

"The bedroom is very long," Colbert quipped. "You’d definitely be out of what we call at Sea World, the splash zone."


He didn't mean what he said

by digby

Here is what he said:

There's a lot of talk about intent these days. Here's is a comment that perfectly illustrates Trump's intent in firing Comey. He says it right out --- no matter what Rosenstein said in his letter, Trump was going to fire him anyway because the Russia "thing" was unfair. I don't think it gets any more explicit than that.

Also, he said this the next day to the Russian Ambassador and foreign minister in an unpublicized meeting in the oval office:
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. I’m not under investigation.”
He lives in his own world, we know that. But this is downright delusional. He seriously think people will believe he fired Comey for being unfair to Hillary Clinton? Or maybe he wants us to believe that he fired Comey for failing to lock her up, which just proves he's the fascist he pretends to be. But none of that is true, we know that because he said in his own words that he was thinking about Russia and wanted to fire him and then bragged to the Russians the next day that he'd gotten rid of the man who was investigating him, pretty much signaling to Vladimir Putin that the coast was clear!

Two cases of massive hubris facing off

by digby

I wrote about Donald and Jim for Salon this morning:

Donald Trump is spending the next few days at Mar-a-Lago (which he erroneously claimed on Tuesday was always meant to be the "summer White House," except that Jimmy Carter was too cheap to keep it up). He's officially there for a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but Trump's staff reportedly gets nervous whenever he spends time at the Florida estate: He watches too much TV and gets too much input from outsiders who have no idea what they're talking about. Right now, he's apparently more agitated than they've ever seen him about the legal mess his consigliere Michael Cohen finds himself in.

Mike Allen at Axios quoted a source who told him:
The guys that know Trump best are the most worried. People are very, very worried. Because it’s Michael [effing] Cohen. Who knows what he’s done? People at the Trump Organization don’t even really know everything he does. It’s all side deals and off-the-books stuff. Trump doesn’t even fully know; he knows some but not everything. Cohen thinks he’s Ray Donovan [the Showtime series starring a fixer for Hollywood's elite]. Did you see the photos of him sitting outside on the street with his buddies smoking cigars? Makes it look like a Brooklyn social club. I’ll tell you who’s worried. The principal.
By all accounts, Trump is more concerned about this than about the Russia investigation, although he reportedly sees it as an end run by Robert Mueller's office to try to take him down by any means necessary. In the president's mind it's all connected -- and now that the feds have all of Cohen's records, even pardoning him wouldn't solve the problem. They will know everything.

I've been writing here at Salon about Trump's corruption and possible criminality ever since he burst on the scene in 2015, as have many other observers. There is a tremendous amount of evidence right out there on the record that he has been involved with known criminals like the Russian-born Felix Sater (a longtime friend of Michael Cohen) who has ties to the Mafia and was reportedly at various times a government informant. Trump's casinos were cited for money laundering more often than any others in the country and were known to be frequented by members of the Russian mob. Many of his overseas ventures in places like Azerbaijan, Indonesia and Brazil are linked to criminal enterprises and were brokered or arranged with the help of his trusty fixer, Michael Cohen.

The question that must be asked is this: What would possess a man with such a shady track record in business to expose himself to the kind of scrutiny that comes with being president of the United States? Did he truly believe that third-rate operators like Michael Cohen could successfully cover his tracks?

Well, this is Trump we're talking about, so yes, he probably did. He is a narcissistic fool. He is also defined by one of the greatest of all character flaws: hubris, which in classical Greek tragedy is when overconfidence leads the hero to overstep the boundaries of human limitations and assume a godlike status. The gods are not amused and put the hero in his place by reminding him of his mortality.

It's somehow inevitable that as Trump draws near this denouement, he would be facing off against another person who has made some disastrous choices due to an overweening confidence in his own judgment. I'm speaking of former FBI director James Comey, who would undoubtedly be tremendously insulted to have his character compared to his nemesis Donald Trump. But the fact is that Comey too has exhibited tremendous hubris in the way he went about his job at the FBI and how he has tried to explain the momentous decisions that led to his own downfall.

Comey's overconfidence doesn't stem from simple narcissism, as Trump's does. He is afflicted with a vain self-regard for his moral and intellectual superiority. On the interviews for his book tour he has explained that he alone understood the complexity of the political situation involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. So he took it upon himself to break the longstanding rules that governed such situations, in order to preserve the integrity of the Department of Justice and the legitimacy of Clinton's imminent victory. The gods certainly got their revenge on him -- and on all the rest of us -- for that arrogant presumption.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted that Comey still has not admitted that he was influenced by the media cacophony about Clinton's emails or that his judgment was flawed when he took it upon himself to ignore the normal rules against discussing closed cases or making any kind of politically charged moves in the days before an election.

He is as unbowed and unrepentant as Trump is, even now rendering his judgment that the constitutional remedy of impeachment would be wrong, without even knowing what the president might end up being charged with:
I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values. And so impeachment, in a way, would short circuit that.
That's a nice sentiment. But the president of the United States may very well be a criminal who has betrayed the country, and his term is not up for nearly three years. That situation is exactly what the remedy of impeachment is designed to address. One is sorely tempted to tell Saint James Comey to please stop helping.

Pitting a flamboyant conman against a moralistic lawman in a battle for American democracy sounds like a clichéd movie plot. But it turns out to be deeper and more complex than we might have assumed. In this tale, our hero and villain are both afflicted with the same character flaw and we really don't know who is going to come out on top.


Scorch? Meet earth.

by Tom Sullivan

Scorched Earth. Credit: Tim Orr, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.

Premature talk of the "end stage" of the Trump administration has begun to circulate. Adam Davidson writes at The New Yorker, "This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth." Money laundering, bank fraud and evidence of "rampant criminality" lie waiting to be uncovered in Michael Cohen's files and elsewhere federal investigators now peek.

Davidson continues:

It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time. In this way of thinking, any new information about his corrupt past has no political salience. Those who hate Trump already think he’s a crook; those who love him don’t care.
The Republican caucus, however, can read the tea leaves. Legislators are stuffing their pockets with whatever they will hold before, as Gordon Lightfoot sang, "the skies of November turn gloomy."

Politico reports they plan to use an unusual maneuver to sweep away a host of federal regulations:
As soon as Tuesday, GOP senators, backed by President Donald Trump, will use the Congressional Review Act to topple safeguards issued by the CFPB in 2013 that were intended to discourage discrimination in auto lending.

While Republicans in the Trump era have already taken advantage of the 1996 law to remove more than a dozen recently issued rules, this would be the first time that Congress will have used it to kill a regulatory policy that is several years old.

Now, actions going back to President Bill Clinton’s administration could be in play under the procedure GOP lawmakers are undertaking, forcing numerous agencies to reconsider how they roll out new regulations.
The maneuver requires leveraging provisions of the CRA that enables them to eliminate regulatory rules by a simple majority and avoid a filibuster. They plan to redefine what was previously regulatory guidance as regulatory rules under the Administrative Procedure Act, making them eligible for elimination via the CRA. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) leads the effort and considers it "potentially a big, big opening.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday, “Our whole economy is getting a tune-up. And now it’s time for the front end of the auto industry to come along for the ride.”

Toomey tells reporters:
“When regulators regulate by guidance rather than through the process they’re supposed to use, which is the Administrative Procedure Act and do a proper rulemaking, they shouldn’t be able to get away with that,” Toomey said. “If we can get a determination that the guidance rises to the significance of being a rule, then from that moment the clock starts on the CRA opportunity.”

Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, said it “is really going to open up a Pandora’s box.” Public Citizen and 60 other advocacy groups covering the gamut of finance, the environment, labor and gay rights are calling on Congress to oppose the CFPB rollback, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.

They warned it would put at risk not only protections for workers, consumers, minorities and the environment, but also regulatory certainty for businesses.
Roosevelt Institute fellow Mike Konczal responded in a series of tweets:

But then, Mitch McConnell should not have been able to stonewall Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination, either.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guideline first onto the scaffold is one meant to discourage discriminatory "dealer markups” in auto lending. Writing for Vox, Emily Stewart elaborates:

Research shows high dealer markups often disproportionately affect nonwhite people — in other words, car dealers charge black and Latino buyers higher interest markups than they do white buyers. The CFPB tried to curtail this by introducing the guidance, a sort of notice of how to apply and interpret a law, in 2013.
The CFPB then targeted multiple dealers for discriminatory lending.
Consumer advocates and anti-discrimination groups have come out in fierce opposition to the loan discrimination guidance rollback. A group of 64 organizations, including the Consumer Federation of America, the NAACP, and United Steelworkers, signed on to a letter opposing the resolution, warning that it could set a “dangerous precedent” and that it “sends a message to the public that Congress is more interested in giving narrow handouts to special interests” than helping American workers and families.

“This is an attempt by auto lenders and auto dealers to prevent the CFPB from monitoring fair lending issues and enforcing them, and to tie the hands of future CFPBs on discrimination issues,” Debbie Goldstein, who heads the federal policy team at the Center for Responsible Lending, told me.
On Saturday, I mentioned a study from Mercatus, the free-market think tank. The research paper contradicts conservative conventional wisdom that regulations hold back the economy, not that Toomey et. al. have seen it. But as with proof of Trump Organization criminality, it will have no political salience. If their assumptions are proven wrong, they won't care. What matters to the Republican caucus is control, and Republicans are headed for losing it. After the Trump administration meets its fate, maybe permanently.

So pending a hasty retreat, it's time to loot, slash and burn.
Returning home about twelve or one
Thinking "Lord, what a deed I've done?"
I killed the girl I love, you see
Because she would not marry me

— "Banks of the Ohio," traditional
If they can't have America for their very own, no one else can.

* * * * * * * *

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Wingnut convergence

by digby

I think this is an interesting insight into how the right is converging into overt white nationalism:
Anti-abortion groups are distancing themselves from a prominent writer, activist and thought leader in the movement who has leaned into white nationalism since Donald Trump’s election.

Kristen Walker Hatten, former vice president of the anti-abortion group New Wave Feminists and a contributor to The Dallas Morning News, has spoken at universities and events around the country about the need for mainstream feminism to embrace women who oppose abortion rights. She has written articles for Live Action News, the organization behind the heavily edited “sting” videos that inspired Republicans in Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood, and gained media attention in early 2017 when New Wave Feminists was ousted from a partnership with the Women’s March.

Hatten wrote in late 2016 that she found Trump to be so “creepy, gross and tacky” and such a “repugnant chauvinist” during his campaign that she quit the internet for a while to avoid reading about him. But after he won, something changed. Hatten began sharing white supremacist content on social media. She self-identified on Twitter as alt-right and “ethnonationalist” ― the same term used by white nationalist icon Richard Spencer. She mused on Facebook that immigrant “invaders” are replacing white Europeans in their own countries, and shared a post imploring Trump to grant “asylum” to white South Africans.

“She basically pulled a complete 180 from anything we had ever seen,” said Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New Wave Feminists and a former close friend of Hatten.

Hatten told HuffPost in an email that she doesn’t consider herself to be a white supremacist or even a racist.

“I admit to being racist by today’s standards, but I also think almost everyone is racist by today’s standards,” she wrote. “Is it racist to live in a majority white neighborhood? Send your kids to majority white schools? When I was a kid ‘racism’ meant hatred for another race and/or acting on that hatred. Now you’re a racist if you touch a black person’s hair because you think it’s pretty.”

Hatten added that while she is proud to be white, she does not identify as a white nationalist or a white supremacist because she believes all races have a right to their own homelands.

“I do see that Europe and the US are becoming... well, not European,” she wrote. “This concerns me not because I hate anyone, but for the same reason Japan would be concerned if the Japanese were becoming a minority in Japan. No people should be excited to become a minority in their homeland. It is contrary to human nature. I wouldn’t expect it of any race and I don’t think it should be expected of whites.”
Today, white supremacists emboldened by Trump’s election are a lot more explicit about their political fellow-traveling. Neo-Nazis have been showing up at March for Life rallies around the country. A Rewire analysis found that the Family Research Council, a powerful evangelical anti-abortion group, is also deeply influential among white supremacists on social media.

I don't personally find this to be surprising.  The factions of the right are all fundamentally authoritarian and in our culture that authoritarianism expresses itself most vividly in the ideology of white supremacy.

White supremacists are anti-abortion, for instance, because they believe that (white) women should be be forced to be child-bearing vessels to re-populate the white race. Anti-abortion zealots believe that women should be forced to be child bearing vessels to reinforce patriarchy. It all works together in one big mess of racism, misogyny and authoritarian impulse.  Here we see how our modern forms of communication bring all that together.
"They say, 'He killed reporters.' I said, 'Really? He says he didn't. "

by digby

Remember this?

I recall watching that one in real time and feeling the hair on the back of my neck go up. I knew that we weren't supposed to take him seriously as a candidate but I always did and this sounded like something Mussolini would say. That kind of "joke" from a presidential candidate is designed to intimidate. I don't think that worked particularly well but that man is now president of the United States and those kinds of comments and the authoritarian attitudes are chilling nonetheless. Who knows where this leads?

In Russia, this how it goes down:
A Russian investigative journalist who wrote about the deaths of mercenaries in Syria has died in hospital after falling from his fifth-floor flat.

Maxim Borodin was found badly injured by neighbours in Yekaterinburg and taken to hospital, where he later died.

Local officials said no suicide note was found but the incident was unlikely to be of a criminal nature.

However, a friend revealed Borodin had said his flat had been surrounded by security men a day earlier.

Vyacheslav Bashkov described Borodin as a "principled, honest journalist" and said Borodin had contacted him at five o'clock in the morning on 11 April saying there was "someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing".

Borodin had been looking for a lawyer, he explained, although he later called him back saying he was wrong and that the security men had been taking part in some sort of exercise.

After he was found badly injured at the foot of the building on Thursday, regional authorities said the door of his flat had been locked from the inside, indicating that no-one else had either entered or left the flat.

The chief editor of Novy Den, where Borodin worked, said before he died that she could not rule out a crime, adding there was no reason for him to kill himself.

Harlem Désir of the international monitoring organisation OSCE said the death was "of serious concern" and called for a thorough investigation.

What did Borodin write?

In recent weeks, the journalist had written about Russian mercenaries known as the "Wagner Group" who were reportedly killed in Syria on 7 February in a confrontation with US forces.

Last week, the outgoing head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said that "a couple hundred" Russian mercenaries died in the clash in Deir al-Zour province. The mercenaries were apparently taking part in an attack by pro-Syrian government fighters on the headquarters of a US ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Weeks later Russia admitted that several dozen Russian citizens had been either killed or wounded, but stressed they were not regular soldiers.

Last month, Borodin had written that three of those killed had come from the Sverdlovsk region in the Urals, in which Yekaterinburg is the main city. Two of the men were from the towns of Asbest and one from Kedrovoye, he said.

He had also investigated political scandals, including allegations made by a Belarusian escort known as Nastya Rybka in a video posted by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Maybe it's all bs, I don't know. We are always struggling to see the truth through a thick fog these days.

Trump hasn't taken any action against the press. Maybe if he did there would be such an outcry that he'd be immediately removed from office. But his attitude is normal now. The distance between talking trash about the media and actually doing something to shit them up is shorter than it was before.

Keep in mind that other things, like firing DOJ officials for political reasons, ongoing thievery and incoherent foreign policy under a cloud of suspicion are more than just words. They're actually happening.

Hannity and Trump's legal threesome

by digby

When Hannity's name surfaced yesterday I tweeted this:

That refers to a sexual harassment charge leveled by conservative commentator Deb Schlussel against Sean Hannity last year and then retracted. Obviously, it could be completely unrelated. But considering what Michael Cohen's legal "specialty" is, it's a fair question to ask.

Well apparently Hannity did seek legal help from other Trump associated lawyers in that matter:

On May 25, 2017, KFAQ, a radio station based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received a cease-and-desist letter signed by two lawyers for Hannity: Victoria Toensing and Jay Alan Sekulow. Toensing’s signature sits above her name and that of her husband Joseph E. diGenova, the members of diGenova and Toensing LLP, who are identified as “Counsel for Sean Hannity,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Atlantic. Sekulow is also identified in the letter page as a “Counsel for Sean Hannity.”

Sekulow is now the only known personal attorney for President Trump working full-time on the response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry. Sekulow recently announced that diGenova and Toensing had been hired to join him, before reversing course. The letter to the radio station was sent before Sekulow joined Trump’s team.

The letter was sent in response to accusations against Hannity made by the controversial conservative activist Debbie Schlussel. During an appearance on the Pat Campbell show on KFAQ last April, Schlussel said Hannity had been “creepy” towards her and had invited her to his hotel room.

Hannity responded at the time by calling the allegations “100 percent false and a complete fabrication,” and said that he had hired lawyers to plan a response. “This letter provides notice that Ms. Schlussel’s statements are false and defamatory,” the letter read. “Continued publication will result in further exposure to liability because of continued harm to Mr. Hannity’s impeccable reputation.”

On Monday, Schlussel said she remembered that the radio station where she made the remarks had received a legal letter afterwards, but she didn’t know who the lawyer was. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Toensing acknowledged that “at that time” she was acting as Hannity’s lawyer but wouldn’t comment on whether she still represents him.

“I’ve just learned in the press that anybody who is Sean Hannity’s lawyer is going to be blasted so I think this phone call is over,” Toensing said. “I’m wondering what attorney-client privilege means to anybody. I don’t say who my clients are, sometimes I do, and many times, most of the time, I do not.”

Sekulow, diGenova, and Toensing have frequently appeared on Hannity’s program; diGenova appeared on the show as recently as Monday night. Asked for comment, Hannity sent a text consisting of NewsBusters and Daily Caller links to stories about ethical misconduct in the mainstream media and declined to offer further comment. “I don’t have time for these silly questions,” he said.
It’s already well-known that Hannity champions the president publicly and advises him privately, although the breadth of his relationships with attorneys linked to the president wasn’t known before this week. “I think he’s totally fine,” one Fox source who was not authorized to speak publicly said on Monday. “I take Sean at his word that nothing’s there” in the relationship with Cohen, a former Hannity employee who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said, adding that Hannity normally uses David Limbaugh as his lawyer and agent for “absolutely everything.”

“While Fox News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” the network said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I don’t want to get into it because I haven’t talked to Sean about whether he wants me to say anything publicly, as a lawyer I’d better not,” Limbaugh said, but added that he is “proud of my relationship with him.” Limbaugh said he had had nothing to do with anything related to the Schlussel matter.

Did he talk to Cohen about dealing with this or something else like it? Who knows? But apparently Hannity was concerned enough about this to have lawyers threaten a radio station.

By the way, he never mentioned that he'd hired these lawyers when he was interviewing them constantly on his show either.

"Would you kill for me?"

by digby

I haven't seen this making the rounds but I find it quite astonishing. Barbara Res worked for the Trump Organization for years:

I know we've all decided that James Comey is being very rude for saying mean things about Donald Trump but his description of him as a mob boss is simply an observation of reality.


The grift goes on

by digby

He would have had to sell a lot of ugly ties and cheap cologne to make this tidy little profit:

President Donald Trump’s U.S. businesses have received at least $15.1 million in revenue from political groups and federal agencies since 2015, according to a new report to be released Monday.

The money went to Trump’s airplanes, hotels, golf courses, even a bottled water company during the presidential campaign and the first 15 months of his presidency, according to a compilation of known records of the spending by Public Citizen obtained by McClatchy.

But it was Trump’s campaign itself that spent the biggest chunk by far – about 90 percent, or $13.4 million.

It also includes more than $717,000 from the Republican National Committee; nearly $595,000 from Trump Victory, the joint fundraising committee set up by the RNC and Trump’s campaign; and $9,000 from the National Republican Senate Committee.


Two political action committees, America First Action, dedicated to electing federal candidates who support Trump’s agenda, spent $33,000 and Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence’s group, spent $24,000.

Campaigns and committees supporting Republicans House members Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, Jodey Arrington of Texas, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey and Dana Rohrabacher of California also spent money on Trump businesses.

By comparison, in 2013 and 2014, political spending at his properties was less than $20,000.

The total amount is likely to be much more. There is no single place to find out how much the administration is spending at Trump businesses, though federal agencies have started to disclose some records in response to public record requests. Public Citizen analyzed Federal Election Commission data and federal agency records obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests by Public Citizen and Property of the People, a group comprised of legal experts and activists.


Donald Trump in 2000 interview with Fortune

Before he was sworn into office, Trump eschewed calls to fully separate from his business interests.

Instead he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time without the public’s knowledge. He also retains the authority to revoke the trust.

Trump launched his campaign at one of his buildings, Trump Tower in New York, where his campaign leased space. Campaign events offered Trump-branded water and wine. The campaign and Secret Service paid Tag Air Inc. for use of Trump’s 757 airplane, customized with gold-plated bathroom faucets and seatbelts.


Since his inauguration, Trump has visited one of his properties, usually in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia on 138 days, according to a compilation of information released by the White House. Those visits have led to government spending.

Federal agencies that spent money include the National Security Council, Secret Service, Defense Department, General Services Administration and U.S. embassies.

Recipients include Trump Tower Commercial LLC, Trump International Hotel in Washington, Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump National Doral Miami, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Trump Restaurants LLC, the Trump Corporation, Trump Payroll Corp. and Trump Plaza LLC.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. is expected to introduce a bill that would bar taxpayer spending at properties owned by an officeholder if the money provides a profit to the officeholder.

“Trump has raised the art of the self-deal to unprecedented heights, enriching himself at the expense of taxpayers,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “This requires a legislative response.”

This is fine. So is the fact that his Interior Secretary Ryan Zincke and Head of the Environmental Potection Agency are ripping off taxpayers with impunity. He likes them and he will protect them. And why not? They're smart, just like him.

Friendly reminder kids. This has never happened before. We used to think that government officials should not make a profit from their office. But then we've never seen a president pronounce that his political rivals and adversaries are criminals and should be jailed either. None of this has ever been normal in the past but it is normal now.