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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Yo, Trump voters...

by digby

Somebody from Alabama or South Carolina needs to go on Fox to educate the president about something important to their states

President Trump wants to impose a total ban on the imports of German luxury cars, according to a new report from CNBC and German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

Several U.S. and European diplomats told the news outlets that Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron about his plans last month during a state visit.

Trump reportedly told Macron that he would maintain the ban until no Mercedes-Benz cars are seen on Fifth Avenue in New York.


A number of German automakers have plants in the U.S., including Mercedes-Benz in Alabama and BMW in South Carolina.

Michael Cohen seems nice

by digby

You've read the words before, but you have to hear it to believe it:


NPR on Thursday published a recording of a phone call between Trump fixer Michael Cohen and then-Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak, in which Cohen threatened Mak over a story he was writing.

Mak, now a reporter at NPR, included the audio as part of a report on Cohen’s history of threatening reporters with legal action.

Mak in 2015 had called Cohen for comment about President Donald Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump’s assertion in a divorce deposition that Trump had once raped her. Ivana Trump later said that she did not want the term to be “interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have,” Cohen told Mak in the call. “And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know.”

“So 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?”

Your president's personal lawyer, ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday,in a Cohen court proceeding it was revealed that there were other tapes, possibly including the president.

I prefer to have a coke and a hot dog, myself, but you might want to lay in a nice supply of popcorn.


The cultists speak

by digby

In their own words:

They know their Trump bible, don't they?

“The sentiment was that Americans wanted a royal family.”

by digby

Vanity Fair has an excerpt of a new book about the Trumps. Ivanka believes America wanted the Trumps to be their royal family. When it comes to their deluded voters, she's probably right. They seem to yearn to be subjects:
On the morning of January 20, 2017, Donald Trump’s five children formed a veritable wall around their father as he stood in the gallery on the West Front of the Capitol Building and placed his left hand atop two Bibles—one used by Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration, in 1861; the other a gift from Trump’s mother just before his ninth birthday—to recite the presidential oath of office.

It was an unprecedented political moment for America, but the scene also represented something of a domestic triumph. Trump, who had five children with three women over the course of four decades, had never quite been the Platonic ideal of a paterfamilias. As the years passed, Trump and his kids underwent various stages of entrenchment and estrangement as his empire, and personal life, oscillated between booms and busts—the divorces, the Plaza acquisition and refinancing, the Atlantic City bankruptcies, The Apprentice, the birther nonsense, 2016. “He did not know,” as his ex-wife Ivana Trump once put it, “how to speak the children’s language.” Trump had even insinuated the limits of his own capacity as a nurturer. “I want five children, like in my own family,” he once told a friend, according to a September 1990 article in this magazine. “Because with five, then I will know that one will be guaranteed to turn out like me.”

The Trumps have somewhat fancied themselves as a modern version of the Kennedys, but the inauguration brought to mind the dynamic of another sort of American first family: the Kardashians. The Trump kids had become famous, in some ways, simply for being famous—a preternatural and occasionally nauseating talent that they learned from their father. As Trump took the oath of office, Barron Trump, the president’s middle-school-aged son with Melania Trump, as well as Tiffany, his young-adult daughter with Marla Maples, fixed their eyes on Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts, who administered it. Meanwhile, Trump’s eldest three children—Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric—stood like a phalanx, their eyes fixed on their father.
The family also started preparing for the inaugural celebration. Donald Trump had appointed Tom Barrack, a private-equity billionaire who had negotiated the sale of the Plaza to Trump in 1988, to run what the family hoped would be an outsize affair. Marquee performers, from Elton John to Kiss, distanced themselves as soon as their names were floated, and organizers ended up settling for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Rockettes, minus some dancers in the troupe who refused to participate. Barrack spun the situation by noting that the inauguration already had its star power—“the greatest celebrity in the world,” as he put it—in the form of the incoming president.

Ivanka Trump seemed particularly attuned to the stagecraft. When Melania Trump opened the White House residence to all of her husband’s children for the weekend following the inauguration, the president’s elder daughter put in a request to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom. (Permission granted.) When Melania wavered over the idea of the customary parade down Pennsylvania Avenue after the swearing-in ceremony, citing security concerns, Ivanka dug in. “It’s happening,” she told an organizer. She worked with a stylist and told friends that she wanted a “princess moment.” “I told her it’s an inauguration, not a coronation,” one friend recalled. “The sentiment was that Americans wanted a royal family.”

And get this about that feckless git, Ivanka's post election loss plan:
The week before the election, she had submitted the manuscript for her book Women Who Work and anticipated the editing process. Executives at Portfolio, her publisher, felt that the manuscript was largely devoid of emotion. They solicited her to add personal, engaging details about her relationship with her parents—”to make her seem like she had a pulse,” one person involved with the book explained. “Like she was a human.”
I'm guessing she probably had to hire a ghost writer for that.

Obama on the morning after

by digby

The Horror

This New York Times piece about former Obama official Ben Rhodes' memoir makes me not want to read it since I think it will bring me back down to a place I don't ever want to be again:
Riding in a motorcade in Lima, Peru, shortly after the 2016 election, President Barack Obama was struggling to understand Donald J. Trump’s victory.

“What if we were wrong?” he asked aides riding with him in the armored presidential limousine.

He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. “Maybe we pushed too far,” Mr. Obama said. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.”
Mr. Rhodes describes the reaction of foreign leaders. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan apologized for breaching protocol by meeting with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan after the election. Mr. Obama urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada to take on a more vocal role defending the values they shared.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama that she felt more obliged to run for another term because of Mr. Trump’s election to defend the liberal international order. When they parted for the final time, Ms. Merkel had a single tear in her eye. “She’s all alone,” Mr. Obama noted.

And yet despite criticism even from former advisers to Mr. Obama, Mr. Rhodes offers little sense that the former president thought he could have done more to counter Russian involvement in the election. Mr. Obama had authorized a statement to be issued by intelligence agency leaders a month before the election warning of Russian interference, but was thwarted from doing more because Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, refused to go along with a bipartisan statement.

Mr. Rhodes called Mr. McConnell’s refusal “staggeringly partisan and unpatriotic.” But Mr. Obama, whose Supreme Court nomination had been blocked by Mr. McConnell for months, seemed less surprised.

“What else did you expect from McConnell?” he asked. “He won’t even give us a hearing on Merrick Garland.”

Still, in preparatory sessions before meetings with the news media before the election, aides pressed Mr. Obama to respond to criticism that he should speak out more about Russian meddling. “I talk about it every time I’m asked,” he responded. “What else are we going to do? We’ve warned folks.”

He noted that Mr. Trump was already claiming that the election would be manipulated if Hillary Clinton won. “If I speak out more, he’ll just say it’s rigged,” Mr. Obama said.

Rhodes writes that neither he nor the President knew about the FBI investigation into Trump's campaign and Russia. That's what the FBI and the Department of Justice say as well, although you'll never convince the wingnuts that the Kenyan Usurper didn't direct them to take down Trump (but wait until he won to do it for some reason...)

The next day, Mr. Obama focused on cheering up his despondent staff. At one point, he sent a message to Mr. Rhodes saying, “There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth.”

But days later, Mr. Obama seemed less sanguine. “I don’t know,” he told aides. “Maybe this is what people want. I’ve got the economy set up well for him. No facts. No consequences. They can just have a cartoon.”

He added that “we’re about to find out just how resilient our institutions are, at home and around the world.”

The day Mr. Obama hosted Mr. Trump at the White House after the election seemed surreal. Mr. Trump kept steering the conversation back to the size of his rallies, noting that he and Mr. Obama could draw big crowds, but Mrs. Clinton could not, Mr. Rhodes writes.

Afterward, Mr. Obama called a few aides to the Oval Office to ruminate on the encounter. “I’m trying to place him in American history,” he said.

“He peddles” bull, Mr. Rhodes answered. “That character has always been part of the American story. You can see it right back to some of the characters in Huckleberry Finn.”

“Maybe,” Mr. Obama answered, “that’s the best we can hope for.”


I wonder if Obama knew that Trump's only agenda would be to reverse everything he did.

It's true that there have always been conmen and snake oil salesmen in America. Don't stop with Mark Twain. Read Herman Melville, Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more for a road map to this bullshit. There have been endless cults and faux "movements" led by such hustlers from the very beginning. These hoaxsters and phonies are as American as it gets.

I don't think we ever thought that one could become president although I guess we should have figured it out. And in this case, the fault really lies with the fools who follow him. They yearned to be fed some ugly, ugly hate and they got it in spades.

Obama was obviously depressed by the result as all decent people were. But he always seems to be surprised by the fact that Republicans, including their voters, could ever be as ruthlessly nihilistic and anarchistic as they are. All the way to the end, it seems.

I worry that even in the face of this monumental clusterfuck of an administration, other Democratic officials have still not learned that lesson.


L'etat c'est moi o' the day

by digby

“When the outcome is fixed, when the system is rigged, people lose hope. They detach. Our society becomes unplugged and unhinged. When the powerful can get away with anything, because they have the money and the connections to rig the system, then the laws lose their moral authority.” --- Donald Trump, 2016

Trump loves using his royal prerogative powers as King of all Real Americans. Via Think Progress:

Donald Trump announced he will pardon conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza on Thursday, erasing his political ally’s May 2014 guilty plea to a campaign finance felony. The unexpected move comes a day after meeting with Kim Kardashian to discuss the importance of “prison reform and sentencing” and as several former Trump employees mull how to deal with their own legal issues stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump made the announcement via a Thursday morning tweet, once again bypassing the longstanding process of vetting pardons and commutation petitions. The president’s only justification for the “full pardon” was his claim that D’Souza was somehow treated “unfairly.” In reality, he admitted to circumventing federal campaign finance limits by reimbursing associates for $20,000 worth of contributions made in their own names to Republican Wendy Long’s unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York — a felony.

Like Trump, D’Souza earned his political fame and conservative bona fides by questioning the Americanness of Barack Obama. He is currently promoting a book which purportedly exposes “the Nazi roots of the American left.”

D’Souza marked the fourth living person to receive a pardon or commutation from Trump so far, joining fellow birther and political ally Joe Arpaio, convicted Justice-obstructer I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier. Each has had distinctly political undertones.

An array of government ethics and legal experts were quick to point out that the Dinesh pardon and others appear to be a signal to former employees that he will protect them from punishment if they protect him from Mueller’s investigation. Trump tweeted on Sunday of his concern for the “young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt.”

Trump's midterm strategy. Oh boy.

by digby

My Salon column this morning is about the Trump strategy for the mid-terms. It's not pretty:

Now that the midterm election campaign is finally rolling, we will undoubtedly start hearing a whole lot about polls again. Not to worry, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight assures us that contrary to popular myth, polling has not fallen apart and is as reliable as it's ever been — which is to say, fairly reliable. Silver and his crew have done a thorough analysis of the various organizations, if you are a polling junkie. The rest of us will do fine by just checking the polling averages at the various websites that aggregate them all.

But one of the difficult things to measure in standard polling is enthusiasm.

Pollsters do ask the question and try to quantify intensity, but who knows how people are going to feel months from now, right? So far, the off-year and special elections over the past year have shown a substantial advantage in enthusiasm for the Democrats, and they've had much greater success at the ballot box than the Republicans. Democratic voters have very intense feelings about Donald Trump and the direction of the country, and since midterms are almost always a referendum on the president, that's probably a good sign for the proverbial "Blue Wave" that everyone is anticipating to crest in November.

But while the Democrats may be galvanized and motivated to take back Congress in order to stop Trump's legislative agenda and provide the oversight that the Republicans have irresponsibly abdicated in order to cover up their leader's misdeeds and malfeasance, that's not the whole story. The GOP is deeply in thrall to Donald Trump; the base voters never waver in their devotion, no matter what he's done. They may just not be as enthusiastic about voting for their own Congressional representative, and that's where the president comes in.

Trump's going to hit the campaign trail tough this fall, and if his Tennessee rally on Tuesday is an example, he's taking off the gloves. And if those rally-goers are any example, he hasn't lost his ability to bring them to screaming ecstasy.

Both Politico and The New York Times had stories yesterday about Trump's campaign plans. Politico headlined theirs, "Trump’s new midterm strategy: Outrage." They report that Trump will brag about his alleged accomplishments, of course. That goes without saying. But mostly it's going to be about attacking the media and immigrants, with a focus on the violent street gang MS-13.

There is evidence that Trump's attacks on the media have already born fruit, via Politico:

GOP campaign strategists say they need to close the intensity gap with Democrats, who are anticipating an anti-Trump wave. Stoking outrage has proven effective. An October POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found that 76 percent of Republicans think the news media fabricate stories about Trump. And a Poynter Institute study last year found that more than 60 percent of respondents who supported Trump believe that the media is the “enemy of the American people.”

The New York Times reported that Trump was going to target red-state Democratic senators specifically with his red-meat message:

In both his own campaign and a series of special elections since, Mr. Trump has been far better equipped to knock down a rival than to lift up an ally. The hope now is that his savage attacks, penchant for mimicry and resourcefulness in nickname creation — recall “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco” — can be turned to devastating effect on the very Senate Democrats who have gone to lengths to avoid publicly breaking with him. 
“He’s the definer in chief,” said Rob Collins, who ran the National Republican Senatorial Committee when the party took back the chamber in 2014. “He comes in, defines the opponent in a way that’s unconventional and unorthodox, but it sticks.”
Calling him the "definer in chief" is a nice way to say that he comes up with puerile insults that his followers adore and repeat like parrots.

But unlike the Democrats, Trump himself is not shying away from talking about impeachment. Indeed, he is going out there and saying directly that if Republicans don't get off the couch and vote, the Democrats are going to run him out of office. Normally, a politician would not introduce a subject like that for fear of creating a question in anyone's mind that there might be some legitimacy to such a move. But that's where Trump's strategy of impugning the integrity and patriotism of the Justice Department, the Special Prosecutor, the Intelligence Community and the normal congressional oversight process comes in.

He's already declaring the whole thing is "rigged," just as he did during the campaign, and is even tweeting that the "13 Angry Democrats" of the Mueller investigation will be "meddling in the midterms." As I pointed out the other day, Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani openly admitted that their legal strategy is to delegitimize the prosecutors among Republican voters in order to taint the jury pool.

That's already working too.

According to a recent CNN poll just 17 percent of Republicans give Mueller a positive approval rating, down from 29 percent in March. You'll recall that the president didn't mention Mueller's name or the Special Prosecutor's office until fairly recently.

If Trump's Nashville rally on Tuesday was indicative of how he plans to campaign, we're in for some very energetic racial demagoguery. He attacked Jay-Z for his "filthy language" (which, coming from the man on the Access Hollywood tape, is rich) and his crowds seem even more aroused by the immigration issue than they were in 2016. You'll recall that he was criticized recently over a discussion in which he called gang members "animals" in such a slippery way that it was obviously meant as a racist dog-whistle he intended to apply to ordinary undocumented workers as well. Just last week he said of unaccompanied children at the border, “they look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

This is not entirely new, of course. He said much the same about Syrian refugee children, and he has always engaged in the most lurid, bloodthirsty rhetoric about Muslims, undocumented immigrants and inner city gangs. He gets very intense and focused when he's ranting about "blood-stained killing fields" and people who are "savagely burning, raping, and mutilating" in vivid detail on the stump.

But even his crowd seemed a little bit thrown by where he went with it in Nashville. Others were appalled:

Nonetheless, the crowd all dutifully yelled "animals!" when Trump introduced his sickening new call and response and spoke of our country as if he's liberated it from an invading horde:

Whatever is wrong with America, he alone can fix it with his "big beautiful hands":

That's a very disturbed demagogue who is just letting his id run wild. The question is how many people Trump can inspire to get up off their couches and vote in November with this ugly message. And what will they do if they lose?

Another Letter to the NY Times 

by tristero

To the Editor:

Whether canceling “Roseanne” is an act of corporate bravery or just retribution, the fact remains that the public shaming of Roseanne Barr will do nothing to change her heart about her feelings about African-Americans and may in fact intensify the feeling of persecution felt by those people who share her rancid point of view. 
The real teaching moment is for liberals to stop feeling so morally superior when we stand up to racism in this way and learn that to change people’s outlook, you have to persuade them through example that they will be better people if they eschew their racist tendencies and recognize the humanity that exists in all of us. 

Bullshit. It's not I who refuses to recognize Roseanne Barr's humanity, but Barr who explicitly refused to recognized the humanity of others. It's not any kind of "retribution" for such dehumanization to be condemned and for the purveyors of dehumanization to experience consequences. It's simply necessary.

Nor is it particularly brave for a corporation to have cancelled her show. It was simple human decency of the sort Barr doesn't have.

Finally, liberals "persuade by example" not by trying to engage people who simply are too wrapped up in their bigotry to be engaged but by expressing outrage at racist remarks and insisting they have no place in public discourse.

The Dread

by Tom Sullivan

Existential dread is such a chronic malady among white people it is surprising Big Pharma is not already marketing a colorful pill expressly for it. A dozen years long ago, Mark Steyn screamed a claxon warning in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that the West's low birthrates relative to the Muslim world portended the end of western civilization before the century is out. Our "lack of civilizational confidence" meant slow suicide by immigration and, I guess, too much sex for recreation rather than procreation. Meaning white women needed to stop taking their monthly pills and white men needed to stock up on the little blue ones.

The Dread grew more slowly among non-readers of the Journal. It's been out there, building slowly, subconsciously for years. White people would eventually become just another minority in the United States. Still quite a large plurality, to be sure, but, short of a parliamentary-style coalition with Others, lacking the electoral clout to rule as God intended. White people know well how this country treats minorities. They have been the ones doing the treating for centuries.

September 11 was a gut-punch to our civilizational confidence. But it was the one-two combination of electing the first black president followed by a white nationalist to unleash The Dread in the land. Donald Trump openly campaigned for president by calling it forth like Imhotep from the undead.

No wonder white people are angry and self-medicating. On the political right especially, the alphas cannot admit to feeling threatened. (It's an authoritarian thing.) Another way must be found to treat the fear. Kicking down will do in a pinch.

A study in Social Forces released on Wednesday by researchers at two California universities puts data behind what we already knew (Washington Post):

White Americans are more likely to favor welfare cuts when they believe that their status is threatened and that minorities are the main beneficiaries of safety net programs, the study says.
In other news, the sky is blue.

Co-authors Rachel Wetts of UC Berkeley and Robb Willer of Stanford examined 10 years of data on attitudes towards race and social welfare programs. One survey found "whites' racial resentment rose in 2008, the same year of the Great Recession and election of Barack Obama, suggesting that perceptions of increased political power among minorities were leading whites to sense a threat to their group's status." The data showed opposition to social welfare programs rising over the same period among all Americans, but sharply among whites whose scores on racial resentment also tracked upwards. The sociologists designed three experiments to determine if the two were linked:
White Americans called for deeper cuts to welfare programs after viewing charts that showed they would become a racial minority within 50 years. They also opposed welfare programs more when they were told that people of color benefit most from them.

Those results show that the push to cut welfare programs is not driven by pure political motives, such as decreasing government spending or shrinking government bureaucracy, Wetts said.

“We find evidence that these shifts [in sentiment against welfare programs] are specifically directed at programs people see as benefiting minorities instead of whites,” she added.
Other factors might be at play as well, Wetts admits. Anxieties over the pace of change, for example. Still, say political scientists Adam M. Enders and Jamil S. Scott. "More and more, white Americans use their racial attitudes to help them decide their positions on political questions such as whom to vote for or what stance to take on important issues including welfare and health care."

Sean McElwee covered some of this same ground in 2015:
Similarly, in absolute terms, whites do better under Democratic than under Republican leadership. But that doesn’t really matter. People weigh their well-being relative to those around them. There is strong evidence that whites often oppose actions against inequality because of “last place aversion,” the desire to ensure that there is a class of people below oneself. Among white voters, racial bias is strongly correlated with lower support of redistributive programs. For example, research shows that opposition to welfare is driven by racial anger. Approximately half of the difference between social spending in the U.S. and Europe can be explained by racial animosity.
What people underestimate is the power of power in social relationships. As Lyndon Johnson once said, "If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you."

The Social Forces study follows others demonstrating that in a period in which they feel their position on the social ladder challenged, the last thing many white people want is to help anyone on a lower wrung move up. Even if they themselves are harmed in the process.

So in pursuit of maintaining white power requiring identity cards for voting is a popular enthusiasm among (disproportionately white) Republicans even if the laws deny the vote to their own partisans.

A 2012 survey from University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication showed people “harbor negative sentiments towards African Americans” are more likely to support voter ID laws. (This includes Democrats who score high in racial resentment.) That such laws disproportionately impede voting by students, racial minorities, and the poor who tend to vote with Democrats is not a bug, but a feature.

But the laws drawn to bolster declining white electoral clout among Republicans impact Republican voters as well. Women, in particular.

Dahlia Lithwick speculated in 2013 that since Republican voter ID laws impact women disproportionately, the wave of new laws might be seen as "the next front in the war on women." But since "women in red states ... have much higher divorce and remarriage rates. And women in the South have especially high remarriage rates," Republican women may be harmed as well as Democratic voters.

I found just this problem in North Carolina with the state's VIVA omnibus voting law bill. The actuaries designing voter ID laws know this. They just don't care:
See, GOP leaders are playing the percentages. They figure that VIVA's voting restrictions will hurt more Democrats than Republicans -- and they will hurt Republicans. Still, Republican leaders calculate that, in the end, the net result will help them hold onto power. Indefinitely.

But the real story North Carolina and the rest of the country misses is that Republican leaders consider any of their own voters hurt by these vote suppression measures collateral damage. Acceptable casualties. Expendables.
The Dread has white people both lashing out at minorities and eating their own. Coming to grips with the existential fear on a policy level means acknowledging that race and class are inextricably intertwined.

Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, told PBS NewsHour on Wednesday that racism, poverty and militarism are indeed interconnected:
We are saying there are five interlocking injustices that America has to face, because they continue to cause policy violence.

That is systemic racism, particularly seen through the lens of voter suppression, where people use voter suppression to get elected, and then, once they get elected, they pass policies that hurt the poor, mostly white women, children and the working poor.

Systemic race — systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism, and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism that says, you don’t have to address those issues.

We are saying, yes, America is going to have to face these five interlocking injustices and change them.
Anat Shenker-Osorio (Don't Buy It) tweeted in response to the Social Forces study, "This is why we must treat race and class as they are: inextricably linked. Divide and conquer is the trick they use to turn us not merely against people of color but the very idea of shared fate and with it government."

E pluribus unum may be out of fashion on the right, but it is inevitable, Dread or no Dread.

* * * * * * * *

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"The greatest threat to our democracy..."

by digby

I don't know anything about this Democratic candidate's politics with respect to issues. But I admire his willingness to go here:

I understand he has a good chance to beat Barbara Comstock, the odious former anti-Clinton dirty trickster from the 1990s.

So, more power to him. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Inauguration day 2024?

by digby

Don't laugh. Donald Trump is president.

I'm personally looking forward to the Real Housewives of Orange County getting the Medal of Freedom.

The behavior of a guilty man

by digby

About all that collusion:

The Times' Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfield David report the encounter occurred in March 2017, shortly after Sessions first recused himself:
The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.
Mr. Sessions refused. 
The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.
Rather remarkably, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani seemed to tacitly confirm the episode in a comment to the Times. “Unrecuse’ doesn’t say, ‘Bury the investigation,’" Giuliani said. “It says on the face of it: Take responsibility for it and handle it correctly.”

In retrospect, it makes sense that this kind of episode would exist. On that list of 49 questions Trump's lawyers believe Mueller is interested in asking Trump, eight of them deal specifically with Sessions's recusal. It's been clear for a while that Trump was unhappy with that decision — and The Post has long reported Sessions has been a significant focus of Mueller's — but some questions seemed to allude specifically to an episode such as this:
“What did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions?”
“What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?”

That latter question was initially thought to refer to a previously reported effort by Trump to get White House counsel Donald McGahn to prevent Sessions from recusing himself. Turns out, it also seems to have been about this episode. And given Trump seems to have attempted to stop, tried to reverse and repeatedly rued Sessions's decision, it's not unreasonable to think there might be other episodes we simply don't know about yet.

Other questions sure seem to point in that direction. For instance, one question was: “What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?” Trump reportedly asked Coats (in front of Pompeo) to try to help him get leniency for Michael Flynn, but this clearly isn't that.

Another question was: “What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel?” Another was: " ... What did you do when that consideration [of firing Mueller] was reported in January 2018?” Neither are entirely clear when it comes to the events they refer to. But the fact that the mystery of the Sessions questions above had a somewhat logical solution — another potential instance of behavior that could be interpreted as obstruction of justice — suggests there are very likely to be others. Did Trump take further action to try to undercut Mueller from the get-go? The lesson from this latest disclosure seems to be that it was likely.

Former federal prosecutor Harry Littman pointed out on MSNBC today that Trump's oft-repeated line that he never would have hired Jeff Sessions if he had told him that he would recuse himself indicates that he expected Session to pledge fealty to him no matter what happened in the future. He is the liege lord.

We have strong reason to doubt that Mueller will charge Trump with anything including obstruction of justice. (He might charge others close to him, of course.) And who knows what might happen with the conspiracy case, money laundering etc. But the obstruction case especially is likely going to end up in a report that may serve as the basis for impeachment. If he pushed Sessions to obstruct justice on his behalf, that may be an element that shakes loose some GOP senators. He's one of them.


Classified for thee but not for me

by digby

He spilled the beans again:

The White House has tried to avoid discussing a February skirmish between U.S. troops and Russian mercenaries in Syria, but that didn’t stop President Donald Trump from bragging about the Pentagon’s performance at a recent closed-door fundraiser.

The details of the battle remain classified, but speaking to donors in midtown Manhattan last Wednesday, Trump said he was amazed by the performance of American F-18 pilots. He suggested that the strikes may have been as brief as “10 minutes” and taken out 100 to 300 Russians, according to a person briefed on the president’s remarks, which have not previously been reported.

Trump often makes unscripted comments at fundraisers, and he revels in the exploits of the U.S. military. At a Republican National Committee fundraiser last fall, he told the crowd that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had “never lost a battle,” and he has bragged about the country’s nuclear superiority in confrontations with North Korea.

American officials have long feared that a clash with Russian forces in Syria would add tension to the already strained relationship between the two countries, and they intentionally avoided Russian targets last month when they bombed the country in response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons. According to The New York Times, which last week provided the first detailed description of the battle, the confrontation lasted four hours and left between 200 and 300 pro-Assad forces dead.

This is the kicker:
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah declined to comment on Trump’s remarks because information about the Syria strikes remains classified.

Irony, what irony?

Trump has explained many times that just as he cannot have a conflict of interest or obstruct justice he cannot endanger national security by anything he says because as president he has the ability to declassify on a whim if he so chooses. So he routinely impresses his rich pals with classified stories at fundraisers and other gatherings at his golf clubs on the week-ends.

This is all fine. He isn't that bad. It could have been worse, right? We could have had that criminal emailer for president, the one they still was to see locked up.

The president's lurid imagination

by digby

From his rally last night:

He absolutely loves to share these stories. It's a window into his mind. He's twisted.

I know we're not supposed to use the "F" word, but this is fascist demagoguery, people. There is not other way to define it.

The rally was full of the usual illuminating comments. This one I thought was particularly interesting. He sees himself as a liberator.

Trump is retelling his story about MS-13 as enemy occupying army and Trump as liberator of Long Island: "It's like they've been liberated, like from a war...the people are dancing and they're waving and they're looking out their windows and they're waving at the ICE people."

They greeted him with flowers ...

And then there's this.

This is not a stable person. But you knew that.

Reason to Hope 

by tristero

Recently, the Times published a long, poorly written, and mostly positive article about Franklin Graham, a far-right bigot and, by the way, the son of a famous preacher who was himself caught on tape enthusiastically agreeing with Nixon's anti-Semitic remarks).

The Times's letter writers set the paper straight today. A typical letter:
As a contemplative Christian and a progressive, I’m saddened and chagrined to read of Franklin Graham’s stand against California’s “blue wall” and to think of him as the voice of Christianity.
We’re called as Christians not to proclaim who is godless and blacklisted from the exclusive club we deem acceptable and who will join us in Heaven, but to welcome the stranger and to show love and compassion to everyone, even our enemies. Surely, God is bigger than all of us and our proclamations, even Franklin Graham’s.
Exactly right. Graham is the voice of a particularly weird Christian sect but the press has let him and his ilk get away for years with claiming they speak for all American Christians.

But now, it appears that finally mainstream Christians are speaking up to hold Graham's media enablers to account and doing so with a specifically Christian-themed message. All the letters are worth reading.

One of the worst things about the original article was that Graham's position within American Christianity were taken completely out of context because the author quoted only another evangelical preacher to criticize Graham (he called  Graham's message "politically toxic"). A truly balanced article would have also solicited and published opinions about Graham's extremism from Episcopal priests, Methodists, Catholics, and others.

Going forward, let's see whether the Times takes these letters to heart and stops falling for a right wing religious con job. These mere fact that the letters were published gives me some hope.

Republican lawlessness FTW

by digby

My Salon column this morning is about Trump's continued assault on the rule of law:

Many in the media and Democratic politics are complaining vociferously about the Republican-led House Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which they see as lackadaisical in their approach to administration scandals. They are actually way off base. Those committees are committed to do their duty and have simply been waiting for Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to release his report so they can really dig in and investigate. That report is about to drop, and the committees have already scheduled a number of hearings to obtain testimony from high-level participants in the hopes of getting to the bottom of this whole complicated mess.

I'm speaking, of course, about Obama administration scandals, specifically the ongoing, burning issue of Hillary Clinton's emails from when she was secretary of state. This particular investigation began in January 2017 with the intention of looking into former FBI Director James Comey's decision to violate protocol and publicly criticize Clinton, even as he declined to pursue a case against her, and then to reignite the controversy just 10 days before the election.

Horowitz was also going to investigate whether former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have recused himself, an issue that has already been discussed when McCabe was fired earlier this year, and also explore Rudy Giuliani's shenanigans in the waning days of the 2016 campaign, when he signaled that he might be getting information from inside the FBI about the reopening of the email investigation. (Fox News reports that the committees have scheduled a whole bunch of current and former FBI and DOJ officials, but so far Giuliani doesn't seem to be on anyone's witness list.)

So never say these Republicans don't care about oversight. They are actually obsessed with it -- as long as it has nothing to do with the current occupant of the White House. We can expect a full-blown rehash of the email scandal, possibly in public, leaving no stone unturned, turned over, rolled down a hill or turned over again.

This is their privilege, of course. They have the power to investigate anyone they choose. But it doesn't take a very stable genius to know that they are not doing this because they are deeply concerned with national security. If they were, they might be investigating the fact that the president spills classified information constantly and -- much as he declares himself immune from all conflict of interest and corruption -- insists that he cannot endanger national security since he has the power to declassify anything he chooses.

Even though the one result of the inspector general's report that's been made public was actually rushed through in order to deny McCabe his pension by firing him at the last possible moment, Trump evidently doesn't trust Horowitz to do his bidding. He's already preemptively attacked him, just in case, making it very clear that he was unhappy when Attorney General Jeff Sessions tasked Horowitz with investigating the supposed scandal about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that's been cooked up by House Republicans. He tweeted, “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

That is just one example of Trump attacking his own government in order to create the perception that the FBI and DOJ are part of a "deep state" conspiracy to ruin his presidency. He tweets out endless insults and degrading comments and gives interviews saying that he's "disappointed." In another example of his dictatorial mindset, he has said a number of times that he is barely holding back from exercising his constitutionally guaranteed presidential power to force people at those agencies to follow his orders or be fired.

These messages are loud and clear. The president publicly makes it known what he wants, and it's up to the FBI and DOJ to determine how to deal with it. As with the recent capitulation of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to reveal highly classified intelligence information to Trump's acolytes, they often appease him and erode the norms even more. (He is apparently even worse in private. The New York Times reported on Tuesday evening that Trump personally told Sessions to rescind his recusal from the Russia investigation!)

An independent Department of Justice that operates at some distance from the White House is another one of those "norms" we all talk about incessantly. Donald Trump seems to believe that norms were made to be broken. But this pattern does seem to be escalating in a specifically authoritarian way. As I've noted, he's been very clear to exclude himself from the rule of law in any number of ways, with his constant Nixonian insistence that if the president does it, it can't possibly be illegal.

But lately, Trump has been branching out to attack the rule of law in other circumstances beyond his own. Last week, for instance, speaking of the backlog in immigration courts, he told "Fox & Friends":
Other countries have what's called security people. People who stand there and say you can't come in. We have thousands of judges and they need thousands of more judges. The whole system is corrupt. It's horrible. Whoever heard of a system where you put people through trials? Where do these judges come from?
Eliminating courts would be illegal under both federal and international law, as well as unconstitutional. But then, Trump thinks that immigrants from "shithole countries" are "animals," so perhaps he believes he's found a loophole. He has also suggested in recent days that even Americans should be deported if they refuse to stand for the national anthem.

Over and over again, Trump is making the case that he is above the law, and the Constitution is no more than an anachronistic irrelevance. His followers cheer him wildly for making that case, and there's every reason to believe that this idea is starting to become less shocking and disorienting every day. Trump is marketing this idea as diligently as he marketed his former brand, with arrogance and authority, over and over and over again. The Republicans in Congress are fully subscribed, as are roughly 40 percent of the American people. How can anyone be sure we can put Humpty Dumpty together again after all this?



Take a plea he's a madman don't you know

by Tom Sullivan

Gen. Garcia (Richard Libertini) with "Señor Pepe" (The In-Laws, 1979).

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times drew fire last weekend from Twitter critics for characterizing a blaze of disjointed Trump tweets as "demonstrable falsehoods" rather than lies. Twitter users were not in the mood to split hairs over whether the statements were misinformed, disinformation, spin, etc., and saw the soft-peddling as lack of media courage to what-else to power. But lies implies knowing falsehoods. Haberman wrote, Trump "often thinks whatever he says is what's real."

Over at the Washington Post this morning, Dana Milbank backs up that assessment, writing, "With each day it becomes more obvious he can’t distinguish between fact and fantasy." He's getting worse, Milbank adds:

I’ve been writing for two years about his seeming inability to separate truth from falsehood: from his claim that he opposed the Iraq War to his belief that his rainy inauguration was “really sunny.” The man who ghostwrote Trump’s “Art of the Deal” marveled at Trump’s “ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true.”
The Post Fact Checker's count of Trump's falsehoods since taking office topped 3,000 weeks ago. The average daily count has been rising, Milbank writes. Really though, to get a fuller picture what we ought to see (to be unnecessarily fair) is a trend line of his truths-to-lies ratio over time. The picture would be worth another thousand falsehoods debunked.

Tali Sharot, professor of cognitive science at the University College London, explains that through "emotional adaptation" the natural discomfort people feel when telling lies declines as they tell more, leading to telling more. By now Trump would produce a flat line on a lie detector.

But emotional adaptation sounds a bit like the Twinkie defense or Rosanne Barr's blaming Ambien for her racist tweets rather than racism. Milbank believes what he dubs the Propaganda President's "Trumpery" isn't symptomatic of his being a liar, but a madman.

Trump's enablers in Congress and in the White House have no such excuse. What they are doing in claiming up is down and black is white is lying. Trump's rally crowds luxuriate in the lies and smears as others do in golden showers. That goes beyond political to spiritual corruption.

But whether falsehoods are lies when told to federal investigators poses a problem in proving perjury should Trump ever sit down across the table from special counsel Robert Mueller or his team. An obstruction of justice charge turns not just on intent but actions. The New York Times last night reported that Mueller is now exploring Trump's attempts to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Trump wanted a loyalist in the post and has heaped ire on Sessions ever since:
Investigators have pressed current and former White House officials about Mr. Trump’s treatment of Mr. Sessions and whether they believe the president was trying to impede the Russia investigation by pressuring him. The attorney general was also interviewed at length by Mr. Mueller’s investigators in January. And of the four dozen or so questions Mr. Mueller wants to ask Mr. Trump, eight relate to Mr. Sessions. Among them: What efforts did you make to try to get him to reverse his recusal?
Even more stunning is this revelation:
Mr. Trump complains to friends about how much he would like to get rid of Mr. Sessions but has demurred under pressure from Senate Republicans who have indicated they would not confirm a new attorney general.
The obstruction case is building as is pressure inside the Oval Office. But as two-tier and corrupt as our system of justice is, whatever he tells investigators it is unlikely the propagandist-in-chief will face perjury charges even after he leaves office. Even if charges appear, he is far too arrogant to plead insanity even if he is a madman.

* * * * * * * *

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The genesis of the probe

by digby

As I wrote earlier today, Giuliani is throwing out a lot of nonsense right now, trying to taint the jury pool in case this goes to impeachment which they are obviously preparing for.

But if you want to untangle the details of what the right is claiming, this Philip Bump WaPo piece goes a long way toward explaining that Giuliani, Hannity and Trump are full of it:

It seems increasingly clear that former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s new role as defender of President Trump may be more significant in a public relations sense than a legal one.
Giuliani is an experienced lawyer, and he may be providing specific guidance to Trump behind the scenes, but his forays into the media have been a prominent effort to shape the boundaries of the investigation from a political perspective. Trump sees the investigation as invalid, and Giuliani is doing everything he can to bolster that point of view.

On Friday, that effort involved a conversation with the Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire and Eric Tucker.

“If the spying was inappropriate, that means we may have an entirely illegitimate investigation,” Giuliani said, referring to Trump’s allegation that information provided by a Britain-based informant constituted “spying.” “Coupled with Comey’s illegally leaked memos,” he added, “this means the whole thing was a mistake and should never have happened.”

This point about the genesis of the investigation into possible ties between the Russian government and Trump’s 2016 campaign has been recurrent. Over and over, different things have been posited as the true genesis of the investigation, generally because those things are presented as disqualifying in the way that Giuliani appears to be ready to argue.

It raises an interesting question, though: What was the genesis for the investigation into possible ties between the campaign and Russia? What’s more, is that even the proper way to ask the question?

October 2016? Let’s work backward. Earlier this year, there was a political fight over a memo prepared by a staffer for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) which argued that an application for a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was based on politically biased information. That information came from what’s generally referred to as the “dossier,” a collection of reports written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele on behalf of the firm Fusion GPS, which was being paid to dig into Trump’s business ties by a law firm working for the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

When Nunes’s memo was released, it was quickly undercut by a competing memo from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and by outside observers. Setting aside those concerns, it’s clear that the warrant wasn’t the origination of the Russia investigation. The Nunes memo makes clear that an investigation into Russia’s interaction with the campaign had begun before that warrant being granted in October 2016.

July 2016? “The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok,” the memo reads, referring to information the FBI received focused on another Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos. That information, it seems, was a tip from the Australian government that one of its diplomats, Alexander Downer, had been in contact with Papadopoulos in May. Over drinks in London, Papadopoulos allegedly told Downer that he’d been told the Russians had collected emails incriminating Clinton. When WikiLeaks began releasing emails stolen from the DNC in late July 2016, the Australians informed the American government about what Papadopoulos had said.

An investigation was launched on July 31, according to the Democratic response to the Nunes memo. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the investigation was code-named “Crossfire Hurricane.” According to various reports, including the Times’s, Papadopoulos was one of at least four people involved with Trump’s campaign who were at some point investigated by the FBI. The others were Trump’s eventual national security adviser Michael Flynn, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Page.

Now we come to the “spy” claim that has been the focus of recent attention by the president and Giuliani. It’s a reference to outreach by an informant named Stefan Halper, a professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge. In 2016, he reached out to both Page and Papadopoulos, apparently prying them for information about any contacts with the Russian government.

His conversation with Papadopoulos, though, occurred in September, well after it’s understood that the FBI started looking at Papadopoulos’s contacts. Halper spoke with Page in mid-July 2016, before “Crossfire Hurricane” launched and shortly after Page had returned from a speaking engagement in Moscow. Was that the origin of the investigation?

March 2016? Probably not. We know from the Democratic memo that the FBI talked to Page about possible contacts with the Russian government in March2016 — even before Papadopoulos was told about the emails and the same month that Page was named as an adviser to the Trump campaign. Page had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, when the agency obtained a recording of a Russian agent who had mentioned targeting Page as a potential Russian asset. Whether there was an active FBI investigation into Page in March 2016 isn’t clear.

It’s unclear, too, if there were multiple investigations into the four Trump-campaign related individuals that eventually merged into one investigation or if they all began formally in late July. The nature of the investigation toward the end of the campaign isn’t clear, either: Was it an investigation into the campaign broadly or into those four individuals?

Late 2015? The Guardian reported in April of last year that foreign intelligence agencies — including the British GCHQ — had begun to gather suspicious communications between “figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents” beginning in late 2015. Those communications were shared with American intelligence agencies into mid-2016. At the Observer, former NSA analyst John Schindler explored the question of when the investigation began and points to those communications as being the possible original trigger for its investigations.

But who could those “figures” have been? None of the four people under investigation by the FBI were associated with the campaign in late 2015. Flynn joined in February 2016; Manafort, Page and Papadopoulos in March. In December 2015 — a period that overlaps with the Guardian’s report — Flynn attended a dinner in Moscow for the Kremlin-backed media outlet RT. It’s not clear whether that raised red flags for American intelligence officials, but it seems possible that Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until August 2014, dining with Russian President Vladimir Putin might attract someinterest.

When he first acknowledged the existence of the investigation during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in March 2017, former FBI director James B. Comey said that it had begun in July of the year before. It’s possible that we’re conflating several things into one: The investigation into possible collusion triggered by the Papadopoulos news in July and separate investigations into people associated with the campaign that began at other points. It’s hard to say with certainty.

The trigger for Mueller’s investigation was an order from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein signed in May of last year. It specifically authorizes Mueller to pick up the investigation referenced by Comey in March 2016, an investigation that at the time Mueller took it over was a bit under 10 months old (“a fairly short period of time” for a counterintelligence investigation, Comey told the House committee).

Giuliani’s claim that Mueller’s probe was predicated on biased or improper information cherry-picks particular points of complaint with the obvious goal of smearing the entire effort to figure out what contacts might have existed as politically biased. Memos shared with a friend by Comey to tip off the Times about his conversations with Trump had nothing to do with the existence of what Mueller was investigating. In fact, it seems clear that Mueller’s appointment was an effort to protect the investigation from political interference, given what Comey alleged he had been told by Trump. Take out that concern about interference, and the investigation would still have moved forward within the FBI.

The full nature of the investigation or investigations isn’t clear, for obvious reasons. What is clear is that the public explanation of the main effort to determine if there were contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian actors predates Mueller and is derived to some substantial degree from what Papadopoulos told Downer in May 2016 — a year before Mueller joined the effort.

Meaning that it is also clear that Giuliani’s presentation of the genesis for the investigation is obviously flawed.

I know it's complicated but it's important to recall that the intelligence community has been looking at Manafort for years and Carter Page was on their radar since 2013. We've known for a while that there was a lot of "chatter" about Trump and Russia going back to 2015. You can imagine that by 2016, when it became clear that there were Russian connections coming up all over the campaign, they grew concerned that something really weird was happening.

The wingnuts are throwing this stuff out there to sow confusion and create the illusion that there's some kind of controversy over what the IC did. There really isn't. They did what one would expect when they see a foreign adversary apparently trying to infiltrate a presidential campaign. And keep in mind that they kept it totally close to the vest, never said a word and the man was elected. We don't know what would have happened if Trump hadn't immediately started talking about lifting sanctions, created back channels, refused to deal with the election interference and then threw a hysterical tantrum over the investigation every five minutes ever since. But if he hadn't, there likely would have been a whole lot less suspicion about his involvement in the interference.

At least she didn't kneel, amirite?

by digby

It seems like a good day to look at a time when Roseanne wasn't a right wing icon:

The crotch grab and spit at the end was a nice touch.

She's always been controversial. But at some point it shifted into winuttery, conspiracy theories and grotesque bigotry. The network knew it when they hired her. It was a feature not a bug --- they wanted Trump's bigot following. In the long run it wasn't worth it.

It remains to be seen if the United States will come to the same conclusion.

Evil Chauncey Gardner

by digby

This piece by McKay Coppins called "Trump's Right-hand Troll" about the odious Stephen Miller is a must read. I particularly liked the part about how Trump makes decisions:
When President Trump needs to learn about an issue, he likes to stage his own cable-news-style shout-fests in the Oval Office. In lieu of primped pundits, he has to make do with White House staffers, but the basic concept is the same: Two people with conflicting points of view whacking away at each other as forcefully—and entertainingly—as possible. Trump seems to process information best in this format, according to people who have worked in the administration. Often, when the debate lacks a voice for a position the president wants to hear articulated, he will call Miller into the room and have him make the case.

Miller “can play both sides for the sake of the argument,” Gidley told me. “He can come in and play the staunch conservative or the Democrat, because he understands both.” What’s more, he often wins. “You can pull a debate-club argument out of a hat and Stephen can argue it convincingly,” a former administration official said. “It’s not that he knows everything in the world—it’s that he understands Trump. He’s been dealing with him a long time, and he understands how he inputs information.”

Miller told me that while there is sometimes a need for a devil’s advocate, he spends most of his time pushing for positions that he believes in. Indeed, a review of his record thus far leaves little doubt about the agenda he’s trying to advance, from more aggressive law enforcement to a conservative-nationalist economic policy. Notably, he’s emerged as one of the most strident immigration restrictionists in an administration known for such draconian measures as forcibly separating children from their parents at the border.

He is an evil troll who is much smarter than the president and knows how to activate his inherent bigotry and hate.

Also, the president is a cretinous moron. It's not enough that he can't read anything. Apparently, he also can't understand a verbal briefing. He needs to have his people act out "issues" in "Crossfire" format and then picks the one who "won" which undoubtedly means he chooses whomever is the biggest asshole.

It's "Being There" except Chauncey is a neighborhood thug.


Freeway blogger FTW

by digby

The Freeway blogger has been putting up signs on California freeways for a decade and a half now. I thought this tweet was particularly hilarious:

Up for 4 days over 12 lanes of #California's slowest, densest traffic. Entirely unreachable by Republicans: Not only do you have to go through a mixed-race #homeless camp, it's SolarPowered as well.



He threw some paper towels at their heads and left

by digby

I think we all knew it was bad. But these numbers represent a whole lot of people who didn't have to die if the government had put the kind of effort into recovery that it put into other hurricane disaster areas:

Experts who work in disaster death toll assessment also raised red flags early on about the Puerto Rican government’s lack of clarity on how it was determining what was — and what was not — a hurricane-related death.

Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety told BuzzFeed News in October that it was not using any specific guidelines for deciding what was counted as a hurricane-related death.

Tuesday’s report reiterates that the lack of clear direction about how to record and report hurricane-related deaths led to a significant undercount by officials.

“Although direct causes of death are easier to assign by medical examiners, indirect deaths resulting from worsening of chronic conditions or from delayed medical treatments may not be captured on death certificates,” the researchers wrote.

John Mutter, a professor of earth sciences and public affairs at Columbia University who studied how the death count was handled after Hurricane Katrina, said that the methodology used in the Harvard study was “very sound.”

“That is an astonishing undercount,” Mutter told BuzzFeed News. “Something has gone terribly wrong here if they have a 70-times-higher death rate.”

President Donald Trump, during his visit to the island in October, used the relatively low official death toll — which was then at 16 people — as a measure of how Puerto Rico had not experienced a “real catastrophe” akin to what New Orleans suffered following Hurricane Katrina.

He was so proud of "his" hurricanes not killing as many people as George W. Bush's did.

But that was just another lie.

Trump n' Rudy's new legal strategy

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

As one might expect in the new Trump era, instead of a long Memorial week-end of somber presidential ceremonies honoring the nation's fallen, we got a short wreath laying ceremony and days of either self-aggrandizing or angry Trump tweeting and incoherent Rudy Giuliani blathering. Obviously the president was watching too much TV again and his lawyer was currying favor by appearing on it and trying to tell him what he wanted to hear. But in the midst of all that craziness, we actually got a glimpse of the Trump legal strategy for dealing with the Russia investigation.

The biggest brouhaha on social media occurred around the following tweet which was quickly disproved by reporters who got the comment from a White House official in a background briefing and then quickly devolved into an argument among journalists and others over what the meaning of the word "lie" is.

Apparently, some reporters think it isn't a lie if the pathologically dishonest president has actually persuaded himself that it's the truth. I'll let others sort that out.

Trump also tweeted one of the more egregious "I know you are but what am I" comments in his tenure with a cynical attempt to deflect criticism for his unhumane border policy of separating kids from their parents at the border. He wrote:

The horrible policy he speaks of is his own. Evidently, he thinks he can persuade Democrats to build his god-forsaken wall in exchange for allowing two month old babies to stay with their mothers rather than be forced into government detention. Essentially, he is holding infants and tiny children hostage to get what he wants and blaming the Democrats for refusing to give in to his demands. This is the logic of a thug, which is pretty much in keeping with how he operates in general.

Trump also pretending that he hadn't sent that embarrassing 7th grade break-up note to Kim Jong Unlast week and tweeted in passing that the summit might be back on, writing, "Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself. I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!" As Trump would say, "we shall see."

And he gave a moving tribute to the forgotten men and women of the Trump administration who gave their all for their country and now the nation turned its back on them:

It's unknown exactly who he's speaking about there. Perhaps that fresh-faced Republican Rob Porter, his former secretary who was forced out when it was revealed that he was a violent domestic abuser. Or maybe it was the youthful Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street fund manager who came to DC to serve his wealthy friend and mentor and flew too close to the sun. Poor ideolistic Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus just wanted to serve a GOP president no matter how unqualified and unfit he was and they ended up having to go back on the GOP Wingnut Welfare dole, their reputations fully intact. It truly is a tragedy.

But aside from that, Trump devoted most of his tweeting energy to slagging what he calls the "witch hunt" and "spygate" mostly turning his attention to Mueller's team and blaming President Obama for failing to warn him about the Russian interference while at the same time insisting the whole story is a hoax. Here is a little amuse bouche, just to get the flavor of it :

They did, of course. He got national security briefings from the moment he secured the nomination. They also briefed other Republican leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the latter of whom famously refused to allow the government to go public about Russian interference and threatened to say it was all partisan if anyone tried. Obama also personally warned Trump about Michael Flynn and his response was to immediately hire him to be his National Security Adviser.

You might be wondering what this new "13 Angry Democrats" meme he's coined is all about. He's speaking of the Mueller prosecutors, of course, and as absurd as it might sound, he seems to be referring to the movie "12 Angry Men", in which a single man was able to turn around a racist jury determined to find a defendant guilty despite little evidence of the crime. But in Trump's telling he, the man who demanded the execution of the innocent Central Park Five, is the persecuted minority kid and Mueller's prosecutors are the "angry" racists determined to find him guilty. Indeed, in Trump's inverse reality, the racist juror number 10 in the movie who declares "I'm sick and tired of facts!" must be Robert Mueller himself. This is too bonkers to be planned. It must be Trump hearing the echo of the title and vaguely recalling it being about a trial and unknowingly making the most ridiculously inapt allusion in history.No one could be that obtuse, not even Trump.

This fusillade of emotional tweets about the Russia investigation over the last week was helpfully explained by Rudy Giuliani who did a tour of the Sunday shows and laid out the strategy for all the world to see.  Salon's Taylor Link wrote up the bizarre interview with Dana Bash on CNN's State of the Union in which Bash said that Trump's team seemed to be waging a campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation. Giuliani replied:
“Of course we have to do it to defend the president. It is for public opinion. Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people. 
“So Republicans largely, many independents, even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation.] Democrats I would suggest for their own self-interest, this is not a good issue to go into the midterms.”
Basically, he's saying they expect this to end up with a serious impeachment debate and since they cannot defend their client on the facts and the evidence they will taint the jury pool. So, now we know.

For all of Trump's lies, the one thing you can count on is that Rudy will go on TV and spill the beans.


This is from today with a new twist. The "rigged" election theme re-emerges: