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Monday, December 10, 2018

As California goes....? (We hope)

by digby

This piece by Daniel Donner at Daily Kos
about the amazing death spiral of the GOP in California is fascinating. An excerpt:

The high point for the California GOP came with the re-election of Pete “I Am Not A Racist” Wilson as governor as he campaigned for the indisputably racist Proposition 187, in 1994, the year of the Angry White Male (oh, hindsight). Prop 187 coincided with a shift in the political preferences of Latinos even more toward Democrats, and an increase in Latino political participation; while causation is difficult to prove, alternate explanations are hard to come by.

Since then, there has been neither a will nor a way for California Republicans to reverse course to any meaningful extent. Addicted to their hateful rhetoric, they have effectively sent themselves into a death spiral as the demographics of the electorate have changed.

Which brings us to this year. In January there will be fewer House Republicans from California than there were in the 1920s, when California only had 11 representatives total.

Orange County, the conservative paradise, has been wiped clean of House Republicans. A brief survey of recent writings about the GOP’s fate in California yields the terms “wipeout,” “irrelevance,” “dead,” “toxic,” “debacle,” “annihilation,” and “devastation.”

That’s a far cry from the sunny conservative optimism of the ‘80s. Let’s rewind the clock a little and take a look at the 1984 presidential election:

Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, easily carried the state with nearly six in ten of all votes cast. Southern California is painted entirely red. Yet even on this map, one county stands out for its conservatism: Orange County, where three of every four voters cast their ballots for Reagan.

On the left, the standard map shows several counties with support nearly as strong. The map on the right, however, where county size is shown proportional to the number of votes cast, shows these other counties have few votes overall. The state is dominated by the bulbous population centers in Southern California, the Bay Area, and Sacramento; of the darkest red counties, only Orange County has a substantial population—the anchor of Reagan’s support.

Fast-forward to 2016, and fortunes have changed severely. Southern California is entirely blue, including, yes, Orange County, which voted Democrat for president for the first time since 1936. Fear not, though, my stouthearted Republican holdouts: Lassen County voted for Trump by nearly as much as Orange County voted for Reagan. Never mind that it’s home to just 31,000 souls.

How did such a thing happen? In short, 1984 was a high point (presidentially speaking) in the total number of votes for the Republican candidate, both in California and in Orange County. This high point was (barely) exceeded in 2004, but the problem for the GOP is that the number of Democratic votes simply has kept growing and growing—and growing.

Donald Trump won fewer votes in California in 2016 than Nixon did in 1972, but Hillary Clinton had 2 1/2 times the number of votes for George McGovern. (During that time, the state’s population climbed from 21 million to 39 million.) In Orange County, Trump managed to earn a handful more votes than Nixon, but Clinton won more than three times the number of votes for George McGovern.

There's more at the link. The old saying was "as California goes, so goes the nation." Let's hope it does in this case. These Republicans are batshit and they simply have to be stopped. They simply are incapable of sobering up until they hit bottom.


Javanka in charge and in great danger

by digby

Tim O'Brien at Boomberg does a nice job analyzing the White House Chief of Staff situation:

The president of the United States couldn’t convince a relatively unknown 36-year-old political operative to be his White House chief of staff, despite spending months wooing the young tyro for the post and securing his daughter and son-in-law’s help with the recruiting effort.

A number of other candidates may be in play, as my Bloomberg News colleagues Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs detail here. But it doesn’t appear that Donald Trump has any obvious candidates to turn to now that Nick Ayers said no to the job and John Kelly’s final few weeks as chief of staff will remind other potential replacements that playing the role of presidential gatekeeper means that you often wind up being a punching bag.

All of which is to say that chaos in the Trump administration isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Here’s a video I made with our commentary team in March 2017 — “Who’s Really Running the White House?” — which highlighted the chaos back then and speculated that advisers like Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Rex Tillerson would never have the staying power or presidential access that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump enjoyed. And given that Javanka lacked experience, depth, sophistication and self-awareness, we predicted that all of this would produce “chaos, from day to day to day.”

Still, it’s something to behold. In February 2017, just a month after Trump was inaugurated, General Tony Thomas, who runs the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command, said he was disturbed by mismanagement and instability in the federal government. “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil,” he said at a military conference. “I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war.”

They didn’t sort it out soon. They still haven’t sorted it out.

Earlier this year, NBC News reported that Kelly “portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe.” (Kelly disputed the account.) But Kelly’s self-appraisal as the indispensable man with his finger in the dike made it into other news accounts. Bob Woodward, in his book “Fear,” quotes Kelly as describing the Trump White House as “Crazytown.” It turns out that Kelly, Crazytown’s sheriff, was only able to stand watch over the asylum for about 18 months.

Kelly may have been doomed from the moment he signed on as Trump’s chief of staff in July 2017. Kelly had to reassure then Attorney General Jeff Sessions that his job was safe (it ultimately wasn’t), fire the brand new and carnivalesque White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci (the Trump team continues to showcase a communications effort that is alternately comically befuddled and willfully misleading), monitor the kind of information that got to Trump and exercise tight control over who had access to the president.

“John Kelly knows the challenges he is facing,” Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, told Politico just days into the former Marine’s new job. “He’s not going to just stand to the side and watch the White House fall apart piece by piece.”

As it turned out, Kelly didn’t have to stand aside. He was pushed aside — by Trump. The president, who is 72, has never really taken advice from anyone other than his late father over the last five decades, and he certainly wasn’t going to begin doing so with Kelly. By trying to put Javanka in a corner, Kelly also set himself up for the same demise that befell Steve Bannon after he clashed with Kushner.

Whether he’s managing his company or occupying the Oval Office, Trump always puts family ahead of other business, political and personal loyalties. In that context, as I noted shortly after Trump was inaugurated, “Trump adviser” is a contradiction in terms. Trump isn’t patient, self-confident or strategic enough to take guidance from talented or experienced people, which leads him to make unfortunate, and frequently misguided, appointments. It also has created a record turnover rate in Trump’s White House — which is likely to accelerate in the new year as the president is greeted by a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats and by possibly disastrous battles with law enforcement authorities.

Ayers, who reportedly rose in the president’s estimation because he physically resembled (at least in the president’s eyes) a young Trump, may have grown wise about the fate awaiting him should life in the White House later turn sour: “Diminished public standing after an ugly parting with a mercurial president who often insults his former aides on Twitter,” as the New York Times put it.

That leaves the president, now, in greater thrall to Javanka.

If Trump really loved his daughter he would tell her to go back to New York, hire a good lawyer and divorce Kushner in order to save herself. Kush is in grave legal danger and she could be too, although I'd imagine she is the one who could most easily escape.

But Trump only loves himself and so he's drawing her closer rather than letting her go. I guess he will pardon her. And she's probably ruined anyway. But he's a piss poor father for putting his allegedly beloved daughter in this position.

Oh, and by the way, Jr and Eric are in other crosshairs. It's very likely they are going to pay for Daddy's crimes too. Some of them are state charges and he has no power to change that.


Russians all over the place!

by digby

We worked on two presidential campaigns at high levels and there weren’t any Russians around. I don’t think there were Russians around the Obama campaign or the Kerry campaign either. This campaign had Russians all over the place!
- Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt 8/4/2017

They have denied it over and over again:

Trump denied any campaign contact with Russia, “with a firm ‘no.’”

Jim Acosta: “Fortunately ABC's Cecilia Vega asked my question about whether any Trump associates contacted Russians. Trump said no.”

Trump said “nobody that I know of” on the campaign had contacts with Russians.

Question: “Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?”

Trump: “No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody...”

Kellyanne Conway on whether any members of the Trump campaign had contact with Russians: “Absolutely not.”

Question: “Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?”

Conway: “Absolutely not.”

Sarah Sanders said “no contacts took place” between the Trump campaign and Russians.

Sanders: “‘This is a nonstory because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened,’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said on Monday.”

Hope Hicks: “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

Hicks: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

Reince Priebus said there were no contacts between Trump associates and Russia in 2016.

Question: “One, do you flatly deny any contact, any coordination between Mr. Trump, his campaign, his associates and the Russians in interfering?”

Priebus: “Even this question is insane. Of course, we didn't interface with the Russians.”

Russians interacted with at least 16 Trump associates during the campaign and presidential transition.

Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”

— President Trump, in a news conference, on Feb. 16, 2017

What about Rudy?

by digby

James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on Friday that he had opened an investigation into Rudy Giuliani's apparent knowledge of the Weiner laptop issue before it became public but has no idea what happened to it. CREW is suing to find out:

The FBI is in violation of the law for failing to turn over documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the leak of information to Rudy Giuliani in October 2016 that then-FBI Director James Comey was going to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system, according to a lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Two days before Comey announced that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton’s emails, Giuliani went on Fox News and said, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton are beginning to have an impact. He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.” He later admitted to getting advanced information about the FBI, saying, “Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it. And I can’t even repeat the language that I heard.”

An investigation was later launched into who leaked the information to Giuliani, which would violate the law. In April, CREW requested copies of all records of the investigation into the source of the leak, but has yet to receive any.

“The FBI legally has to give us these records or explain why they cannot,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “It is important for the public to have all of the information that the law requires be made available.”

Last week, Comey testified before Congress that an investigation was started into the leak after Giuliani’s comments, which appeared to stem from his communications with people in the FBI’s New York field office.

“The American people should have the information they need to evaluate whether there was wrongdoing before the presidential election,” Bookbinder said. “The FBI must live up to its legal obligations.”

It's obvious Giuliani knew about the Weiner laptop stuff. Of course he did. And that means Trump knew about it and they were especially gleeful that Comey turned it into a major story 10 days before the election as millions of people had already started early voting.

Comey did them a real solid. It would have just been another "leak" from the Justice Department that people could have discounted or not, but Comey confirmed it and it made front page news and led every broadcast instead.

Trump's minions should take a lesson from this. Even if you do him the biggest favor in the world he will turn on you like a rabid dog the minute he sees an advantage in it. And in this cse he actualy used the favor Comey did as his reason for turning:



The GOP is born anew each morning

by digby

From the "you can't make this stuff up" file: Kevin "Loose Lips" McCarthy. I'm sure you remember this, right? It cost him the speakership:

Here is the imbecile today:

This is why I have written repeatedly over the course of the 15 years I've been writing this blog: the concept of hypocrisy is dead. Republicans are either too dumb or too shameless to care about such inconsistency. They are entirely situational. Plan accordingly.
Every battle must be fought on its own terms without any consideration of what came before. The GOP is born anew each morning.


Will Bill Barr be Trump's Roy Cohn? Or his Leon Jaworski?

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Shortly after the Saturday Night Massacre in October, 1973 Texas lawyer Leon Jaworski received a call from the White House Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig. Haig simply said, "He wants you, Leon." This wasn't the first time the White House had reached out to him. He'd been offered the job earlier but had turned it down. Now the president was calling and he felt it was his duty to take the job at this important juncture.

He was nominally a Democrat but in those days, especially in Texas, that meant he was a conservative. And he'd supported Nixon from the beginning, voting for him both times. So the president felt he finally had an ally in the Special Prosecutors office, someone who wasn't one of those pointy-headed Harvard types whom he always thought hated the poor kid from Whittier.

Jaworski had a reputation for rectitude. He'd famously prosecuted War Crimes after WWII. (The truth is a little murkier --- he was plenty political.) But he did take himself and the law seriously. Jaworski took office, looked over the evidence the prosecutors had amassed and was appalled by what he saw. He later explained that when he heard the "smoking gun" tape in which Nixon was heard telling his henchman Haldeman to commit perjury, in his mind, "the president, a lawyer, coached Haldeman on how to testify untruthfully and yet not commit perjury... It amounted to subornation of perjury. For the No. 1 law enforcement officer of the country, it was, in my opinion, as demeaning an act as could be imagined."

The reason I bring this up is that President Trump has finally nominated someone to replace Jeff  Sessions permanently --- William Barr who previously served as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush. There are some intriguing parallels between the Jaworski appointment and this one, although there's no guarantee that the two cases will end up the same way.

This news of Barr's appointment was received with relief by much of Washington, mostly because after the debacle of the Matt Whitaker temporary appointment, everyone had been afraid he was going to nominate someone from Fox News or a personal toady like Rudy Giuliani. At least this pick is qualified and (as far as we know) isn't himself under investigation by the Justice Department.

Like Jaworski, Barr was also apparently interviewed earlier to be Trump's personal lawyer. According to Yahoo News, the two met privately in 2017 to discuss Barr coming on a Trump's personal  defense attorney and Barr turned him down, citing other obligations. They came back to him after Trump's lawyer John Dowd resigned in 2018 and he put hem off again. It seems that Trump truly believes this man is someone he wants on his team and since he is entirely self-centered it's entirely likely he believes he's finally found his Roy Cohn.

It's not hard to see why Trump would believe this. Barr told the New York Times that he thinks the phony Clinton "Uranium One" scandal should be further investigated suggesting that he's rather deep into right wing media conspiracy nonsense, which is not a good sign:

“There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” said William P. Barr, who ran the Justice Department under President George Bush. “Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation.” 
Mr. Barr said he sees more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed collusion between Mr. Trump and Russia. “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” he said.
Barr is also on record complaining that the Special Prosecutor's office lacks balance because some prosecutors donated to Democrats. (I'm not sure who made the rule that all presidential investigations have to be run by Republicans but after Archibald Cox hey all have been: Jaworski, Iran-Contra Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, Ken Starr, and Robert Mueller. Apparently, they are not allowed to even have Democrats on their staff in order to be credible.)

And he defended Trump's decision to fire James Comey as FBI Director in an op-ed, saying that Comey had mishandled the Clinton email investigation. Notably, he did not say that Clinton should have been indicted but rather that Comey's decision to go beyond FBI authority to "explain" why the case was being closed and the subsequent political mess that decision created was a firing offense. He also expressed faith in the integrity of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying the Russia investigation would be unimpeded by the firing.

The fact that he's been approached by the administration before and has made these public comments means he very well may be Trump's big ally in the Department of Justice. The comments about the Uranium One non-scandal are pretty worrying in that regard because he had the cockamamie idea that there was evidence that demanded investigation when that just isn't true. And the idea that a president can ask for an investigation but the Justice Department doesn't have to do it is fatuous and he surely knows that. Presidents should not be demanding investigations of anyone, but particularly not of their political rivals. It's an abuse of the office and the DOJ should not be put in the position of having to defy him.

The fact that he seems to have been cozying up to Trump from the beginning in a way that many other Washington lawyers have avoided suggests that he's not the old school straight-arrow type like Jaworski or, for that matter, Robert Mueller. But that doesn't mean he couldn't be. When you look at all of his comments together most of them aren't as totally Trumpish as they may sound. And his history is that of an establishment institutionalist which means that while he may say that Trump has the freedom to do as he sees fit in most circumstances, he may also defend the Department of Justice as an agency with inherent independence and decision making power. If you look at his language in those op-eds and commentary, he is quite judicious in the way he speaks even when he's defending Trump.

But it's hard to imagine Trump would have selected him for the job without the kind of guarantee he expected from his previous attorney general, Sessions, or from Comey, the man he fired from the FBI. Would he have hired anyone who refused to be his Roy Cohn? We'll have to hope someone asks Barr about this at his confirmation hearings before the Senate.

"Especially classless"

by Tom Sullivan

Wisconsin Governor's Mansion. Public domain via Wikipedia.

However history judges President George H.W. Bush's career, the handwritten note wishing incoming Democrat Bill Clinton well showed a respect for the office and for the people's will markedly lacking among what passes for conservatives today. Left upon Bush's leaving the White House in defeat and widely read again at his recent death, the note may have tweaked a Republican conscience or two. “Your success now is our country’s success,” Bush wrote. “I am rooting hard for you.”

Charlie Sykes, the conservative commentator and erstwhile supporter of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, advises Walker in The Atlantic to consider how history will judge him. The Republican-dominated legislature in a lame-duck session last week passed a package of bills undercutting the powers of incoming Democrat Tony Evers who defeated Walker in November.

Besides attempting yet again to limit voting in Wisconsin, the legislation forces Evers to pursue the state's lawsuit against Obamacare, attacks preexisting conditions protections, and codifies Walker's work requirements for Medicaid recipients. The legislation is "petty, vindictive, and self-destructive," Sykes writes, and "worse than a crime. It was a blunder." Signing it, Sykes advises, would be "a huge mistake."

Sykes is not alone. Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, a fellow Republican, tells Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “It appears completely political, (like) a power grab.” Walker still has a chance to avoid the “appearance of sour grapes," McCallum said:

“It’s the wrong time to do it. It's not done for the right reason. It is not transparent. It is not a good way to create public policy," McCallum said.

There are going to be differences over executive control and legislative control, but you don’t play it out in the dark of night. You don’t make the changes after an election without hearings, without having the public involved, without having a vetting process. You can understand why there is frustration by the public with the system.”
Michigan and North Carolina Republicans need to hear the same message as they pursue rearguard actions. Republicans will argue they are protecting their legislative gains and limiting executive power they saw no reason to limit while a Republican was governor. They will argue Democrats did it too, years ago. But to Sykes and to the public the effort looks more about "tribalism and a petty will to power."

There is a reason for that. It is.

Conservatives as a movement acting through the Republican Party long ago decided the only Real America is their America. Multiracial and multi-ethnic, Democrats are by definition illegitimate. Democrats as a political party long ago rejected segregation and the white dominance of their Jim Crow past. Those who would not became Republicans (although in pockets many never changed their registrations).

Now those Republicans emulate the Redeemer culture of the Reconstruction South in moving to ensure through radical gerrymandering and gamesmanship one-party rule: theirs. Walker wears the brand already. History will be unkind, Sykes warns, if his old friend signs these bills and leaves office in a manner that is "essentially classless." Evers is not optimistic.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Nearly half of women murdered are killed by an intimate partner

by digby

Since I've been aware of this for some time, I'm not sure why this article shook me as much as it did. But man, this is awful:

The Washington Post found that nearly half of the women who were murdered during the past decade were, like Parnell and Cisneros, killed by a current or former intimate partner. In a close analysis of five cities, about a third of the male killers were known to be a potential threat ahead of the attack.

Some details:

Slayings of intimate partners often are especially brutal, involving close encounters such as stabbings, strangulation and beatings, The Post’s analysis found.

Nearly a quarter of the 2,051 women killed by intimate partners were stabbed, compared with fewer than 10 percent of all other homicides. Eighteen percent of women who were killed by partners were attacked with a blunt object or no weapon, compared with 8 percent of other homicide victims. While a gun was used in 80 percent of all other murders, just over half of all women killed as a result of domestic violence were attacked with a gun.

Violent choking is almost entirely confined to fatal domestic attacks on women — while fewer than 1 percent of all homicides result from strangulation, 6 percent of women killed by intimate partners die in this manner, The Post found. It’s also a warning sign. Those who attempt to strangle an intimate partner are far more likely to later commit extreme acts of violence, police and researchers say, and many in law enforcement believe it to be a strong indicator that an abusive relationship could turn fatal.
Authorities — and those who work with victims of intimate-partner violence — say the most glaring signs that a relationship could turn fatal are often elusive to law enforcement, including things that are obvious to those around them but rarely make the public record: death threats behind closed doors, easy access to guns, jealousy, separation or a breakup.

“We have a lot of repeat victims and repeat offenders because, for example, it may be the victim’s only source of a babysitter. It may be the victim’s only source of income,” said Lt. Amy Parker-Stayton, commander of the family violence and sex crimes unit in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. “The victim comes back and says, ‘I love him; I don’t want to prosecute,’ and unfortunately, if it happens again, we revisit it again. And it may be too late. On the second or the third time, they may be dead.”

Tracy Prior, chief deputy district attorney in San Diego County, said about 40 percent of the defendants in the domestic homicide cases her office prosecuted from 2007 to 2017 had a prior criminal record.

“You wish you had a crystal ball, because no prosecutor wants to see the same perpetrator doing that again,” Prior said.

But the most basic step authorities instruct abused women to take — filing a restraining order — can lead to fatal violence because involving the legal system often is a flash point. One prosecutor tells women who request an order to do so with a backpack and a plan.

“It’s not a bulletproof vest,” said Karen Parker, president and CEO of Safe Alliance, which helps abused women in Charlotte, where half, or 60, of 119 women killed from 2007 to 2017 were murdered by an intimate partner, according to The Post’s analysis. “He can still come after you. It’s a legal tool.”

And legally, there is not much that can happen until an order is violated.

“That’s what people think they are supposed to do when they feel as though they are threatened or they are in danger. We tell them, ‘Get an order of protection,’ ” said Travis Partney, chief trial attorney in the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office, which prosecuted Whittier.

“And she did,” he said of Jackson. “And she’s dead.”

Read the whole thing. It's really chilling. I don't know exactly what the answer is but it's certainly important to drill into women that living with a physical abuser of any kind is life-threatening and they should get out at the beginning. I know it's emotionally complex and there are economic barriers but no relationship is worth dying over. And men ... well, I don't know what to do about this. 

This habit of men killing the women in their lives is nothing new of course. It goes back to cave days I'm sure. They still do honor killings all over the globe. But it's time society recognized it for the crime against humanity that it is.

"A war room? Are you serious?"

by digby

Robert Costa and Philip Rucker took the temperature of he GOP after last week's series of filings from the Mueller investigation and the SDNY. Apparently, they're getting a teensy bit worried:

Facing the dawn of his third year in office and his bid for reelection, Trump is stepping into a political hailstorm. Democrats are preparing to seize control of the House in January with subpoena power to investigate corruption. Global markets are reeling from his trade war. The United States is isolated from its traditional partners. The investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference is intensifying. And court filings Friday in a separate federal case implicated Trump in a felony.

The White House is adopting what one official termed a “shrugged shoulders” strategy for the Mueller findings, calculating that most GOP base voters will believe whatever the president tells them to believe.
This portrait of the Trump White House at a precarious juncture is based on interviews with 14 administration officials, presidential confidants and allies, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss private exchanges.

Rather than building a war room to manage the intersecting crises as past administrations have done, the Trump White House is understaffed, stuck in a bunker mentality and largely resigned to a plan to wing it. Political and communications operatives are mostly taking their cues from the president and letting him drive the message with his spontaneous broadsides.

“A war room? You serious?” one former White House official said when asked about internal preparations. “They’ve never had one, will never have one. They don’t know how to do one.”

Trump’s decision to change his chief of staff, however, appears to be a recognition that he needs a strong political team in place for the remainder of his first term. The leading candidate for the job is Nick Ayers, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff and an experienced campaign operative known for his political acumen and deep network in the party.

Throughout the 18-month special counsel investigation, Trump has single-handedly spun his own deceptive reality, seeking to sully the reputations of Mueller’s operation and federal law enforcement in an attempt to preemptively discredit their eventual conclusions.

The president has been telling friends that he believes the special counsel is flailing and has found nothing meaningful. “It’s all games and trying to connect dots that don’t really make sense,” one friend said in describing Trump’s view of Mueller’s progress. “Trump is angry, but he’s not really worried.”

But Mueller’s latest court filings offer new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president and detail the extent to which his former aides are cooperating with prosecutors.

Some GOP senators were particularly shaken by this week’s revelation that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had met with Mueller’s team 19 separate times — a distressing signal to them that the probe may be more serious than they had been led to assume, according to senior Republican officials...

For now, Republicans on Capitol Hill are still inclined to stand by Trump and give the president the benefit of the doubt. But one pro-Trump senator said privately that a breaking point would be if Mueller documents conspiracy with Russians.

“Then they’ve lost me,” said the senator, noting that several Republican lawmakers have been willing to publicly break with Trump when they believe it is in their interests — as many did over Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the brutal killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), an outspoken Trump critic and a frequent subject of his ire, said, “The president’s situation is fraught with mounting peril, and that’s apparent to everyone who’s paying any attention, which is all of my Republican colleagues.

Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.

But it's undoubtedly true that they are worried because these revelations of Trump and his campaign's inappropriate and possibly illegal interactions with members and associates of the Russian government and it's clear that all the lying and the covering up shows consciousness of guilt. They can see the writing on the wall that there is more to come.

I think that Senator Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has probably played this smartly. He did have a couple of partisan slips but for the most part he's kept a fairly neutral tone which he can turn either way when all the dots are connected. He's a hardcore conservative so the fact that he's maintained this pose indicates that they probably know about more of the shoes that are going to drop.

If he makes it through the next two years, don't underestimate Trump's strength in 2020

by digby

Adam Davidson at the New Yorker has a column called "The Swamp" which chronicles Trump and Trump administration corruption. It's an incredibly rich beat as you might imagine. I thought this observation was especially astute. He lays out all the revelations of last week's filings and concludes:

The picture revealed in these and earlier filings are of Trump surrounded by a small group of now admitted criminals and others who show little professional accomplishment other than a willingness to do Trump’s bidding. In an almost cruel jab, Robert Khuzami, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, points out that Cohen—a lawyer trained in the earlynineteen-nineties at one of America’s least respected schools, working out of the back of a taxi-cab garage—made seventy-five thousand dollars a year before he started working with Trump, in 2007. (The average salary of a first-year lawyer in New York City is a hundred and sixty thousand dollars.) Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime accountant and C.F.O., who now runs his company, has already revealed himself to be comfortable with practices that violate easily followed rules of accounting. In the lawsuit against the Trump family’s foundation, Weisselberg has already confessed to practices that are so inept and illegal on their face—such as taking tax deductions for running a foundation that appears not to have existed—as to all but demand prosecution.

Even if we never learn another single fact about Trump, his business and campaign, and any collusion with Russia, it is now becoming clear that Trump’s bid for the Presidency was almost certainly designed, at least in part, to enrich Trump, and that he was willing to pursue the political interests of a hostile foreign power in order to make money. This scheme was executed ineptly and in ways that make it highly likely that the intelligence agencies of Russia, as well as several other nations, have been able to ferret out most of the details. This means that Trump and the people closest to him have been at enormous risk of compromise.

We will learn more facts, no doubt—many of them. Mueller has revealed only a few threads of the case. He has established that Cohen spent the months between September, 2015, and June, 2016, actively engaging the Russian government to exchange political favors for money, and that, throughout this period, Cohen routinely informed Trump of his efforts (and presumably, though it’s unstated, received Trump’s blessing). This was the precise period in which Trump’s candidacy shifted from humorous long shot to the nominee of the Republican Party. Mueller’s filing also contains suggestions that people connected to the White House, possibly including the President, knew of Michael Cohen’s lies to Congress and federal investigators, and, also, that White House officials stayed in contact with Manafort, who had been revealed to be in close touch with a known Russian intelligence asset.

This is a lot. But it’s not the complete narrative. It is not clear what happened after the notorious Trump Tower meeting of June 9, 2016. Cohen appears to have been pushed aside, and no longer to have played the role of intermediary. Does this mean that Trump insisted that his team shut off all contact with Russia? Or did he hand the portfolio over to a more trusted staffer?

Even more tantalizing are all those black lines of redaction in Manafort’s and the addendum to Michael Flynn’s sentencing memorandums. Manafort’s redactions center on contacts between him and Kilimnik, the Russian-intelligence asset. What were they discussing? Flynn, we know, was working on his own side deals with Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. How much of that business will be revealed? How much of it ties to Trump? And were similar offers of political favor given to the autocratic leaders of these other nations?

There is much discussion about the fact that Trump’s core followers and, therefore, nearly all Republican elected officials, will support him no matter what. That may be true, though polling data does suggest that, when the public learns of bad acts, Trump’s support falls, and, when things are quiet for a while, it rises. There are complex political and even psychological processes that will determine whether Trump will be removed from office in disgrace or will go on to a second term.

Mueller’s filings do mark a different sort of end. We are at the end of reasonable debate about whether Trump is hopelessly compromised. As Mueller’s filings encircle the President, the special counsel surely knows he is at ever-greater risk of being fired. Presumably, he wouldn’t have released memorandums as damning as these if he weren’t prepared to make a fuller case. Each filing fills in the over-all picture in ever more granular detail. It seems reasonable to assume that we haven’t yet learned the most disturbing facts.

But, even if we learn nothing more, we are already in an unbearable condition. The President of the United States knowingly and eagerly participated in a scheme with a hostile foreign leader who he knew was seeking to influence the Presidential election. Trump sought to profit politically and financially, many of his closest subordinates executed this effort, and he then was aware of and, it seems likely, encouraged an illegal effort to hide these facts. His reckless, unpatriotic actions have left him compromised by at least one but likely many foreign powers and have left his election open to reasonable questions about its legitimacy. And, every day, he sets policies and makes decisions that have an impact on the lives of all Americans and the fortunes of the very autocrats who hold sway over him. It cannot stand.

I don't know what will happen. But there is a very good chance that he will be able to hang on until the election two years from now. Everything depends upon beating him. And I fear that too many Democrats are succumbing to the delusion that many held in 2016: that anyone should be able to do it so it's in the bag. I hope that everyone sobers up before then and realizes that there is no guarantee. His following has a full-blown partisan media operation backing him and they have become adept at cheating. And as we've seen there are no limits to how much help they will accept from American adversaries. They are a formidable foe and everyone needs to take this very seriously or 2020 may be the last semi-democratic election we ever have.

Everything new is old again

by digby

In conversation with young folks these days it's become clear to me that they think us old duffers of the boomer generation were a lot more conservative when we were their age than most of us were. One young friend asked me the other day what it was like before women could have sex before marriage. I had to explain about the sexual revolution and how 70s women like me had no such hang-ups when we were young. She really did not know that. And she did not have any idea at all about how contentious the relationships between the younger generation and their parents were in those days. She gets along fine with her parents and most of her friends do too. We loved ours, of course, but the huge social and political changes of the boomer era were a real generational battleground for many families.

It became clear to me that there is some confusion as to how "conservative" today's older generation is which isn't really a good way to look at it. Boomers today are divided among the cranky, right-wing olds, many of whom were always politically conservative even as they enjoyed the fruits of the liberalization of society, and the liberal olds who are more like young people today. (And it's true that many boomers became more conservative as they aged --- that seems to be a common phenomenon.) But that divide is still less stark than it was between the boomers and their parents.

Of course, this thesis is affected by the haze of my memory and some nostalgia so it's fair to take it with a grain of salt. Still, I've always wondered whether there was any way to measure this and the Washington Post's Monkey Cage took a stab at it.

They come at it from a different angle, looking at the fashionable notion among older people that the young are less tolerant, less democratic and less capitalistic than we were. And that's true to some extent in certain ways. But it's not nearly as big a difference as you might think from all the silly caterwauling about "kids today."

It turns out there are quite a few differences between the younger generation of today and the younger generation when I was young.& But they aren't as huge or as significant as you might think:
Among the political commentariat, it is fashionable to condemn the anti-democratic impulses of today’s youth. “Generation Z,” we are told, is intolerant of political dissent. They are hostile to capitalism. They have no respect for civil liberties and due process. They are preoccupied with identity and gender politics at the expense of tangible political goals.

In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks summarized these political beliefs:

… the system itself is rotten and needs to be torn down. We live in a rape culture, with systemic racism and systems of oppression inextricably tied to our institutions. We live in a capitalist society, a neoliberal system of exploitation … Group identity is what matters. Society is a clash of oppressed and oppressor groups. People who are successful usually got that way through some form of group privilege and a legacy of oppression.

Are young folks rebelling against the ‘American Ethos’?

This is not the first time such concerns have been raised. In the 1970s, following Watergate and a decade of political unrest, many pundits wondered if Americans’ commitment to the American creed also was eroding. And, like it is now, most of the evidence for this apprehension was anecdotal.

Enter political scientist Herbert McClosky. Starting in the mid-1970s, he collected data on Americans’ attitudes toward the two “central” pillars of the American creed: capitalism and democracy. Deploying novel survey questions, he asked Americans about their attitudes toward basic civil liberties, due process, economic inequality and the free market.

His findings were published in “The American Ethos,” co-written with political scientist John Zaller.

Their portrait of the American creed was decidedly mixed. On the one hand, they found broad support for ideas of open competition and free enterprise. Most Americans had faith that capitalism was working.

On the other hand, Americans were less in favor of expansive civil liberties. Although a near majority thought it fine for a racist to speak, majorities thought atheists should not be allowed to “make fun of God and religion” or that books that “preach the overthrow of government” should be banned from the library.

McClosky and Zaller also found a big generation gap on both of these scales. Younger people were far more supportive of civil liberties than their elders, but they were far less enthusiastic about laissez-faire capitalism. It wasn’t that young and old disagreed about the American ethos as a whole, they just disagreed about its different parts.

Here’s how we did our research

We wanted to see if these attitudes had changed with time. Between Sept. 25 and Oct. 4, we administered a national survey that replicated many of McClosky’s survey questions. Our survey sample of 1,062 Americans was fielded by Lucid and was weighted to be representative of the U.S. population by age, race, education and sex.

On the whole, our results show some remarkable continuities in the American ethos, although this depends on the particular subject.

When it comes to general attitudes about capitalism, Americans look much as they did 40 years ago. Large percentages think that competition is good, higher salaries should reflect greater abilities, and that getting ahead is mostly a matter of hard work.

The biggest changes came in rising hostility to capitalism. Whereas in 1978, few Americans saw the free enterprise system as “keeping the poor” down, now nearly 18 percent do. A third of Americans also see poverty as the result of “the wealthy and powerful” keeping people poor, a significant increase from the 21 percent who saw this in 1978. In short, support for capitalism remains strong, but populist attitudes about poverty and wealth are also on the rise.

With regards to civil liberties, Americans look remarkably more democratic on the whole than they did a generation ago. For example, 40 years ago, 71 percent of Americans thought atheists should not be allowed to make fun of God; now only 22 percent believe so. And where 50 percent of Americans thought revolutionary books should be banned from libraries in 1978, now only 14 percent agree with this notion. Americans are also less willing to convict criminals based on tainted evidence.

The only instance where Americans have become less democratic is in response to the free speech rights of racists. In 1978, 74 percent Americans thought people at public meetings had the right to “make racial slurs.” Now, only 37 percent agree. On the other side of this question, nearly half of Americans now believe that people making racial slurs should be stopped from speaking, compared with only 14 percent who thought so in 1978.

If we put all these measures together, it looks like overall support for American ethos looks much the same as it did 40 years ago, even if some of the individual elements have shifted.

But what about the generational gap?

From our data, it looks much less severe than 40 years ago. Following McClosky and Zaller, we created two scales using the democracy and capitalism items and then compared the percentages falling into the top tercile for four age categories. This method allows us to compare our data with their published results even if the particular elements within the scales have shifted.

When it comes to attitudes about capitalism, the generational difference looks almost identical to 1978. Younger Americans are still less enthusiastic about laissez-faire capitalism than older generations, although that difference has shrunk: Whereas in 1978, only 16 percent of Americans under 30 supported capitalist values, now 23 percent do.

The really big shift is in regards to democratic values. In the 1970s, older Americans were far less supportive of civil liberties than younger Americans. In 2018, that generation gap has largely disappeared and even reversed: Younger Americans are slightly less enthusiastic about civil liberties than their elders.

These small generational differences cannot be attributed to the single item about speech by racists, either. Younger Americans are not less democratic because they are less democratic toward racists than older folks. Rather, intolerance of the speech rights of racists is high among all age groups.

These findings as casting a different light on the hand-wringing about the political intolerance of Generation Z. Rather than being so different from their parents (as they were in the 1970s), young Americans have largely similar views of democracy as older ones. Moreover, the attitudes of people in their 20s are, on the whole, similar to those in their 30s. And while young people in 2018 may be more hostile to capitalism, they are actually more supportive of capitalism than they were in the 1970s.

When it comes to the American ethos, young people look a lot more like their parents than they did a generation ago.

My young friend didn't know that the credo among my generation was "don't trust anyone over 30." I guess every generation thinks they are inventing the generation gap. And that's probably how it should be. Every new generation has to cast off the old and move forward. And every old generation will complain that those kids really need to get off their lawn.

Here are the graphs:

The president's self-soothing poll is a crock

by digby

CNN's Harry Enten explains why this is "fake news":

The fact that Rasmussen has a better approval rating for the President than other pollsters isn't new. This is why we've seen Trump mention Rasmussen many times. That leads to the media pointing out that other pollsters are far more pessimistic about his standing with voters.

But the average isn't always right. Before last month, there was no way to really know if the average was biased against Trump. It was conceivable that Rasmussen Reports was right. Maybe their likely voter screen was somehow picking up something true about the electorate that other pollsters were missing. Remember, pollsters did somewhat underestimate Trump in the 2016 election.

The midterm elections prove that at least for now Rasmussen is dead wrong and traditional pollsters are correct.

In the final three weeks before the midterm, 16 different pollsters released generic congressional ballot polls. Some of those pollsters, including Rasmussen, released multiple polls. In total, there were 32 generic ballot polls put out.

The generic ballot isn't a perfect estimate of the House popular vote because often pollsters don't mention the specific candidates running in each district and some districts don't feature candidates from both parties running. Still, these factors tend to cancel each other out nationally and are only worth a point or 2 at the very most. They don't excuse Rasmussen's midterm performance.

Rasmussen's final poll was the least accurate of any of the 32 polls. They had the Republicans ahead nationally by one point. Democrats are currently winning the national House vote by 8.6 points. That's an error of nearly 10 points.

Of course, it's possible for any pollster to have one inaccurate poll. Fortunately, for statistical purposes, Rasmussen released three generic ballot polls in the final three weeks of the 2018 campaign.

The average Rasmussen poll had Democrats ahead by 1.7 points on the generic ballot. That's an underestimation of their eventual position of nearly 7 points. This made Rasmussen's average poll more inaccurate than any other pollster.

Looking at all pollsters, the average poll hit the mark nearly perfectly. The average gold standard poll (i.e. ones that use live interviews, calls cell phones and is transparent about its practices) over the final three weeks of the campaign had Democrats ahead by 9.4 points on the generic congressional ballot. 

That's an error of less than a point. The average pollster overall, according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, had Democrats up by 8.7 points. Once all the votes are counted, that could have hit the nail on the head.

The accuracy of the generic ballot polling shouldn't be surprising given how well pollsters did in gauging Trump's own popularity. As I noted previously, the President's net approval rating in the average pre-election poll of voters was identical to what it was in pre-election polls.

Rasmussen's average net approval rating, on the other hand, was far too optimistic for the president. It was -1.5 points on Election Day, which was 7.5 points higher than the exit poll found. That is, Rasmussen's net approval rating of Trump was by about as off as Rasmussen generic ballot was.
When most pollsters get the results as wrong as Rasmussen did in 2018, they go into deep introspection. You can read the long report the American Association for Political Opinion (AAPOR) issued after the 2016 election.

Rasmussen, apparently, has done no such thing. Instead, they claim that the midterm result was relatively poor for Democrats compared to other midterms. It was actually one of the best in the House on record. Indeed, Rasmussen looks to be mostly satisfied by their polling.

The truth is that the last days of the economic expansion have been propping him up to his 40%. His solid support is probably somewhere in the low to mid-30s, which is shocking in itself but even Herbert Hoover got 39.7% at the height of the depression in 1932. There are always die hards.

Kushner's just helping out a bro

by digby

Kushner is a grotesque monster:

Since the uproar over Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, the Trump administration has acknowledged only one conversation between Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed: an Oct. 10 telephone call joined by John R. Bolton, the national security adviser. The Americans “asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” the White House said in a statement.

But American officials and a Saudi briefed on their conversations said that Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed have continued to chat informally. According to the Saudi, Mr. Kushner has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm, urging him to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments.

Few of the Saudi promises have amounted to much. The effectiveness of the counterterrorism center in Riyadh remains doubtful. After offering $50 billion in new weapons contracts, the Saudis have signed only letters of interest or intent without any firm deals. After proposing to marshal up to $100 billion in investments in American infrastructure, the Saudis have announced an investment of only $20 billion.

Inside the White House, Mr. Kushner has continued to argue that the president needs to stand by Prince Mohammed because he remains essential to the administration’s broader Middle East strategy, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Whether Prince Mohammed can fulfill that role, however, remains to be seen. His initial approaches to the Palestinians were rejected by their leaders, and their resistance stiffened after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without waiting for a negotiated agreement on the city’s status.

Now the prince’s father, King Salman, 82, who is still the official head of state, has appeared to resist Mr. Kushner’s Middle East peace plans as well.

Maybe Kushner ought to be thinking a little bit more about how he's going to weather his own storm. He's right in the middle of this Mueller probe and there's no DOJ guideline that says he can't be indicted. If Trump pardons him, as he surely will, he will be tainted for the rest of his life as a criminal nonetheless.

Ivanka's not safe either and whether or not any of them see the inside of a jail cell, they are done as far as polite society is concerned. Nobody will ever want to be seen with them again. They might want to think about moving to another country.

They could have avoided all of this by just staying in New York and staying out of the limelight while Trump behaved like an international wrecking crew. But they are as arrogant and stupid as he is and thought they were qualified to be at the center of power. Whether they pay a price for that remains to be seen but I have to believe that they are, at the very least, socially ruined, at least among any but far-right cranks.



The political risks "hard to calculate"

by Tom Sullivan

How is Donald J. Trump sleeping this weekend? There is plenty to keep him awake — eventual indictment — even if his Twitter feed does not show it.

The press smells impeachment in the water and is aflutter with speculation. There is "no ambiguity," Associated Press reports, in the court filings Friday in the case against Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that federal prosecutors believe Trump was involved in the actions to which Cohen pleaded guilty.

The next question is whether a sitting president can be indicted. Many column inches will fill with speculation over that question. Citations of precedent will follow along with references to past reports from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel. All very titillating. All premature.

Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, future Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (in January), tells the New York Times the question of impeachment is far from settled. Potential charges are collusion with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election, obstruction of justice, and fraud committed against the American public. Among those is the campaign finance felony for which Cohen faces jail time. And the but?:

If the campaign finance case as laid out by prosecutors is true, Mr. Nadler said, Mr. Trump would be likely to meet the criteria for an impeachable offense, and he said he would instruct his committee to investigate when he takes over in January.

But he added that did not necessarily mean that the committee should vote to impeach Mr. Trump. “Is it serious enough to justify impeachment?” he asked. “That is another question.”
As a White House under siege held a holiday dinner Friday night, the Times continues, Trump advisers reassured the sitting president while he is not at risk legally, "the political risks are hard to calculate."

Even if a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, the only legal impediment to charging an ex-president, at least on the campaign finance violation, is the five-year statute of limitations. Josh Blackman of South Texas College of Law Houston reminds the AP that Trump made secret payments in 2016 to silence adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The statute of limitations on that charge runs out in 2021. That raises the question of what Trump, left in office, might do to remain there at least through January 2025. Hanging onto the presidency beyond 2021 might allow him to escape prosecution for the campaign finance charges without the political faux pas of attempting to pardon himself.

Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen examine in the New York Times what Trump risks:
The special counsel focuses on Mr. Cohen’s contacts with people connected to the White House in 2017 and 2018, possibly further implicating the president and others in his orbit in conspiracy to obstruct justice or to suborn perjury. Mr. Mueller specifically mentions that Mr. Cohen provided invaluable insight into the “preparing and circulating” of his testimony to Congress — and if others, including the president, knew about the false testimony or encouraged it in any way, they would be at substantial legal risk.

Mr. Trump’s legal woes do not end there. The special counsel also advanced the president’s potential exposure under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for activities relating to a potential Trump Tower Moscow. Mr. Mueller noted that the Moscow project was a lucrative business opportunity that actively sought Russian government approval, and that the unnamed Russian told Mr. Cohen that there was “no bigger warranty in any project than the consent” of Mr. Putin.
"Cohen’s conviction alone should be sufficient for putting the fear of a post-presidential indictment into Trump," Eric Levitz writes at New York magazine:
There is a significant chance that in 2020, Donald Trump will be running for a second-term — and from the law — simultaneously. And if that proves to be the case, the consequences for American political life could be dire.
Trump sowed doubts about the validity of the 2016 election if he lost — when he expected to lose. With Trump not even on the ballot in 2016, he alleged a migrant invasion organized by the Democratic Party might steal the election. His conspiracy mongering inspired a follower to attempt the assassination of prominent Trump critics, Levtiz adds.

What might Trump (or his followers) do in 2020 when his freedom is on the ballot?

For now, the sitting president (I use the phrase to remind myself this too will pass) seems committed to insisting on living in his preferred alternate reality and has adopted a “shrugged shoulders” strategy. The Washington Post reports there is no war room set up in the White House to combat the negative press. His staff takes messaging cues from his tweets:
“A war room? You serious?” one former White House official said when asked about internal preparations. “They’ve never had one, will never have one. They don’t know how to do one.”
For the rest of us, Trump's incompetence, while cold comfort, is at least some comfort. The country may yet live through this.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Dennis's Christmas playlist

by Dennis Hartley

Being that it’s the holidays and all, it seems good a time as any to share my Top 10 favorite songs of the season. Alphabetically…

1. Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland – Grandaddy
The stockings are hung with irony in this CA indie band’s rendition.

2. Christmas in Hollis – Run DMC
To my knowledge, the first Xmas rap; a classic! The elf is disturbing.

3. A Christmas Song– Jethro Tull
Ian Anderson decries the commercialization; gets drunk with Santa.

4. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
Oy, the mullets! Still quite moving 30 years on, and for a good cause.

5. I Am Santa Claus – Bob Rivers
Funniest Christmas parody song ever, by the “Twisted Tunes” gang.

6. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

Such a beautiful song. Great live version with Ian Anderson on flute.

7. Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth-David Bowie & Bing Crosby
Yes, this really happened. Years before Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.

8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Alice Cooper
Not a stretch, when you consider Santa is an anagram for, you know.

9. 2000 Miles – The Pretenders

A lovely chamber pop rendition, and Chrissie’s vocals are sublime.

10. We Wish You a Merry Christmas– Jacob Miller (w/ Ray I)

An ire, ire, ire Xmas wish from the late great Inner Circle front man.

I love all of the Beatles’ Christmas records, but the one from the White Album period is my fave. The drugs had fully taken hold…

Merry Crimble, and a Happy Goo Year!

--- DH
The Ivanka Collusion

by digby

The Mueller memorandum of yesterday regarding the extent of Michael Cohen's cooperation discusses a second Russian emissary proposing a big deal to the Trump organization in the fall of 2015. Cohen blew him off because he already had the deal going with Felix Sater who was sure they dould "get their boy" elected president and make a bundle in the process.

This story from Buzzfeed last June told us all about that second approach. And it was all about Ivanka:

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump's inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump's name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.

There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump’s contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to the other two.

The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US’s adversaries — in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

These interactions also shed new light on Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, who is under criminal investigation and who played a key role in many of Donald Trump’s biggest deals — including the audacious effort to build Europe’s tallest tower in the Russian capital.

In the fall of 2015, that effort was well underway. Cohen negotiated with Felix Sater, one of the president’s longtime business associates, and agreed upon a Russian developer to build the tower. Donald Trump personally signed a nonbinding letter of intent on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Republican debate, to allow a Russian developer to brand the tower with Trump’s name. The agreement stated that the Trump Organization would have the option to brand the hotel’s spa and fitness facilities as “The Spa by Ivanka Trump” and that Ivanka Trump would be granted “sole and absolute discretion” to have the final say on “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities.”

Ivanka Trump was then an executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization. Publicly, she was a sophisticated ambassador for the company, attending ribbon cuttings, posting pictures of deals on her Instagram page, and gracing advertisements for the company’s new properties. But inside the Trump Organization, she had a reputation as a shrewd and tough executive known to get her way.

Got a tip? You can email tips@buzzfeed.com. To learn how to reach us securely, go to tips.buzzfeed.com.
Ivanka Trump, who now works in her father’s administration, did not respond to questions sent to her personal email, chief of staff, and the White House. A spokesperson for her attorney wrote that Ivanka Trump did not know about the Trump Moscow project “until after a nonbinding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, and, even internally, was only minimally involved. Her only role was limited to reminding Mr. Cohen that, should an actual deal come to fruition (which it did not) the project, like any other with the Trump name, conform with the highest design and architectural standards.”

More than five hours after BuzzFeed News published this story, the spokesperson, Peter Mirijanian, wrote that he "inadvertently" left off part of the statement: "Ms. Trump did not know and never spoke to Dmitry Klokov. She received an unsolicited email from his wife (who she also did not know) and passed it on to Michael Cohen who she understood was working on any possible projects in Russia. She did no more than that."

But interviews suggest that her involvement ran deeper.

In November 2015, Ivanka Trump told Cohen to speak with Klokov, according to the four sources. Cohen had at least one phone conversation with the weightlifter, they said. It is not known what the men discussed over the phone, but they exchanged a string of emails that are now being examined by congressional investigators and federal agents probing Russia’s election meddling.

In one of those emails, Klokov told Cohen that he could arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin to help pave the way for the tower. Later, Cohen sent an email refusing that offer and saying that the Trump Organization already had an agreement in place. He said he was cutting off future communication with Klokov. Copying Ivanka Trump, the Russian responded in a final brusque message, in which he questioned Cohen’s authority to make decisions for the Trump Organization. Frustrated by the exchange, Ivanka Trump questioned Cohen’s refusal to continue communicating with Klokov, according to one of the sources.

BuzzFeed News was shown the emails on the condition we do not quote them.

It’s unclear how Ivanka Trump came into contact with Klokov. The chiseled giant, who is 35 and lives in Moscow, has 340,000 followers on Instagram, where he frequently posts pictures and videos of weightlifting and associated products bearing his name.

He won the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games and took gold at the 2005 World Championships, but he has no apparent background in real estate development. Nor is he known to be a close associate of Putin or anyone in the Russian president’s inner circle, and he does not appear to publicly participate in his country’s politics. It’s not even clear he could have made good on his offer to arrange a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump.

Klokov initially told BuzzFeed News that he did not “send any emails” to Cohen. “I don’t understand why you ask me about this,” Klokov said in text messages. “I’m weightlifter, not a political.” When told that he had sent at least two emails to Cohen and had had a phone conversation with him at Ivanka Trump’s request, Klokov stopped responding.

Cohen referred BuzzFeed News to his attorney, Stephen Ryan, who declined to comment.

FBI and congressional investigators, two of the sources said, are still trying to determine the relationship between Ivanka Trump and the Olympian.

Daddy's girl is in the middle of the conspiracy case against her father.

As far as I know she has not been questioned by Mueller.