Saturday, February 17, 2018

THE "HOAX" HOAX

Well, it looks like the Mueller "hoax" isn't such a hoax after all. He indicts 13 Russians and Russian organizations for interfering in the 2016 election. Here's what the indictment tells us: Russian efforts were broad and coordinated. They were almost entirely directed toward hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump. And they were facilitated by three "unwitting" members of the Trump team

https://thinkprogress.org/indictment-doj-trump-clinton-7105e89df9be/
Bombshell

More: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/mueller-indictment-russia-takeaways-353667

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/mueller-roadmap/553604/

https://www.vox.com/2018/2/16/17020948/russia-indictments-special-counsel-trump-unwitting

The full text: https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download

Anybody But Hillary

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/16/17021248/russian-election-interference-sanders-stein-trump
Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Jill Stein all appear to have been helped by Russian election interference 

More: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/bernie-sanders-russia-2016-election-interference-415691

http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-jr-jill-stein-putin-russia-senate-639422

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/mueller-indictment-documents-russian-effort-to-suppress-nonwhite-vote.html
Mueller Indictment Documents Russian Effort to Suppress Turnout of Nonwhite Voters

Here's an example: a twitter feed from "Tennessee GOP" that is neither from the GOP nor from Tennessee

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/19/16504510/ten-gop-twitter-russia

A look back: https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-campaign-staffers-pushed-russian-propaganda-days-before-the-election
Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election

Trump, of course, claims this indictment as total vindication for him. At the very least it is damning against his lies that Russia was "just an excuse used by the Democrats when they lost the election," that he believes his BFF Putin that Russia didn't do anything, and that whatever the Russians did do didn't affect the outcome. Those are shown to be utterly false. And the fact that his first reaction is to talk about the effect of the story on himself, and not about the MAJOR CRIME that was perpetrated against this country, is appalling even for him

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/2/16/1742056/-Trump-hilariously-warns-against-wild-and-false-allegations-after-Russia-indictments
[Trump] "Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!" [read on] 

[NB: Let's just describe this from a little distance. Trump won't condemn outrageous Russian interference in our elections. In fact, he welcomed and encouraged it. He won't impose congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia for their interference. He has consistently denied that the Russians did anything wrong, and even in the face of this latest news won't admit that he was mistaken. Now, tell me: what would explain this pattern of behavior?]  

What does it all mean now? 

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/its-going-to-be-much-harder-for-trump-to-fire-rod-rosenstein-now.html
It’s Going to Be Much, Much Harder for Trump to Fire Rod Rosenstein Now

More: https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/02/qotd-white-house.html
[Trump] President Donald J. Trump has been fully briefed on this matter and is glad to see the Special Counsel’s investigation further indicates — that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected. President Trump says, “it is more important than ever before to come together as Americans. We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”

[NB: What complete and utter B.S.]

Trump says the Russian strategy all started in 2014. So, what was he doing in 2014?

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/02/trump-was-making-political-speeches-in.html

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1742074


I am sick of this 

https://politicalwire.com/2018/02/16/quote-of-the-day-1854/
“I don’t think that the campaign colluded in some meaningful way. I don’t think that they were organized enough, or competent enough as a campaign to do that.” 

[NB: We hear this excuse over and over again. It's BS. First of all, the fact that they were incompetent and disorganized doesn't mean they didn't TRY to collude. Maybe they were just bad at it. That's no defense. Second, the legal problem isn't collusion, it's CONSPIRACY, and there is plenty of evidence of that already in the public sphere, and that's without knowing what Flynn and Bannon have told Mueller. But in fact, we have seen exactly what you would expect from a hamhanded attempt at collusion: nuts like Carter Page, ambitious climbers like George Papadopoulos, and morons like Donald Jr getting played by Russian experts at recruitment and infiltration -- their incompetence isn't a defense: it's the vulnerability the Russians exploited.] 

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/of-course-the-president-obstructed-justice
Of Course the President Obstructed Justice

We've touched on this before, but Trump's list of failures far exceeds his accomplishments. Any Republican president would have appointed a conservative SC justice; any would have gotten a tax cut bill through a Republican-controlled Congress. And that's pretty much it. Then look at the failures . . .

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/02/16/we-are-in-the-midst-of-an-utterly-failed-presidency/

He hasn't passed any real legislation after more than a year in office: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/2/16/1741952/-Trump-s-first-attempt-at-legislation-fails-miserably-while-Senate-slips-further-into-dysfunction 
Trump's first attempt at legislation fails miserably, while Senate slips further into dysfunction

Trump's Big Lie about DACA

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/immigration-politics-lead-trump-repeat-cynical-lie
Trump is also the one who’s now rejected or walked away from six different bipartisan efforts to protect Dreamers from the president’s own policy. . .  [read on]

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/2/16/1741918/-Trump-really-wants-you-to-forget-who-created-the-DACA-crisis-it-was-him
Trump really wants you to forget who created the DACA crisis (it was him)

Trump goes briefly to Parkland, Florida, manages to avoid visiting any of the victims or their families

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/trump-florida-school-shooting-hospital-visit-416258
President Donald Trump visited a Florida hospital Friday to thank medical professionals who helped the wounded in a horrific high school shooting . . .Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived by motorcade at Broward Health North Hospital to pay their respects to doctors, nurses and others who responded to the shooting in nearby Parkland. They planned to meet with law enforcement officials at the Broward County Sheriff's office later Friday. The president tweeted earlier that he would meet with people "whose lives have been totally shattered." . . .

There is a paradox in the Trump effort to shift the focus from easy access to automatic weapons to mental health. Because even if you think the blame is all on the side of the sick kid in Florida, the question remains: HOW was able to legally buy a weapon?

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/2/16/1741947/-White-House-Guy-with-legally-purchased-gun-shouldn-t-have-had-it
But what Donald Trump has done so far in office is make it easier for people to get guns, including people with mental illness. That’s despite his fondness for saying that mental illness, and not guns, is the problem in mass shootings. By the way, while Trump signed that legislation making it easier for mentally ill people to get guns, the White House has refused to release pictures of the signing. It’s almost like they want us to forget about it. . . .

Trump's weekends in Mar-a-Lago cost taxpayers at least $3.6 million per. But that's not the scandal -- it's money that Trump is transferring from the public till into his own pockets

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/apr/18/center-american-progress-action-fund/how-much-do-donald-trumps-trips-mar-lago-cost/

[NB: This weekend is #13. That's almost $50 million so far.]

The ongoing revolving door between the White House and Trump family businesses

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/senior-kushner-aide-leaves-white-house
Senior Kushner Aide Leaving WH For Family’s Real Estate Company

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/exclusive-kushner-quietly-made-more-fixes-to-his-financial-disclosures-may-have-more-to-come
Kushner Quietly Made More Fixes To His Financial Disclosures, May Have More To Come

Uh, yep

https://www.salon.com/2018/02/16/trumps-lawyer-may-have-committed-a-colossal-screw-up-by-speaking-about-stormy-daniels/
Trump’s lawyer may have committed “a colossal screw up” by speaking about Stormy Daniels 

A serious dimension of Trump's alleged affairs: can he be blackmailed?

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/theres-a-good-chance-president-trump-is-being-blackmailed.html

More: https://www.salon.com/2018/02/16/playboy-playmates-alleged-9-month-affair-with-trump-raises-serious-security-concerns/ 

NB: Take the pee-pee story out of it, is the idea that the Russians provided Trump with prostitutes in Moscow all that implausible, given what we have learned?] 

Remember when Trump's goofy doctor said, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." Guess what? It is nowhere near true

https://www.vox.com/2018/2/16/17016226/every-presidents-health-ranked
Obama ranks 2nd; Trump ranks 26th

The disturbing future of "fake news" (thanks to DR for the links)

https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/the-terrifying-future-of-fake-news
He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He's Worried About An Information Apocalypse. 

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/problem-fake-news-comes-trying-prove-you-re-not-it-ncna832221
The problem with 'fake news' comes from trying to prove you're not it

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/01/the-fake-news-epidemic-is-worse-than-we-imagined
The Fake-News Epidemic Is Worse Than We Imagined

https://www.msnbc.com/mtp-daily/watch/is-fake-news-about-to-get-more-difficult-to-identify-868894275539
Is Fake News About to Get More Difficult to Identify?

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/fake-voices-will-become-worryingly-accurate
The biggest loss caused by AI will be the complete destruction of trust in anything you see or hear


***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com) with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, February 16, 2018

BLACKMAIL

One thing we are all learning from the Trump-Russia story is how much the intelligence agencies worry about the various grounds for blackmail that can make people vulnerable security risks. That was the topic of Sally Yates' first contacts with the WH about Michael Flynn. It was at the heart of FBI concerns about Rob Porter. And one massive area of vulnerability is financial debt. This may be a serious area of concern for Jared Kushner (and we might find, before this is all over, Trump himself)

Kushner: https://www.salon.com/2018/02/15/does-jared-kushners-massive-debt-make-him-a-threat-to-national-security/

Trump: http://www.newsweek.com/2017/12/29/donald-trump-russia-secret-deutsche-bank-753780.html

https://www.vox.com/2017/7/18/15983910/donald-trump-russia-putin-fbi-collusion-fusion-gps 

Over 130 members of the Trump admin didn't have appropriate security clearances (as of November). A lot of them, including people in the highest positions advising Trump, still don't

https://www.salon.com/2018/02/15/over-100-white-house-officials-dont-have-permanent-security-clearances-report/

More: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/the-security-clearance-situation-in-the-white-house-is-bonkers.html
The Security Clearance Situation in the White House Is Bonkers

https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/15/politics/donald-trump-classified-information/index.html
[Trump, August 2016] "In my administration, I'm going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information."

[Trump, September 2016] "We can't have someone in the Oval Office who doesn't understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified." 

Wow. Reince Priebus gives a glimpse into just how screwed up the Trump White House is 

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/reince-priebus-opens-up-about-his-six-months-of-magical-thinking
Soon after the inauguration, the president began to lash out wildly at members of the Justice Department who were poised to open probes into possible misconduct or overreach by members of his administration. On his 11th day in office, he fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his controversial travel ban. Then Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District. Next up: F.B.I. director James Comey. Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGahn tried to stall the freight train coming toward them, sensing that sacking Comey would be a fateful political mistake. But Jared Kushner supported Trump’s decision, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo—criticizing the F.B.I. director’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation—gave Trump the pretext. On May 9, Trump fired Comey. It would trigger the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel and would prove to be among the most politically disastrous decisions since Richard Nixon fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. . . .

While Priebus and Bannon watched the fiasco explode as the pundits excoriated the Trump White House on every cable news show, Kushner did a slow burn. He was livid, furious that the communications team could not defend Comey’s firing. Bannon blew his stack. “There’s not a fucking thing you can do to sell this!,” he shouted at Kushner. “Nobody can sell this! P. T. Barnum couldn’t sell this! People aren’t stupid! This is a terrible, stupid decision that’s going to have massive implications. It may have shortened Trump’s presidency—and it’s because of you, Jared Kushner!”

The screaming matches and white-knuckle showdowns continued. Eight days later, Priebus got an unexpected visit from the White House counsel—a story he has not told publicly before. “Don McGahn came in my office pretty hot, red, out of breath, and said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ I responded, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Well, we just got a special counsel, and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions just resigned.’ I said, ‘What!? What the hell are you talking about?’ ” . . .  [T]he president, only moments before, had subjected Sessions to a withering tirade in the Oval Office, calling him an “idiot” and blaming Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation for the whole mess. Humiliated, Sessions said he would resign. . . . Later that night, Sessions delivered a resignation letter to the Oval Office, but, Priebus claimed, he ultimately persuaded the president to give it back.  

In June, Trump was still on a tear. He considered dumping special counsel Mueller, according to The New York Times, but was dissuaded from doing so. And by July, Trump was back on Sessions’s case, tweeting insults and calling him “weak.” “Priebus was told to get Sessions’s resignation flat out,” said a White House insider. “The president told him, ‘Don’t give me any bullshit. Don’t try to slow me down like you always do. Get the resignation of Jeff Sessions.’ ” Once more, Priebus stalled Trump, recalled a White House insider. “He told the president, ‘If I get this resignation, you are in for a spiral of calamity that makes Comey look like a picnic.’  . . .

The Trump presidency’s first six months were the most incompetent and least accomplished in modern history. And its very survival was clouded by the gathering storm of the special prosecutor’s probe. . . . [read on] 

It's a problem when Trump is able to decide whether or not to release information that implicates him 

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-conflict-of-interest-in-plain-sight/553436/

The case for collusion

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/02/15/adam-schiff-there-is-ample-evidence-of-collusion/

Steve Bannon spent 20 hours testifying to Mueller's team -- and you can be sure he didn't invoke "executive privilege"

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/report-bannon-spent-some-20-hours-in-mueller-interviews-this-week

Mueller closes in on another key plea deal

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/rick-gates-former-manafort-partner-makes-deal-with-mueller.html
Rick Gates, the longtime business partner to Paul Manafort, is finalizing a plea deal with Robert Mueller’s office . . . 

Trump's empty response to the Florida shooting -- somebody should have narked out this kid!

https://www.salon.com/2018/02/15/trump-finally-acknowledges-florida-school-shooting-only-to-suggest-victims-at-fault/
Trump finally acknowledges Florida school shooting — only to suggest victims at fault

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/reporting-florida-shooter-didnt-keep-him-from-getting-a-gun.html
People Reported the Florida Shooter, Like Trump Asked. He Still Got a Gun.

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/president-trump-address-nation-on-florida-shooting-doesnt-mention-guns
Trump Talked for 7 Minutes About the Florida School Shooting. He Didn’t Even Say the Word ‘Gun.’  

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/trump-carnage/553424/
In his inaugural address, Donald Trump declared, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." . . . "I’ll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city, or wherever you are, you’re not going to be shot,” he declared during the campaign. “Your child isn’t going to be shot.” 

Trump has a problem. He wants to go to Mar-a-Lago for a long weekend of Executive Time and golf, but that's only a short drive from Parkland. He has to go there. But he doesn't want to have to console weeping and grieving parents. He doesn't want to go the hospital to comfort the wounded. He certainly doesn't want to have to face the anger and accusations about what he is going to do to prevent this happening again. So what does he do?

https://politicalwire.com/2018/02/15/trump-hangs-back-another-crisis/
“In both cases, the president seemed to hang back behind staff decisions rather than taking decisive action to look engaged and involved. The response underscored the extent to which this White House, which is eternally thrust into dramas—many of Trump’s own making—remains rudderless in a crisis and curiously flat-footed when true emergencies like the Florida shooting arise.”

More: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/15/trump-shootings-disasters-consoler-in-chief-415597
Being the consoler-in-chief requires empathy and the trust of the nation. . . . [read on]


The shooter's ties to white nationalists

https://thinkprogress.org/parkland-shooting-white-supremacist-group-f8456fe2851b/

[NB: When do we start calling domestic mass murderers terrorists? When do we start calling the rise of senseless violence a national security issue?]


The problem with AR-15s

https://thinkprogress.org/fox-news-parkland-shooting-armed-guard-7fbe62f8f27f/

https://thinkprogress.org/ar-15-florida-school-shooting-614d9b9dd661/ 

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/heres-why-american-teenagers-can-buy-ar-15s
Here’s Why American Teenagers Can Buy AR-15s

More bots

https://politicalwire.com/2018/02/15/russian-bots-flooded-twitter-shooting/ 
Wired reports that following the school shooting in Florida on Wednesday, Russian bots “flooded Twitter” to spread pro-gun messaging and stir up discord.

In other news . . . 

The author of "The Art of the Deal" seems confused about what "deal" means

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/after-demanding-deal-trump-rejects-another-immigration-compromise

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/team-trump-fighting-immigration-compromise.html

With the threat of a presidential veto hanging over them, the Senate fails to pass ANY of the alternative immigration bills

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/senate-rejects-every-immigration-bill.html
The third, a bipartisan bill put forward by the “common sense coalition,” was fiercely opposed by the Trump administration, which deployed every weapon in its arsenal to prevent it from reaching 60 votes. The bill, which would have offered a path to citizenship for Dreamers, authorized $25 billion in border security, and prevented Dreamers from sponsoring their parents, failed 54-45. Once it was clear that not enough Republicans would support it, both New Mexico Democrats, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, voted against it, as did California Sen. Kamala Harris. . . .

More: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/15/17017682/senate-immigration-daca-bill-vote-failed

https://www.vox.com/2018/2/15/17018044/senate-failed-immigration-daca-deal-whats-next
No one knows what’s next.

Of course, Trump blames the Dems for the failure -- that was the plan all along -- but the bipartisan bill failed because HE opposed it, and the bill he did want didn't get full Republican support either

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/white-house-blame-democrats-daca-failure-senate

Hey, it's Infrastructure Week!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/trump-has-no-infrastructure-plan-blame-the-gop.html
Trump Has No Infrastructure Plan.


Trump wants to raise a tax - a highly regressive tax

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-finds-tax-he-wants-raise-the-one-you-pay-the-pump

Trump's Wall™ will certainly have negative environmental effects -- but better if we just don't ask

https://thinkprogress.org/congress-waive-environmental-laws-for-trumps-border-wall-2899b1200b20/

For the third time, a court has blocked Trump's travel ban

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/15/trump-travel-ban-4th-circuit-413458
"Plaintiffs offer undisputed evidence that the President of the United States has openly and often expressed his desire to ban those of Islamic faith from entering the United States. . . ."

Where did Trump's leftover inaugural money go? Not to charity, which is what he promised

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/melania-trump-advisor-inaugural-fund

Trump sets a new record

https://www.thedailybeast.com/president-trumps-new-record-the-longest-time-without-a-formal-press-conference-in-half-a-century
The Longest Time Without a Formal Press Conference in Half a Century

Yes, I'm sure he does. Now fire him

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/david-shulkin-plane-travel-wife
VA Secretary Says He Regrets Expensive European Trip On Taxpayer Dime 

More: http://thehill.com/policy/defense/373980-shulkin-defends-trip-but-acknowledges-bad-optics
“I do recognize the optics of this are not good,” Shulkin said. “I do accept responsibility for that . . .”  

The explanation irked committee member Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) . . . “It’s not the optics that are not good,” Coffman replied. “It’s the facts that are not good.”

EPA head Scott Pruitt's first class travel

https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/02/scott-pruitt-invents-yet-another-story-about-his-first-class-travel/
Henry Barnet, who directs EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, said in an interview that the head of Pruitt’s security detail, Pasquale Perrotta, recommended in May that he fly in either first or business class to provide “a buffer” between him and the public. His memo was prompted by an incident that month when a person approached Pruitt “with threatening language” that was “vulgar,” Barnet said. . . .

Here's what happened: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/15/scott-pruitt-first-class-travel-epa-351669
Pruitt's security threat? A passenger shouting, 'You're f---ing up the environment'  

The Repubs are worried about losing the Senate

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/373939-nervous-gop-seeks-new-2018-senate-candidates-in-three-states?userid=57999

More: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/15/17017438/cramer-heitkamp-north-dakota-senate

Wow, quite a record

https://politicalwire.com/2018/02/15/everyone-elected-house-district-pleaded-guilty/
Since Florida’s 114th state House district was formed in 2012, every candidate voters have sent to the Florida Capitol on their behalf has pleaded guilty to criminal charges . . .

Bonus item: Hmmmm. . . Stormy says she has a "Monica dress"

https://politicalwire.com/2018/02/15/stormy-daniels-monica-lewinsky-dress/

Now, another alleged affair surfaces: https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-yorker-blockbuster-claims-to-show-how-donald-trump-kept-his-affairs-secret

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com) with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***