Sunday, December 16, 2018

SURROUNDED


When you read the Michael Cohen sentencing documents and other materials coming out of this investigation, you can detect a barely suppressed tone of outrage. My sense of things is that prosecutors generally are driven by the mission of going after real bad guys -- and there are so many bad guys in this story, crooks and liars and shady operators, led especially by Individual 1. The elements here of an assault on democracy, on American values, on the integrity of our elections, and on the rule of law are growing more and more apparent by the day. The willingness to cut deals with a foreign adversary in order to gain power is the kind of thing that gets  Federal counterintelligence folks a little . . worked up. In New York, I imagine there are legal folks who have watched Trump play fast and loose with the rules for years, who now have the tools and the opportunity to really go after him. And this outrage is bipartisan -- the head of SDNY is a Trump appointee, for example. The instinct to go after corruption drives these people, regardless of party, and I think they will not rest until all the covers are pulled back

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1819363
Prosecutors are going to obliterate Trump and his massive criminal enterprise

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/15/every-organization-trump-has-led-is-under-investigation/
“The mounting inquiries are building into a cascade of legal challenges that threaten to dominate Trump’s third year in the White House. In a few weeks, Democrats will take over in the House and pursue their own investigations into all of the above — and more.”

Cracks in the Republican edifice?

https://www.newsweek.com/trump-fears-republicans-will-abandon-him-amid-legal-troubles-report-1260417
Trump Senses Diminishing Respect, Fears Donors and Lawmakers Will Abandon him as Legal Peril Worsens 

How Mick Mulvaney got chosen as Chief of Staff

https://thedickinsonpress.com/news/government-and-politics/4543605-trump-names-budget-director-mulvaney-acting-white-house-chief
Trump grew deeply frustrated at the rejections and the media narrative that no one of high stature wanted to be his chief of staff, according to a senior White House official, so he decided suddenly on Friday afternoon to tap Mulvaney. . . . "He got picked because the president liked him," the official said. "They get along." Mulvaney, a frequent visitor to the Oval Office, was never formally interviewed for chief of staff. He met Friday with Trump for a scheduled discussion of the budget showdown, officials said, but left as the acting chief of staff. . . . Mulvaney told Trump that he wanted to be chief of staff and vowed loyalty to the president's family, including daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner . . . Mulvaney told the president that if he were chief he would not leak to reporters and that he would manage the staff but not he president - an answer Trump liked, this official said.

Well, he's right isn't he?

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/mulvaney-terrible-human-being
Trump’s New Chief Of Staff Once Called Him A ‘Terrible Human Being’

Another Trump official resigns amid controversy

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/15/zinke-resigns-as-interior-secretary/
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke “submitted his resignation to the White House Saturday, facing intense pressure from the White House amid multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in Montana and conduct while in office” . . . 

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/zinke-vicious-meritless-attacks
In Letter To Trump, Zinke Cites ‘Vicious,’ ‘Meritless’ Attacks As Reason For Leaving

And another one: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818752

In other Russia news . . . 

The Mueller probe has paid for itself

https://thinkprogress.org/at-a-reported-cost-of-25-million-mueller-probe-has-paid-for-itself-76fdcee15c9b/

$$$

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/12/24/adam-schiffs-plans-to-obliterate-trumps-red-line
With the Democrats controlling the House, Schiff’s congressional investigation will follow the money.

Lindsey Graham keeps minimizing Trump's misdeeds. But here's what he said about Bill Clinton

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/12/huckleberry-and-all-that-process-stuff.html
Lindsey Graham on removing Bill Clinton from office: “You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role.” [read on]

In other news . . . 

Trump can't get enough of the Lisa Page/Peter Strzok affair

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/12/trump-tweets-misleading-claim-about-fbi-agents-missing-texts-to-discredit-russia-probe.html 
Trump Tweets Misleading Claim About FBI Agents’ Missing Texts to Discredit Russia Probe

[NB: He really thinks that making them look guilty will make him look innocent.]

Trump is thrilled to see a crackpot judge strike down Obamacare -- but will it stand?

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/court-ruling-gop-case-puts-health-security-millions-jeopardy
Court ruling in GOP case puts health security for millions in jeopardy

More: https://thinkprogress.org/even-conservatives-shocked-at-wrong-anti-obamacare-ruling-b3dd1d50a11c/
Even conservatives are shocked at how wrong the latest anti-Obamacare ruling is. . . Except Donald Trump, who pretended the partisan district judge was "highly respected."

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/15/obamacare-ruling-could-be-a-nightmare-for-republicans/
Obamacare Ruling Could Be a Nightmare for Republicans

More on the Green New Deal

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/12/15/the-case-for-a-green-new-deal/

Dumb as a sack of hammers

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1819215
J.D. Granger, who is the son of Republican Rep. Kay Granger, publicly bragged to a local NBC station that his mother's appointment as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee meant that she'd be able to funnel millions in federal dollars to a development project in Fort Worth called Panther Island … which the younger Granger just happens to run. In a "buoyant mood," Granger then added an equally startling comment about himself and his mother: "When this thing is on autopilot, we both get to retire."

First Wisconsin, now Michigan

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/rick-snyder-scott-walker-power-grab-bills

Going back to William Buckley, there has been a strand of American conservatism that sees itself as the hard-headed, unromantic, intellectual position. It's the strand of Bill Bennett, George Will, Bill Kristol, and the Weekly Standard. But in the era of Trump, there is no space for intellectually serious conservatism -- and now the Weekly Standard is gone

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-weekly-standard-goes-down-and-conservative-thought-is-poorer-for-it

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-dances-grave-weekly-standard
President Donald Trump celebrated the closing of the Weekly Standard Saturday, a conservative outlet which often published harsh pieces about the President and his administration. . . 

Bonus item: Trump's intelligence officers have tried everything to get him to pay attention to his daily PDB (not PBD!). They've tried simplified bullet points. They've tried colorful graphics. They've tried putting his name in there frequently to keep his attention. None of it has worked. He doesn't think he needs it, and he doesn't care


https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818994






***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!

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

THE WHEELS ARE COMING OFF

Here is where we stand. While Trump has expended all his energies into attacking the Mueller "witch hunt," the growing threat to his presidency is from former associates revealing a broader pattern of financial corruption and lying. None of this should have been surprising: Trump was widely known as one of the sleaziest of the sleazy real estate operators before he was ever elected. There's a reason you hire someone like Michael Cohen to do things for you. There's a reason you buddy up to the National Enquirer to help you cover up unfavorable news stories. There's a reason you pay hush money to conceal your sordid affairs. There's a reason you try to hide your tax records. All of this is falling apart right now, with sudden speed. 

I expect Trump and his defenders to say two things: this has nothing to do with Russia, and whatever Trump did he didn't do as president, so it's not relevant to impeachment. That's pretty weak tea, but I mean, what else can they say? Prosecutors clearly have the goods against him. These are CRIMES

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/14/trump-and-the-rapidly-expaning-witch-hunt/

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/12/14/the-coming-parade-of-witnesses-against-trump/
 
We've seen it over and over again: (1) I didn't do it! (2) I did it, but it isn't wrong! (3) It's wrong, but I didn't mean to do it! (4) I did it and it's wrong and I knew what I was doing, but it's no big deal! We have officially entered Phase 4. (Phase 5 is: Old news! Nobody cares about this any more!)

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/giuliani-argues-trumps-alleged-crimes-were-not-big
“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed… This was not a big crime,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. . . [read on] 

And here's another Old Reliable: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/running-out-options-trump-turns-self-pitying-whataboutism
“Nobody except for me would be looked at this like – nobody.” Trump’s affection for “whataboutism” is limitless, but this was a special example of self-pitying whataboutism. 

Giuliani quickly tries to erase his "not a big crime" goof

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/rudy-giuliani-cohen-crimes-correction
CORRECTION: "I didn’t say payments were not a big crime . . ."

[NB: Just read his words, above.]
 
Orrin Hatch too: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/hatch-walks-back-remarks-hush-payments
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) issued a statement on Friday to clarify remarks he made when asked about President Trump’s culpability in relation to Michael Cohen’s hush-money payments, calling his initial reactions “irresponsible” and a “poor reflection of my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law.” “While I don’t believe Michael Cohen is any kind of reliable voice in this process, I have expressed confidence in Bob Mueller and his investigation countless times, including writing in the Wall Street Journal that he must be allowed to complete his investigation,” he said in his statement. “Last October, when Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted, I said, ‘I believe that it’s in the best interest for all parties involved to allow Bob Mueller to conduct a full and vigorous investigation.’ More recently, this August I acknowledged that the campaign finance allegations were “some serious charges, and they can’t be ignored.”  

When CNN reporter Manu Raju asked about the allegations earlier this week, Hatch was dismissive. . . .[W]hen he was informed that it was the Southern District of New York that made the claims about Trump’s possible crimes, he said “Okay, but I don’t care.”

[NB: We are watching the uneven, lurching reactions of Republicans who have any sense of decency and integrity left to the growing realization that Trump is a serious crook. They aren't ready to cut him loose, but they are starting to realize that a time is coming when they might have to.] 

Here's how you know Trump's inauguration funding was dirty: Colonel Sanders now says Trump had nothing to do with it

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/sanders-blames-dems-inauguration-probe
Sanders Blames Dems For Inauguration Probe: All Trump Did Was Raise Hand, Take Oath

[NB: Of course, it's not the "Dems," it's prosecutors in New York who have opened this investigation.] 

Now we learn more

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/14/trumps-inauguration-paid-trumps-company/
“When it came out this year that President Trump’s inaugural committee raised and spent unprecedented amounts, people wondered where all that money went,” ProPublica reports.  “It turns out one beneficiary was Trump himself.” . . .

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/12/trump-hotel-overcharging-inaugural-committee.html
The Trump Organization Tried to Massively Overcharge Trump’s Own Inaugural Committee for Hotel Space, LOL

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/12/ivanka-up-to-her-neck-in-all-of-it.html
Ivanka up to her neck in all of it . . . A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1819114

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1819155

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818975
[T]he special counsel investigation is 'going global' 

Vintage Trump

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/12/trump-brushes-cohen-low-level-employee
FAULKNER: So Mr. President let's get into if we can -- Michael Cohen. He was your attorney. . . This was someone who surreptitiously recorded you.
TRUMP: Terrible.
FAULKNER: Is now known as a criminal liar, yet this is someone who was in your inner circle.
TRUMP: Yes, well it happens. I mean look, it happens. I hire usually good people but it just happens. 
FAULKNER: Why did you hire Michael Cohen? He was known as a fixer. . .
TRUMP: He did very low level work.
FAULKNER: Why did you need him?
TRUMP: He did more public relations than he did law. . . [Y]ears ago, many years, like 12, 13 years ago, he did me a favor. . . And I said, he's a nice guy. I should -- 
FAULKNER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That was the favor?
TRUMP: Years ago. . . . I think he was a great guy. I thought he was really a nice guy. He was very supportive. And I liked him and he was a lawyer, and because of that, I did it. And you know what, in retrospect, I made a mistake. . . 
FAULKNER: I want to move on. I have one last question. Michael Cohen says that he lied in order to protect you. What's your response to that?
TRUMP: Let me tell you, I never directed him to do anything wrong. Whatever he did, he did on his own. He's a lawyer. A lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing, that's why you pay them a lot of money, et cetera, et cetera. He is a lawyer, he represents a client. I never directed him to do any incorrect or wrong. . . .

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/12/michael-cohen-drops-hint-trump-isnt
STEPHANOPOULOS: You worked for him a long time. I was around you many, many years ago where you seemed to be having fun.
COHEN: Correct -- there was a lot of fun going on at the Trump organization.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... working with Donald Trump ... When did it change? ...
COHEN: I will tell you that the gentleman that is sitting now in the Oval Office, 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, is not the Donald Trump that I remember from Trump Tower. ... He's a very different individual.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's happened to him?
COHEN: I think the pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be. It's not like the Trump organization where he would bark out orders and people would blindly follow what he wanted done. There's a system here, he doesn't understand the system . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel did say that you are doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to the investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?
COHEN: No.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a big statement. . . .And when you look back at the Michael Cohen who spent 10 years with Donald Trump, what would you say to him on that first day?
COHEN: "What were you thinking? You knew better. You know better."
STEPHANOPOULOS: How does this end for Donald Trump?
COHEN: That sort of gets into the whole investigation right now between special counsel's office, the attorney general's office, you also have the Southern District of New York -- I don't want to jeopardize any of their investigations. . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, so you're saying there's certain areas that you can't get into because you're still cooperating with them.
COHEN: Correct. And out of respect for process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do you think President Trump is lashing out against you in such a personal way? Daily, almost now, calling you weak. Calling you a liar. Is he afraid?  COHEN: Seems like it. That's what he does. That's what he does.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you afraid of him?
COHEN: It's never good to be on the wrong side of the president of the United States of America. But somehow or another, this task has now fallen onto my shoulders, and, as I also stated, that I will spend the rest of my life in order to fix the mistake that I made. . . .

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/revealing-quotes-cohen-interview
‘I Will Not Be The Villain Of His Story’: Most Revealing Quotes From Cohen’s ABC Interview

This is a huge story, if true

https://www.vox.com/2018/12/14/18140744/paul-manafort-trump-russia-mueller-investigation
Paul Manafort, who served as the manager for President Trump’s presidential campaign, provided advice to the president and senior White House officials during the earliest days of the Trump administration on how to undermine and discredit the FBI’s investigation into whether the president, his campaign aides, and family members conspired with the Russian Federation and its intelligence services to covertly defeat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to government records and interviews with individuals familiar with the matter. Manafort himself was under criminal investigation by the FBI during this same time, a fact then known to the White House. . .

In other Russia news . . .

Who is the "mystery subpoena" for?

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/14/mystery-mueller-subpoena-fight-1065409

Hmmmm? https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/15/mueller-still-wants-to-interview-trump/
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team continues to be interested in interviewing the President Trump” 

No, the FBI didn't "trick" Michael Flynn into lying

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/14/michael-flynn-mueller-fbi-1065739

Robert Mueller REALLY doesn't like it when people lie to him

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/read-mueller-flynn-sentencing-memo

The infamous Steele dossier? It's holding up pretty well as the evidence grows

https://www.lawfareblog.com/steele-dossier-retrospective

In other news . . .

Trump's search for a Chief of Staff is down to three. . . uh, two. . . uh . . .

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/14/trumps-chief-of-staff-search-down-to-three/
Trump’s Chief of Staff Search Down to Three . . . President Trump’s search for a new White House chief of staff is centering around former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, senior adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer...

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/christie-declines-chief-of-staff-position
Christie Says ‘Now Is Not The Right Time’ To Be Trump’s Chief Of Staff

[NB: Boy, is THAT an understatement.]

Late in the day: Trump announces an ACTING Chief of Staff because he couldn't get anyone from the MANY excellent people who REALLY wanted the job. Uh-huh

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/12/trump-names-mick-mulvaney-chief-of-staff.html 
Mick Mulvaney

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-considers-mulvaney-meadows
Mulvaney was not interested in becoming chief of staff, according to a person close to him who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mulvaney has been saying for almost two months now that he would be more interested in becoming commerce or treasury secretary . . .
 
Why "Acting"? Because Mulvaney wants an escape hatch. The big clue is that he isn't stepping down as head of OMB -- though he obviously can't do both jobs

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/12/trump-names-mick-mulvaney-chief-of-staff.html
According to NBC News, Mulvaney asked for the “acting” title, as he wanted to ensure an easy escape from the position if it became necessary. . . .

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/14/donald-trumps-next-chief-staff-could-mission-impossible/2280265002/
The White House said that Mulvaney won't resign but his deputy, Russell Vought, will handle operations for OMB . . .

Typical Trump B.S. When it suited him, the North Korea issue was urgent, on the brink of nuclear crisis. Now that things have stalled, he says he's in no hurry

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/14/trump-north-korea-denuclearization-negotiations-1065565

Kirstjen Nielsen, once seen as a voice of reason in this administration, has gone over to the Dark Side

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/12/14/18140697/guatemalan-girl-dehydration-death-border-patrol-custody-dhs
Migrant girl dies of dehydration in Border Patrol’s custody

https://www.thedailybeast.com/kirstjen-nielsen-blames-migrant-girls-death-in-border-patrol-custody-on-her-family
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Blames Migrant Girl’s Death in Border Patrol Custody on Her Family

Conservative judge rules against Obamacare

The "reasoning": https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/12/conservative-judge-overturns-obamacare/

More: https://www.vox.com/2018/12/14/18065838/obamacare-unconstitutional-texas-ruling
O’Connor’s decision will near certainly be appealed up to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which could ultimately send the case to the Supreme Court. It is not entirely clear yet what the ruling will mean for current Obamacare enrollees — or those currently signing up, as the program’s open enrollment period ends at midnight on Friday. Legal experts on the left and the right believe the arguments being made by Republican-led states are, on their face, uncompelling and unlikely to succeed in overturning the Affordable Care Act. . . .
 
The number of death sentences, and executions, continues to drop

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/12/14/18140723/death-penalty-executions-2018
 
One last Congressional hearing on the Clinton Foundation, because . . . why?

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/12/14/rep-meadows-hearing-on-the-clinton-foundation-was-a-disaster/
Hillary Clinton haters were all a-flutter about the prospect of “explosive” information being revealed at Thursday’s hearing on the Clinton Foundation as the last hurrah from Rep. Mark Meadow’s (R-NC) chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee...

The GOP Minority Leader now wants to meet freshman Dems to make nicey-nice with them

https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/house-republican-leader-invites-democratic-freshmen-meet
 
Hints that MORE Repubs will resign rather than serve in the House minority

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1819001

And on the Senate side: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/12/14/18140802/jon-kyl-arizona-senate-resignation-martha-mcsally

The GOP is going to face a real crisis of conscience -- having enabled Trump for so long, what will it take for them to abandon him?

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/14/the-corruption-of-the-republican-party/ 

Apart from everything else, this is just simply an a--hole move. Before leaving office, Scott Walker signs off on a hyper-partisan bill stripping his successor of powers he himself has benefited from. Good riddance, you bum 

https://thinkprogress.org/walker-signs-lame-duck-bills-undermining-incoming-democratic-governor-1a55ae04e89f/

Michigan too: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/republicans-complete-their-power-grabs-wisconsin-michigan
 
Jared Kushner became Trump's main liaison with conservative media. What did he do?

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/14/jared-kushner-criminal-justice-reform-congress-fox-news-1063496
Kushner has far more quietly become a key conduit between the White House and conservative media, according to administration officials, Republican lawmakers and members of the conservative press. His efforts reflect not just the social network he has tapped to press policy priorities from the West Wing, but also his understanding of the power of conservative media over the president’s thinking. . . .

[NB: This is what Jared has learned: Trump takes key ideas and talking points from conservative media -- not vice versa. You can try to convince him directly, but even better to get to him through the people he really listens to, like Sean Hannity.]

More: https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/12/14/is-there-anything-kushner-isnt-implicated-in/
In addition to serving as a senior adviser in the White House, [Kushner] would also be playing the role of the main conduit between Trump and his friend David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher and chief executive of AMI, . . . Kushner performed the task admirably, discussing with Pecker various issues over the phone, including everything from international relations to media gossip, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Pecker, for his part, bragged to people that he was speaking to the president’s son-in-law and, more generally, about the level of access he had to the upper echelons of the West Wing

Continuing a theme, one part of Fox World is calling out the lies in another part of Fox World

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/12/chris-wallaces-post-mortem-trump-interview
 
Kellyanne has an amazing talent for saying utter absurdities with an earnest straight face

https://www.salon.com/2018/12/14/kellyanne-conway-claims-that-calling-president-donald-trump-a-liar-is-a-slur-during-cnn-interview/
Conway went on the offensive against CNN's Chris Cuomo, telling the host that he "took a shot at the president tonight. You called him a slur, and I'm not going to repeat it." When asked "what slur" she was referring to, Conway replied, "You're saying he's not telling the truth. That's a slur. That's a slur."

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/12/chutzpah-quote-o-week.html
[Digby] I don't recommend watching the whole thing. It makes you want to throw your shoe through the TV. But here's a little taste if you want to see how bad it was. . .
 
More slurs: https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/14/the-biggest-lies-of-the-year/
“There has been no serial exaggerator in recent American politics like the president. He not only consistently makes false claims but also repeats them, even though they have been proved wrong. The explosion of false and misleading statements from him in 2018 is well documented in our database: In the seven weeks leading up the midterm elections, the president made 1,419 false or misleading claims — an average of 30 a day.” “Trump says many things that are factually incorrect, but he sometimes says things that are mind-blowingly false. Despite having access to more information than anyone on Earth, he persists in making claims with literally no foundation.”

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/12/trump-said-he-did-not-have-felonious.html
Donald Trump has made so many inane, dishonest comments that it would take days to lay them all out. But it's not impossible that one of the most memorable will be something he said on Thursday in an interview with Fox News' Harris Faulkner. . . When asked about the Southern District of New York's announcement that his former friend David Pecker, CEO of American Media, the company that publishes the National Enquirer, had corroborated Michael Cohen's testimony that Trump had arranged hush money payments as part of the election campaign, Trump said this: "I don't think they even paid any money to that tabloid, OK. I don't think we've made a payment to that tabloid." He added later, "Let me tell you, I never directed him to do anything wrong," in reference to Cohen. . .


***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, December 14, 2018

A FOOL FOR A CLIENT

Trump, brilliant legal mind, is trying to conduct his own legal defense via Twitter

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-breaks-silence-on-cohen
I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel” . . . [read on]

[NB: Every parent will recognize this strategy: Waahhh! It's not my fault!]

You know what they say: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/121264/a-man-who-is-his-own-lawyer-has-a-fool-for-his-client
“A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client”

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/the-context-for-trumps-denials/
“Let us dispatch quickly with a lot of truly remarkable context for President Trump’s Thursday morning tweets denying culpability for alleged campaign-finance law violations. So we’ll note only hastily how noteworthy it is that a sitting president has been implicated by his own Justice Department in the commission of multiple felonies. Quickly note how significant it is that those felonies relate to allegations from a Playboy model and an adult-film actress that the president engaged in extramarital affairs. Mention in passing that a person who served as the president’s personal attorney for nearly a decade, Michael Cohen, has been sentenced to three years in prison in part for violating campaign finance laws to keep those relationships from being discussed publicly before the election.” “And, of course, dedicate only one line to the president’s striking demand that Americans ignore his demonstrably false claims about the payments — that he wasn’t aware of them, that he wasn’t involved — and instead accept this latest, complicated iteration as God’s-honest-truth.”

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/12/13/18139154/trump-tweet-michael-cohen-hush-money
Prosecutors have alleged that Cohen made the payments with the intention of influencing the election, and that he did so “in coordination with and at the direction” of “Individual 1” . .  . Prosecutors, however, have said that the payments, which exceeded the limit for an unreported campaign donation, were made with the purpose of influencing the presidential election. . . . This is the latest attempt by Trump to explain away the hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign. Trump initially claimed he knew nothing about the payments, specifically the $130,000 paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels. Then, in May, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani admitted on Fox News that Trump had repaid Cohen for the payments to Daniels that the president had previously claimed he knew nothing about — which Trump later confirmed on Twitter. The president’s story has changed multiple times throughout this saga; his tweets on Thursday are merely the latest iteration. . . 

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/421168-cnns-toobin-trump-lied-extravagantly-about-cohen-payments-from
Trump lied ‘extravagantly’ about Cohen payments ‘from beginning to end’

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/trump-finally-admits-he-directed-hush-money/
“[The] valid legal question aside, it’s worth emphasizing just how horrendous of a coverup this whole episode has proved to be. Regardless of legal culpability, Trump and his team have spent the last 11 months engaging in a very public and irreconcilable effort to obscure all of this. And as the days pass, their statements look worse and worse.”

Fox World runs a warm bath for Trump to settle in and peddle his excuses and lies

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/i-did-nothing-wrong-trump-downplays-cohen-campaign-finance-violations
‘I Did Nothing Wrong’: Trump Downplays Cohen Campaign Finance Violations

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818961

https://www.thedailybeast.com/cnn-host-se-cupp-rips-fox-news-trump-infomercial-that-was-not-an-interview
“Can we just say for the record, that was not an interview . . . It was an infomercial, allowing the president to provide his evidence” in the Michael Cohen case. “To ask the president how he feels about his good approval numbers.”

Cohen: Mueller has proof

https://www.thedailybeast.com/cohen-mueller-has-substantial-evidence-to-back-up-my-story
Cohen: Mueller Has ‘Substantial’ Evidence to Back Up My Story

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/cohen-trump-directed-payments-concerned-election

Trump was in the room during discussions with Cohen and the National Enquirer about shutting up his female accusers -- so he knew exactly what was going on

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/trump-was-in-room-during-hush-money-discussions/

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2018/12/oops-i-did-it-again-trump-idd-third-person

Maria Butina's plea deal

https://www.vox.com/world/2018/12/13/18139818/maria-butina-russia-nra-plea-agreement

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/12/maria-butina-pleads-guilty-russian-agent/578146/

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818958
It was a little odd in July 2015 when Donald Trump, just a few weeks after launching his presidential bid, threw a question at a Las Vegas event to a Russian woman who asked him about U.S. sanctions against her country. . . . The Russian woman was Maria Butina, who confessed on Thursday to working as a foreign agent of Russia in a conspiracy against the U.S. . . . But two key questions now are: Why did Trump call on Butina and why did he have a ready-made answer? That's certainly what Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, wondered on MSNBC Thursday. "Think about that possibility," Figliuzzi posed to anchor Andrea Mitchell, "that someone tipped off the president to call on her [...] that gets right to the heart of whether or not someone around Trump is actually in conspiracy with, now, someone who's said, I was a foreign agent of Russia. This is a big deal."

And now a new front in the investigation: Trump's inauguration

https://www.vox.com/2018/12/13/18139886/trump-inaugural-committee-inauguration-investigation-sdny
Investigators are said to be interested in the inaugural committee’s spending, and into potential corruption involving favors for its donors. . . . Even before this, multiple outlets reported earlier this year that special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating potential Russia-tied donations to the inaugural committee. But this news is the first confirmation of a broader probe into the inauguration and its money.

More: https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/12/about-those-inauguration-donations.html

The Grifter is still peddling his laughable lies. How dumb does he think people are?

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-claims-mexico-paying-wall-money-saved-trade-deal
‘MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!’

[NB: So, uh, this means he doesn't need to go to Congress? What a relief! No shutdown!] 

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818937
Trump’s NAFTA version 1.01 is so much better than the old NAFTA, that we can build the wall out of the money we save. And by “we” Trump means American consumers—who are very definitely on the hook for the funds to build his wall. Think of it as a car, plus a monkey. Donald Trump demands that Americans pay for his monkey. Americans, not even Republicans in the House, want to do that. But now Trump is saying we’re getting a break on the price of our new car … so he’s going to take those dollars to buy his monkey. So it’s like getting the monkey for free! Except that we paid for it. Trump’s wall logic is similar to that he’s recently used in making claims that America is “getting rich again” from funds collected by tariffs. Those tariffs are paid by U.S. companies and U.S. consumers. They are a tax, not on China or any other nation. They’re a tax on Americans. If all of Trump’s negotiating “wins” seem to come at the expense of Americans, it’s because they do.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/dhs-memo-touts-border-wall-construction-doesnt-exist
At the start of his meeting with Democratic congressional leaders this week, Donald Trump repeated one of his favorite lies. “Tremendous amounts of wall have already been built,” the president said, referring to his border project.  He added, “A lot of wall has been built. We don’t talk about that, but we might as well start, because it’s building – it’s being built right now, big sections of wall.” We’ve heard nearly identical rhetoric from Trump countless times in recent months, despite the fact that it’s demonstrably ridiculous. Congress approved funding for border-security measures, including resources to replace old fencing, but lawmakers haven’t approved a penny of the president’s plan to build a giant wall along the U.S./Mexico border.  . . . Yesterday, however, the Department of Homeland Security published a new memo, insisting that the Trump administration is, in fact, building a border wall. . . [read on]

Someone at DHS is a moron: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/dhs-press-release-wall-unique-tone

Trump just said he would be "proud" to shut down the government. Now he is saying, Dems, don't make me do it

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1073327086037741568

[NB: As with all abusers, it's YOUR fault if you make me hurt you.]

Here's how GREAT Trump's search for a Chief of Staff is going

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-chief-of-staff-jared-kushner_us_5c12c616e4b0f60cfa277b93?o3l
Having run through his first choices for his chief of staff vacancy without any luck, President Donald Trump is considering his own son-in-law for the job. Jared Kushner . . .

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/12/trump-is-considering-jared-kushner-for-chief-of-staff-because-hes-been-so-good-at-everything-else.html
Trump Is Considering Jared Kushner for Chief of Staff Because He’s Been So Good at Everything Else

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2018/12/newt-chief-staff-cracks-twitter
'Newt For Chief Of Staff' Cracks Up Twitter

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/13/trump-narrows-chief-of-staff-list-to-five-1063050
Depending on who you ask, David Bossie, a controversial Republican operative excluded from the president’s earliest batch of hires, is either a front-runner or a nonstarter in President Donald Trump’s chief of staff sweepstakes. Some White House allies say Bossie, formerly Trump’s deputy campaign manager, shot to the top of the list the minute Trump expressed an interest in having an effective political operator in the slot . . . But others quickly dismiss the speculation, saying the Trump world adviser can’t overcome opposition within the first family and lingering concerns about a hotheadedness that kept him out of the West Wing to begin with. “All the kids and most of the White House are adamantly opposed to Bossie”

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/trump-discusses-chief-of-staff-job-with-christie/
President Trump met with Chris Christie on Thursday evening and considers him a top contender to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, Axios reports. “Trump has met with a couple of others, but the way he’s discussed Christie to confidants make them think he’s serious. His legal background may come in handy next year.

[NB: Yep, that's why you pick a Chief of Staff, all right.]

In more Russia news . . .

It's not just Russia

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/mueller-middle-eastern-influence-politics
Mueller Has Been Looking At Middle Eastern Nations’ Influence On US Politics

Here we go. . . . buckle up!

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/mother-jones-flynn-contact-kislyak-during-2016-campaign
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has told associates that he spoke to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 campaign about how the two countries could work together on key foreign policy matters if Donald Trump was elected, Mother Jones reported Thursday. Two associates of the short-lived national security advisor told Mother Jones that Flynn’s contact with Sergey Kislyak predated the previously reported communications that the pair had during the post-election transition period. One associate told the publication that Flynn and Kislyak proposed a situation in which Moscow would work with the Trump administration to end the Syrian civil war in exchange for an end to U.S. sanctions against Russia...

[NB: There's the quid. . . and there's the quo.]

Trump says publicly that he's not worried about impeachment. That's not what he's telling people privately

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/trump-tells-friends-hes-worried-about-impeachment/

More: https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/12/13/trump-suddenly-realizes-his-survival-depends-on-the-establishment/
[H]is allies believe maintaining the support of establishment Republicans he bucked to win election is now critical to saving his presidency. . . . More than that, though, establishment Republicans have to believe that the president is capable of doing the job with at least a minimal degree of competence, and that he won’t lead the party off a cliff. Trump’s performance of late has been especially alarming in that regard. . . . . It hasn’t inspired any confidence on the Hill that the president fired the supposed “only adult in the room,” chief of staff John Kelly, and now cannot find a replacement. And it has already been reported that “the president’s top lieutenants on Capitol Hill” are anxious that he has not assembled an adequate legal team or strategy to fight back against the incoming subpoena-armed House Democrats and the inevitable carpet bombing from Robert Mueller.

I like the analogy

https://www.salon.com/2018/12/13/house-democrat-confirms-donald-trumps-worst-fear-we-are-going-to-take-an-mri-to-his-finances/
House Democrat confirms Donald Trump’s worst fear: “We are going to take an MRI to his finances”

DOJ policy is that the president can't be indicted in office. Does Trump's rampant criminality mean that it's time to test that theory?

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/why-mueller-should-try-indicting-trump/

[NB: One smart analysis that it's different when your crimes helped get you elected. You can't excuse or avoid dealing with those, because they go to the legitimacy of the office itself. And if you don't deal with them, the message is, Do whatever you need to do to win, because if you win you can't be punished for anything. Expect to hear this argument in an impeachment debate. The issue is defending the integrity of democracy itself.]

In other news . . . 

One of my favorite life slogans: be careful what you ask for

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/trump-said-he-welcomes-a-primary-challenge/
Trump Said He Welcomes a Primary Challenge

Lotta golf!

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-16-days-mar-a-lago
President Donald Trump is planning a 16-day holiday break at Mar-a-Lago this year, up from last year’s 12-day respite . . .

I don't know where the narrative started that Trump has some kind of political superpower. His choices seem pretty dumb to me -- now we learn that he might leave for his vacation right as the government is shutting down

https://thinkprogress.org/president-trump-possible-mar-a-lago-trip-amid-shutdown-threats-f28282a4aeb1/

I'm not interested in bashing Melania, but I would like her better if she didn't go on Fox News and say things like this

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/melania-slams-opportunists-focus-gossip
Melania Slams ‘Opportunists’ Who ‘Focus On Gossip’ To ‘Advance Themselves’


https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818983
Individual One's wife goes to Sean Hannity for a humanizing interview and no the hell thank you

And now: https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/13/politics/melania-trump-poll-numbers-drop/index.html
Melania Trump's poll numbers plummet 

The Republican-created deficit hits a record high

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/budget-deficit-hits-new-record/

The Republican controlled Senate issues a sharp rebuke to Trump on Saudi Arabia

https://www.vox.com/2018/12/13/18139585/senate-yemen-saudi-arabia-resolution-khashoggi

A bipartisan bill to reform Congress's rules on sexual harassment

https://www.salon.com/2018/12/13/house-and-senate-reach-agreement-to-reform-capitol-hills-handling-of-sexual-harassment-cases/

U.S. gun deaths reach a new high

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/gun-deaths-in-u-s-hit-new-high/

[NB: Now, why would the Russians be channeling money to the NRA? Hmmm. . . .]

The Cesspool

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/inhofe-bought-defense-stoocks-after-pushing-trump-increase-pentagon-spending
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) bought tens of thousands of dollars of stock in a defense contractor after repeatedly pushing President Donald Trump to increase Pentagon spending, according to a Wednesday Daily Beast report. Inhofe reportedly dumped the stocks after being contacted by the Daily Beast about the story. . . .

Ending with a whimper

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/house-republicans-say-goodbye-to-their-never-ending-clinton-investigations
Benghazzzz: House GOP Says Goodbye To Its Never-Ending Clinton Investigations

More: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/the-end-error-house-gop-crusade-against-clinton-end

It takes a lot of nerve

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/mccarthy-asks-democrats-to-embrace-bipartisanship/
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is encouraging incoming Democratic lawmakers to embrace bipartisanship . . .

More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2013/09/20/kevin-mccarthys-strange-new-definition-of-bipartisan/ 

https://www.quorum.us/data-driven-insights/the-top-10-most-bipartisan-members-of-the-115th-congress/164/
Majority Leaders McCarthy (R-CA-23) and McConnell (R-KY) have cosponsored 1 Democrat bill this session (for McCarthy it was a bill renaming a post office . . .)

Gov. Scott Walker is trying to find a slippery excuse for signing the bill that strips his successor of governing powers

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1818930

North Carolina might not only have to rerun their election -- they may have to replace the Republican candidate

https://politicalwire.com/2018/12/13/candidate-sought-out-aide-at-center-of-ballot-fraud/

The Democrats have several options for pushing universal health care

https://www.vox.com/2018/12/13/18103087/democrats-universal-health-care-sanders-jayapal

What do you mean, "we"?

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/new-york-times-daily-podcast-headline-backlash
NYT: The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, and How We Missed It

Stop laughing! (thanks to AG for the link)


http://deadstate.org/sarah-huckabee-sanders-i-want-to-be-remembered-for-being-transparent-and-honest/
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: I want to be remembered for being ‘transparent and honest’

Bonus item: Don't miss it! Trump and the teleprompter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=139&v=87H7anJcSNY

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