Tuesday, February 19, 2019


The guard rails are off for good. Trump gives one of the most important speeches of his presidency, trying to justify a national emergency, and decides to just wing it. The results were predictable. He has already started his 2020 road show at adoring rallies -- he calls it "campaigning," but it is only speaking to the already converted. He wants to say what he wants to say, facts and strategy be damned. He has forced out every advisor who questions or stands up to him. He is obsessed with the Wall™, North Korea (who has learned to flatter him personally while continuing their nuclear missile program), China (who has learned to flatter him personally while continuing to expand their global economy), and Russia (who has learned to flatter him personally while wrecking our electoral system). Longtime allies in Europe and North America have basically decided to ignore him, as if they know they aren't going to have to deal with him much longer. Without Supreme Court justices to appoint or taxes to cut, he has no real domestic agenda -- infrastructure? health care? immigration reform? Any of these would take sustained attention, discipline, and compromise, which are meaningless concepts to him

A senior government official who was involved in the spending negotiations over the past few weeks told me the experience taught them something disturbing. "We're going to go to the edge on everything," the official said . . .

Can't let go of that disastrous "national emergency" speech

It’s honestly gotten to a point where it isn’t even funny to watch Saturday Night Live parody him, it’s just frightening. I have watched and then read the speech seven times, trying to understand it. The only thing the spectacle of an unscripted Donald Trump ranking his cable news faves in lieu of discussing real policy did was afford us was a window into the Trumpian world order. A careful review of his remarks illuminates nothing but his hierarchy of moral priorities, a kind of food pyramid of what matters most to this man . . . [must-read!]

More: https://politicalwire.com/2019/02/18/trumps-news-conference-created-new-minefields/
Trump’s News Conference Created New Minefields

“More than 6-in-10 Americans disapprove of President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency so he can build barriers along the U.S border with Mexico” . . .

16 states sue the Trump administration over national emergency declaration

Ten nearly consecutive tweets on the Mueller investigation, which Trump is now calling TREASON

"There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more. This was the illegal and treasonous “insurance policy” in full action!"

More: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/targeting-federal-law-enforcement-trump-turns-things-notch
Regardless of the context, let’s not forget that, as of right now, Rod Rosenstein remains one of the nation’s top law enforcement officials. He’s also, evidently, someone Trump considers a criminal. . . . 

While Trump obsesses over Mueller, the threat to him from New York prosecutors grows

In other Russia news . . .

Trump's framing of the Mueller probe as a personal vendetta distracts from the fact that this is a CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION based on EVIDENCE. The public has only seen parts of that evidence. Here's what the people who have seen more of it are saying

Significantly, the two judges who have read significant non-public materials on the underlying conduct that Trump's aides were lying to hide both suggested the aides had betrayed the country.

More: https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/02/18/four-sentences-what-the-legal-system-has-said-about-the-suspect-loyalty-of-trumps-flunkies/

"I believe Putin"

MCCABE: The president — launched into — several unrelated diatribes. One of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by the government of North Korea. And, essentially, the president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles.
PELLEY: And U.S. intelligence was telling the president what?
MCCABE: Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses to which the president replied, “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”

Trump WANTED Russia included in the firing letter Rod Rosenstein drew up for James Comey


More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/5-most-eye-opening-statements-from-mccabe-cbs-interview
McCabe told CBS’ Scott Pelley that he, much like Comey, wrote memos after his interactions with President Donald Trump, and that he’s given all of those notes to special counsel Robert Mueller. . . .

[NB: Trump says McCabe is a big fat liar, and you can evaluate the status of Trump calling anyone else a liar. But McCabe has contemporaneous notes and records. Does Trump have contemporaneous notes and records?

By the way, as I'm sure you have heard, the FBI uses "302" forms to summarize interviews with the subjects of an investigation. Maybe this just becomes habit. But in the case of Trump, were they using their own memos as a kind of 302, even before he was formally the subject of an investigation? What was it about the encounters with him that made them so concerned to memorialize them immediately?]

There is something here

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) are launching a new probe of what they called the “complex web of relationships” between members of the National Rifle Association and Russian individuals with close ties to the Kremlin. . .

When the bad guys really do act like bad guys

[Roger] Stone Posted A Picture Of The Federal Judge On His Case With Crosshairs

He knows he went too far: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/stone-lawyers-file-formal-notice-of-apology-to-judge
Stone, Lawyers File Formal “Notice of Apology” to Judge

Rod Rosenstein will leave the DOJ next month


In other news . . . 

Is another member of the Trump admin going to be forced out for not backing Trump's lies?


The coming fight over the debt limit


The NC-9 election needs to be re-voted

At a North Carolina hearing Monday, investigators started laying out in detail an “unlawful,” “coordinated,” and “well-funded” plot to tamper with absentee ballots in a US House election that remains uncalled more than three months after Election Day — finally bringing some clarity to one of the most bizarre election scandals in recent memory.

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2019/02/whoa-nc9-hearings-include-admitted-0

A few days ago it looked as if none of the top Dems in Virginia would survive. Now it looks like they all might
John Oliver Exposes Trump’s ‘National Emergency’ Border Wall BS

***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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Monday, February 18, 2019


No, we aren't going to endorse using the 25th Amendment here -- it wasn't created for this purpose and it is even harder to invoke than impeachment. But it is sobering to look at that incoherent mess of a "national emergency" speech as an indicator of Trump's state of mind

His topic demanded utmost solemnity: The situation on the border is so dire, such a crisis, that he must invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, testing the boundary between constitutional democracy and autocracy. But with the nation watching, Trump instead delivered a bizarre, 47-minute variant of his campaign speech. He boasted about the economy, military spending and the stock markets ("we have all the records") and he applauded the Chinese president's pledge to execute people who deal fentanyl . . . He said Japan's prime minister had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He declared Ann Coulter "off the reservation" but praised his favorite Fox News hosts and celebrated Rush Limbaugh's endurance ("try speaking for three hours without taking calls"). Further, Trump reported about on his "great relationship" with the dictator of North Korea (which, Trump reported, is found "right smack in the middle" of South Korea, China and Russia) and he declared the "eradication of the caliphate" in Syria (his top general in the region begs to differ). . . .

Oh, and he also mentioned his emergency declaration -- specifically, that it isn't necessary. "I didn't need to do this," he said in response to a question from NBC's Peter Alexander. It's just that the emergency declaration lets him build a border wall "faster." He acknowledged that "I don't know what to do with all the money" Congress gave him for border security. Somewhere, administration lawyers were face-palming. . . .

Trump seemed not to have heard such warnings as he ricocheted from topic to topic in the Rose Garden. He carried a speech to the lectern but mostly ignored it as he spun fantasies. Evidence that most of the illegal drugs pass through legal border crossings? "It's all a lie." CNN's Jim Acosta pointed out that border crossings are near record lows and illegal immigrants are not disproportionately criminal. "You're fake news," Trump replied. Playboy's Brian Karem asked Trump to "clarify where you get your numbers." "Sit down," Trump told him, declaring that "I use many stats." Minutes later, he pumped a fist in the air and departed. . .

My sweet bearded Lord, what a performance. I don't know what my favorite part was. It might have been when he admitted to NBC's Peter Alexander that he was only declaring an emergency because he wanted to get his mitts on the money as fast as possible. It might have been the moment when he recalled how Barack Obama told him that he was planning on launching a "very big war" on the Korean Peninsula . . . Was it his revelation that Shinzo Abe of Japan had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize? Was it the way he repeatedly hung Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen out to dry, telling the reporters that the statistics on immigrants and crime produced by DHS didn't match up with the secret "stats" he has? It may have been when he shouted out his favorite wingnut celebrities, and then said that not only did he not know Ann Coulter, but that he hadn't talked to her in a year. Oh, OK. If you wanted to produce a commercial to sell the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, this was it. . . .

But the most singularly terrifying moment came when the president* explained how he likely is going to have to fight his emergency declaration through the courts . . . t wasn't what he said, but the way he said it. He lapsed into a sing-song cadence that was half-middle-school-taunt and half-serial-killer. No president in my lifetime ever did voice acting, let alone a voice that made you want to make sure he was kept away from the White House cutlery. The man is not all there. Everybody knows it. If your uncle behaved like the president* behaved on Friday, you'd hide his car-keys, lock up the booze, and drive him to the neurologist. . . .

[NB: As I have said here before, the problem isn't that Trump is addled -- it's that he is uninformed, and lazy, and stubborn. His failings are moral, not cognitive.

Trump rode his promise to build the Wall™ to victory in 2016. Now he plans to turn his failure to build it into a reason to re-elect him in 2020
“President Trump and his political team plan to make his years-long quest for a border wall one of the driving themes of his reelection effort — attempting to turn his failure to build such a project into a combative sales pitch that pits him against the political establishment on immigration,” the Washington Post reports.

[NB: Since a key part of that failure was REPUBLICANS who wouldn't give it to him, even when he had majorities in both chambers of Congress, this is going to be an interesting case to make. We know from items posted yesterday that Trump didn't even really try to force the Wall™ issue through during those first two years.]

More: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-17/national-emergency-trump-has-no-intention-of-losing-on-the-wall
Trump and his team neither prioritized building a border wall nor assigned someone to be the White House’s point person on the project for most of the president’s first two years in office. . . . It was only after Trump recognized in January that he was being consumed by a government shutdown he set in motion — and that he had been politically emasculated by a woman to his left (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and to his right (pundit and firebrand Ann Coulter) — that he fully embraced a border wall as his last stand. [read on]

[NB: Read more on Trump's long history of failures that he has tried to spin as great victories. It's quite a story.]

Napoleon Solo has given up on working with Congress

Shortly after becoming President Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney conveyed a blunt message to several Cabinet secretaries. . . . Mulvaney told the Cabinet officials that their "highest priority" over the next year would be deregulation. . . . "We knew there was one thing we could do without legislation," the senior official told me. When Mulvaney sits down with the president to discuss the Cabinet secretaries' performance, the official said, "Dereg is going to be top of the list." . . .

Trump relishes using the power of the presidency to do whatever he can without Congress. . . . More than half a dozen current and former White House officials told me that after they passed their big tax bill last Congress, a broad consensus emerged: Trump wouldn't get anything else big through Congress before his re-election. 

Trump keeps bragging about billions of dollars in tariffs coming into the U.S. Treasury from China. But guess who really pays the price for tariffs?


Trump's alienation from Europe gets worse and worse

Rift Between Trump and Europe Now Open and Angry

More: https://thinkprogress.org/trump-isis-fighters-return-europe-syria-war-704a79f7b10f/
Trump gives Europe an ultimatum over ISIS fighters, deepening a growing rift

[NB: Foreign policy by Twitter, and by tantrum. Again, somewhere Putin is smiling.] 

Oh, PERFECT. Trump bragged that Japan's PM Abe nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. And that's true. But what he didn't say was that it wasn't Abe's idea -- the White House ASKED him to

Trump claimed Abe had given him “the most beautiful copy” of his five-page nomination letter. . . .

He is SO effing easy: https://www.vox.com/2018/9/30/17920096/trump-kim-jong-un-west-virginia
President Donald Trump says he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “fell in love” over letters he and the brutal dictator have exchanged in recent months. . . ." I was really being tough, and so was he. And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love, okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters."

In Russia news. . .

Now Trump is saying that the people investigating him should be in jail


"Evidence in plain sight"

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that there is ample evidence Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2019/02/house-minority-leader-mccarthy-demands
House Minority Leader McCarthy Demands Adam Schiff Recuse Himself From Russia Probe

You knew this had to be coming

Mueller Subpoenas Cambridge Analytica Director

In other news . . .  

Trump's scandal-ridden administration is so bad that now nominees are withdrawing before they can even be voted on


More: https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2019/02/bye-bye-heather.html
I don't know the real story here, but this isn't it . . . 

The Cesspool

Maine's Paul LePage Found To Have Booked 40 Rooms At Trump's Hotel

What the hell is the MATTER with him?

Graham: KY Kids Would Be Better Off If School Funds Are Diverted To Border Wall

Stephen Miller faces some tough questioning -- on Fox World -- and he doesn't have any answers

“Can you point to a single instance, even one, where the president asked Congress for money, Congress refused to give him that money, and the president then invoked national emergency powers to get the money?” Wallace asked. “Can you find one case?” 

Bonus item: Trump boo-hoos that SNL and late night comedy are so darn mean to him

"Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!"
***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.***

Sunday, February 17, 2019


We talked about this yesterday: Republicans face a crucial choice in whether to back Trump on his "national emergency" or to stand up for the Constitutional balance of powers

“Trump’s bid to circumvent Congress puts GOP lawmakers — including many vulnerable senators up for reelection in the next cycle — in the position of having to choose between their party’s leader and their self-described opposition to executive overreach.” “If they back Trump’s emergency declaration, many lawmakers worry, they will be greenlighting a White House power grab that infringes on Congress’s constitutional power over spending. But if they oppose it, they risk attracting the wrath of Trump’s political base — and perhaps a primary challenge.”

“The good news out of this unconstitutional power grab is it will split off some Republicans from this wannabe Franco.”
         — GOP strategist John Weaver

[NB: Will it?]

The president’s move left Senate Republicans sharply divided, and it remains to be seen whether they will act collectively to try to stop Mr. Trump or how far into unchartered territory they are willing to follow a headstrong president operating with no road map beyond his own demands.”

Trump says his phony "national emergency" is no big deal because there have been dozens of them before. But none of them were like this one

“None of the times emergency powers have been invoked since 1976, the year Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act, involved a president making an end run around lawmakers to spend money on a project they had decided against funding.”

More: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/a-weak-and-rambling-president-declares-a-fake-national-emergency
A Weak and Rambling President Declares a Fake National Emergency

SNL does Trump: https://slate.com/culture/2019/02/snl-cold-open-alec-baldwin-trump-national-emergency.html 

"A barrage of lawsuits"


Joshua Green had a huge scoop when he reported that there was never a serious intention to build the Wall™ during Trump's campaign. It was a metaphor that grew out of control and now has taken over the Trump presidency

Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border did not come from security analysts following years of study or through evidence that a wall would reduce illegal immigration. . . . “Inside Trump’s circle, the power of illegal immigration to manipulate popular sentiment was readily apparent, and his advisers brainstormed methods for keeping their attention-addled boss on message,” writes Joshua Green. . . “They needed a trick, a mnemonic device. In the summer of 2014, they found one that clicked.”

Yet in the two years since Mr. Trump took office, there had been no single official appointed within his administration to champion the wall. A revolving cast handled negotiations with Congress over paying for it. . . . The wall’s reemergence as a top priority within the White House came after the Republican Party’s loss of the House in November’s midterm election, and after goading from conservative media kept Mr. Trump focused on the border wall . . . It wasn’t until December, as some government offices entered a 35-day shutdown amid the fight over wall funding, that Mr. Trump assembled a team of advisers devoted to getting it built. They turned out to be a divided group. . . .

Trump’s insistence on a border wall stems less from his belief that it solves an actual security need than from an ego trip gone wrong. The president, of course, recalls better than anyone that “Build the wall!” chants whipped his nativist base into a frenzy when he was a candidate. . . Trump’s well-documented love for the adoration of crowds, including a habit of rewatching his own rallies so he can “[luxuriate] in the moments he believes are evidence of his brilliance,” according to Axios, suggests the rapturous thrall in which he holds his audiences is mirrored by that in which their adulation holds him. But Trump’s fear that such adulation might be conditional — predicated, perhaps, on whether he actually keeps his promises — seems to have driven his recent decision-making far more than the actual rate of undocumented border crossings, which has declined steeply since its zenith in the early 2000s. . . . . The wall has become a prison of Trump’s own making, his desire for its construction a prolonged ego trip and a carrot for his supporters, not a response to an actual security need. He has chosen not to test his own maxim that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and [not] lose voters.” Now he is stuck with the literal consequences of his rhetorical irresponsibility. And so, unavoidably, are the rest of us.

Donald Trump ran for president promising to build a wall on the southern border that Mexico would pay for. For the first two years of his presidency, he focused mostly on priorities congressional Republicans cared about (tax cuts, health care, judicial confirmations) and forgot about the wall. At the end of last year, he suddenly realized he was about to lose control of Congress without getting the wall, and shut down the government in the hope that somehow it would lead to a wall. . . .Now President Trump is revealing his fallback plan: pretend he succeeded. The U.S.-Mexico border runs for nearly 2,000 miles. Early in his campaign, Trump conceded that natural barriers cover half that length. He inherited 654 miles of border fencing, and promised a wall covering a full 654 miles. This would mean upgrading most or all the additional fencing to “wall” status — making it taller, stronger, or wallier — and adding another 350 miles or so of new wall. He has so far added zero to that total. Yet the wall was never a material infrastructure project, but instead a symbol of defiance and order. Trump is clearly signaling a new stage in which he is abandoning its physical manifestations and conjuring it into reality.

"Not an inch" 


Another bizarre riff in Trump's "national emergency" speech was his obvious admiration for authoritarian leaders and the death penalty for drug dealers

President Trump spoke fondly again on Friday about the practice — popular among some anti-Democratic leaders — of executing drug traffickers. Speaking at the White House to announce that he was declaring a national emergency to secure funding to build his long-promised border wall, Trump digressed to speak about a recent conversation he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “Their criminal list — a drug dealer gets a thing called the death penalty,” he said of China. “Our criminal list a drug dealer gets a thing called: How about a fine?” Trump continued: “When I asked President Xi, I said, ‘You have a drug problem?’ No no no.” I said, ‘You have 1.4 billion people, what do you mean you have no drug problem?’ No we don’t have a drug problem. I said, ‘Why?’ Death penalty,” Trump said, imitating someone who speaks broken English. “We give death penalty to people who sell drugs. End of problem.” 

China DOES has a drug problem: http://time.com/5530597/trump-china-drug-problem/

No, Trump DID NOT "inherit a mess" from Obama


You can track how Trump's Twitter feed echoes blurbs from Fox World

Gertz has been tracking Trump's seemingly obsessive habit of tweeting out things that he has just seen on Fox News, often odd non sequiturs that bear no clear relationship to policy debates or the news cycle but that pair up precisely to a specific segment on Hannity or Fox & Friends. . . . “I think what we’re seeing is how the president can be influenced in real time—and the consequences that can have,” Gertz said.

Fox hosts themselves know that they have Donald Trump's ear, and programming is targeted at influencing his beliefs and suspicions directly. Fox programs contain constant, lavish praise of Trump, securing his attention in a media landscape in which every other news program is painting him in a less flattering light; this is interspersed with, in the cases of hosts like Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity, direct messages to Trump about what he ought to be doing next . . .

In Russia news. . . 

What we now know

Now that Stone himself was shown to have been in direct communication with Russian intelligence operatives, there is a direct line running between the Trump campaign and Russian military intelligence officials. . . .

More: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/02/16/robert-mueller-roger-stone-paul-manafort-225162
Can the House Dems find out what Trump and Putin talked about?


Sean Hannity wants new AG William Barr to open an investigation . . . of Trump's critics

James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein all made his hit list. . . . He is also not fond of former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In other news . . .

Ha ha ha ha ha

Vice President Pence got no reaction from U.S. allies when he mentioned President Trump to U.S. allies at a security conference in Munich. Said Pence: “I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.” He was met with a lengthy silence. . .

I think it is fair to say that Pence was not well-received

The Trump administration lashed out at some of America's closest traditional allies Thursday, accusing Britain, France and Germany of trying to bust U.S. sanctions against Iran and calling on European nations to join the United States in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal. . . .

Pence Accuses Europe Of ‘Undermining’ US

“America First does not mean America alone,” he said, hailing the results of Donald Trump’s presidency as “remarkable” and “extraordinary”, and calling on the EU to follow Washington in quitting the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing the head of Venezuela’s congress, Juan Guaido, as the country’s president.

More: https://www.politico.eu/article/munich-security-conference-angela-merkel-mike-pence/

Here's how far out of the mainstream Trump's judicial nominees are

In a single year, Trump has had 10 judicial nominees who don't agree with school desegregation

Here comes Bernie!

Bernie Sanders, inching closer to a second bid for the White House, has recorded a campaign video in which he says he is running for president in 2020 . . .

Bonus item: Kudos to R.E.M. -- who were followers of this blog!

R.E.M. Gets Trump SOTU Video Featuring ‘Everybody Hurts’ Taken Down
***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.***