Thursday, March 23, 2017


Devin Nunes, House Intelligence chair (and a member of the Trump transition team), who has been carrying water for Trump at every stage of this investigation, takes it on himself to bring intelligence directly to Trump without clearing it with his committee or the ranking Democratic member Adam Schiff. This is a supposedly independent oversight committee – how can anyone have confidence in their investigation going forward?
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) said he learned just this week that the intelligence community “incidentally collected” information about members of President Donald Trump’s transition team outside of its investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.  In an impromptu press conference Wednesday—which the Washington Post reported he held before discussing these revelations with ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)—Nunes claimed that the information was “widely disseminated” among intelligence agencies and that the identities of Trump staffers were “unmasked.” . . .

Yet the basics of Nunes’s allegation are still extremely confusing. So what follows is a guide to what Nunes said, what he left out, and the false narrative already coming from the president and his allies that this vindicates the wiretapping claim. . . . [read on]

Adam Schiff:
"This afternoon, Chairman Devin Nunes announced he had some form of intercepts revealing that lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials included information on U.S. persons, potentially including those associated with President Trump or the president himself. If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been. Indeed, it appears that committee members only learned about this when the chairman discussed the matter this afternoon with the press. The chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.  

"As to the substance of what the chairman has alleged, if the information was lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials, that would mean that U.S. persons would not have been the subject of surveillance. In my conversation late this afternoon, the chairman informed me that most of the names in the intercepted communications were in fact masked, but that he could still figure out the probable identity of the parties. Again, this does not indicate that there was any flaw in the procedures followed by the intelligence agencies. Moreover, the unmasking of a U.S. person's name is fully appropriate when it is necessary to understand the context of collected foreign intelligence information.    

"Because the committee has still not been provided the intercepts in the possession of the chairman, it is impossible to evaluate the chairman's claims. It certainly does not suggest -- in any way -- that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor."
Schiff: Nunes Can’t Conduct Russia Probe While Acting As ‘Surrogate' Of WH

[NB: A little bit more inside baseball. Nunes says that part of the problem is that people inadvertently caught up in surveillance are supposed to be "masked" (Person 1, Person 2, etc). He implies that people were improperly named -- Schiff says that isn't true. There is also a technical question of whether Nunes revealed classified information. There is also the question of who passed this information to him, and why.

What is not unclear is that Nunes took intelligence reports involving Trump or his cronies DIRECTLY TO TRUMP in the middle of what is supposed to be an independent investigation.

But here is an aspect to this no one seems to have put together. Trump said a few days ago that evidence to support his wiretapping claim would come out in the next week or so. Two days ago, when asked where this "evidence" was, Sean Spicer replied, "Let's see how the week goes." I think THEY KNEW about these intelligence reports, maybe even had seen them from the same sources who leaked them to Nunes. The issue was simply a matter of timing and of arranging it so the reports came from a third party, not from them. But it sure looks to me as if Nunes was "informing" Trump about reports HE ALREADY KNEW ABOUT.] 

Trump says – of course! – that he feels “vindicated.” But as pointed out here several days ago, “Obama illegally wiretapped me” is not the same as “I was swept up inadvertently in a legal investigation into someone else because I may have had contact with them, or because they may simply have mentioned my name”


One thing the Nunes revelation did was knock the Paul Manafort story off the front page
The White House is going to great lengths to put distance between President Donald Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as a series of explosive news reports emerge detailing the millions of dollars he received from a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin and a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.  White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Manafort, a key member of the Trump campaign for six months, played “a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” By Wednesday morning, Spicer was refusing to even say Manafort’s name, telling NBC News that “it would be inappropriate for us to comment on a person who is not a White House employee.” [read on]

More shady dealings with Russia:
We’re learning a lot more about the Trump team’s financial ties to Russia
My question is, who convinced Donald Trump to hire Paul Manafort in the first place?
The extensive ties between Trumpworld and the Kremlin
Manafort is gone... But even as Trump officials downplay Manafort's role, his decade-long business associate Rick Gates remains entrenched in the president's operation.
Sean Spicer just shifted the White House's stance on Paul Manafort and Russia. Again.

[NB: You just need to pause and ask why SO MANY members of Trump's campaign, and now Cabinet, have so many financial and other ties to Russia (often to shady characters in Russia). It's an uncanny pattern, and can hardly be a coincidence.]

Not finished with Flynn yet, either
House Oversight Committee requests all documents on Mike Flynn’s foreign contacts and payments  
But here's what I think is the BIG NEWS of the day. House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff now says explicitly that the evidence of Trump-Russia collusion is "more than circumstantial"
Chuck Todd tried to downplay the investigation, reminding Schiff, "All you have right now is a circumstantial case." Schiff shot back, "Actually, no, Chuck. I can tell you that the case is more than that. and I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now." Todd pressed in, asking whether there was direct evidence of collusion.  "I don't want go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial," Schiff repeated. "And it very much worthy of investigation. So, that is what we ought to do." 

And now, this:
[CNN] The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN....The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.....One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready."

Health care vote scheduled today. Will it pass? Will they postpone it?
Freedom Caucus: There are 25 solid 'no' votes on Trumpcare
Trumpcare is in trouble in the House, and a defeat on this could cripple Trump and Ryan

The Republican health care plan is actually worse than nothing
Republicans Now Considering How to Make a Bad Health Care Plan Into a Complete Wreck

Late news:
Freedom Caucus Chair 'Optimistic' About Deal On Obamacare Repeal Bill  

Assuming the health care bill passes the House, Mitch McConnell has scheduled a quick vote on it in the Senate. There are two schools of thought on this -- one is that he's trying to rush it through, the other is that he's trying to kill it quickly
McConnell planning to jam Trumpcare through next week
Mitch McConnell’s Trumpcare Plan Is to Lose Fast

Which is it?

Trump's Supreme Court nominee says
"When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening," Gorsuch said at his Senate confirmation hearing when asked about Trump's attacks on judges.

Trump says: "The courts are not helping us, I have to be honest with you. It's ridiculous. Somebody said I should not criticize judges. OK, I'll criticize judges," Trump said. 
Gorsuch is going to be confirmed, but we can enjoy these lively moments of questioning
Al Franken’s grilling of Gorsuch exposes the heartless cruelty behind conservative legal philosophy
Democrats Exploring Deal With McConnell On Gorsuch Nomination

BAD timing!
The Supreme Court Just Gutted a Gorsuch Opinion — and Made Him Look Extreme

Gen. James Mattis, despite his nickname "Mad Dog," may be the most reasonable and competent of all Trump's appointments. He is certainly the most independent. And that, as you might guess, is becoming a problem

The half-assed President picks a half-assed Sect'y of State
Tillerson didn't want to be Secretary of State—and his level of effort shows it

NATO Says It Will Reschedule Meeting So Tillerson Can Attend  

Trump is having really, really bad luck with his Labor Dept nominees 

Must be the lamest excuse of all the lame excuses I've heard recently
Sebastian Gorka backtracks on anti-Semitic group link: “I never swore allegiance formally”

Trump is paranoid

What Trump's -- and Trump's family's -- refusal to live in the White House is costing us
Poor Donald, who orders his fabric for fabricated truths by the mile, now complains that fact-checkers are just too darn hard on him
"If it's off by one-hundredth of a percent, I end up getting Pinocchios." [read on] 

One of the creepiest things about this very creepy guy is the evident satisfaction with which he reports on terror attacks -- because they prove that he's right
Trump: "Big news" out of London 

Now Trump isn't just taking credit for things he hasn't done -- he's taking credit for things that haven't even happened yet

Who's gonna pick those grapes?
“Hire American”: Trump Winery wants to hire more foreign workers

Trumpism and tribal epistemology

This is the Wall Street Journal editorial page, folks
The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.  Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.


The kind of people they are
Donald Trump Jr. Insults London Mayor Sadiq Khan On Twitter After Terror Attack

Theocracy watch
Alabama legislature may give fundamentalist church its own police force: What could go wrong? 

Bonus item: Seth Meyers on Trump's wiretapping lies

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Now we are going to start to find out, little by little, about this Trump-Russia business
On MSNBC’s Monday edition of “Hardball,” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius claimed that yesterday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers was “a turning point” in the growing “Russia” scandal. At the time of the hearing I wouldn’t have thought so. Not that the testimony wasn’t dramatic. It was. Director Comey categorically denied that there was any evidence of President Trump’s inane accusation that President Obama ordered Trump Tower wiretapped, and confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into possible “coordination” between Trump associates and Russian government actors over interference in the presidential election campaign. . . . But it wasn’t the testimony itself that created the impression that something important had shifted. It was the over-the-top reaction. According to Politico, the White House was “knocked on its heels” and “scrambling to contain  the fallout.” . . . Press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to be near panic as he desperately tried to steer attention away from the fact that the President’s campaign is the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. He reminded the press about Obama officials saying they had no proof of collusion, even as Republicans on the committee seemed to imply that those same officials were the ones responsible for the leaks. In a lame attempt to distance the White House from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Spicer claimed they were insignificant campaign volunteers, which doesn’t pass the laugh test. . . .

Russia scandal leaves a ‘big, gray crowd’ over Trump, Republicans
We’re in the midst of what’s already a significant scandal — and one that could, depending on what the FBI uncovers, end up being the biggest political scandal ever in our history.  And it’s not clear, judging by the behavior of the Republicans at the House Intelligence hearing, if our hyper-polarized political system is capable of handling it. . . .

The Trump team response: lies, lies, and more lies

[NB: It certainly seems that they have a pretty good idea of what is going to come out sooner or later and they are already rehearsing the outline of their defense: (1) Trump didn't know about it; (2) The bad actors were "minor" figures in the campaign who were freelancing and no longer work with the Trump admin; (3) There is no "proof" that their efforts with the Russians changed the vote outcome; (4) This whole case is based on dubious surveillance and leaks that should never have seen the light of day, but were put out by bitter Obama admin holdovers trying to undermine Trump's legitimacy.]

Top White House aide Kellyanne Conway responded Tuesday to the FBI director’s announcement that the bureau was investigating possible connections and collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials by distancing Trump from two individuals connected to Russian interests. “You raised a very excellent point which is in the case of Mr. Page, Mr. Gordon, some others, that they really have very attenuated contacts to the campaign” . . . “I have spoken directly with the President and other senior officials about this. He doesn't know these gentlemen,” Conway continued. "He didn't work with them." 

Now we know that Roger Stone is one of the people they are looking at
In President Trump’s oft-changing world order, Roger J. Stone Jr., the onetime political consultant and full-time provocateur, has been one of the few constants — a loyalist and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who nurtured the dream of a presidential run by the developer-turned-television-star for 30 years.  But two months into the Trump presidency, Mr. Stone, known for his pinstripe suits, the Nixon tattoo spanning his shoulder blades, and decades of outlandish statements, is under investigation for what would be his dirtiest trick — colluding with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton and put his friend in the White House. . . . [read on] 
How perfect. House Intelligence chair Devin Nunes, having tried mightily to deflect attention away from the Trump-Russia connection, seems to unintentionally "leak" (!) that one CURRENT Trump staffer is under investigation. Who is it?

More from Nunes:

It's a simple thing, but reveals so much when you think about it
[Garry Kasparov] Trump has criticized: Republicans, Democrats, the Pope, US elections, CIA, FBI, NATO, Meryl Streep. Trump hasn't criticized: Vladimir Putin.

Comey says the investigation started in JULY. That tells us a lot

[O]n July 24th, @RobbyMook went on @jaketapper's show and accused Russians of leaking Dem emails to intentionally help Donald Trump. . . . Here's a video of that exchange, in which @RobbyMook was met with a mix of incredulity and doubt for even suggesting something so absurd. . . . The Trump campaign responded that the assertion was a "joke." . . . The Clinton campaign was right. The Trump campaign was wrong. Major media outlets were wrong. The Russians were trying to help Trump. 

Drip, drip, drip
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Didn’t Sign Trump’s Ethics Pledge
Reince Priebus’ FBI contacts suddenly look even worse
President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics . . .
White House distances itself from Paul Manafort . . .


VERY interesting
The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division is looking into the role far-right news sites including Breitbart, InfoWars and the Kremlin-backed RT might have played in Russia’s influence campaign during the U.S. presidential election . . .

Inside the Alt-Right/All-Russia Nexus

The sleazy company Trump keeps
If Trump Is Innocent, Why Is He Acting So Guilty?
The FBI did wiretap Trump Tower in 2013—because it's filled with Russian mobsters


So, when will Trump release the evidence he promised us that proves he was wiretapped by Obama?  

Don't call it "diplomacy"
Rex Tillerson to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia instead
Why experts think Rex Tillerson skipping a NATO summit is "an unmitigated disaster"

Standing up for NATO: Germany pushes back on Donald Trump 

Trump comes to Capitol Hill to try to "close the deal" on the crappy health care bill. He fails, and is reduced to making threats

Ryan Says Trump Came To Capitol Hill To 'Close The Deal' On O'Care Repeal

Freedom Caucus chair: Paul Ryan does not have the votes to pass the health bill

Conservative Group Heritage Action Still Against Republican Health Care Bill

Trump to House GOP: Vote Yes On O'Care Repeal Or Lose Your Seat

Did President Donald Trump just threaten members of his own party? 

Republicans can’t defend their health care bill on the merits

What . . . a . . . . mess
After last-minute "fixes" to the bill negotiated by popular vote loser Donald Trump were revealed Monday night, Ryan has the bill he's going with and it's going to be voted on Thursday. Even though that's a rush and even though the Congressional Budget Office won't have a chance to score the changes, potentially scaring off more Republicans. As if Trump hasn't caused enough chaos, here's this:  "White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday "it's possible" President Donald Trump will seek more changes to the Republican health care bill before Thursday's House vote." 

The Republican Health-Care Unraveling
Trump's regime of lies is starting to collapse in on itself (these are must-reads)

An Era of Breathtaking Lies 

Trump’s lies are failing him, and it is making him deeply frustrated
Boy, does this nail it -- the campaign ads to come practically write themselves

Trump picks the wrong slogan: ‘Promises made, promises kept’

Why does Trump keep making promises he can’t keep? The secret lies in his past.

The wall will cost a lot more — politically and economically — than Trump has publicly acknowledged. To build the wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border — and fulfill a key campaign promise — Trump will need to wield the power of government to forcibly take private properties, including those belonging to his supporters.  Much of the border, especially in Texas, snakes through farms, ranches, orchards, golf courses, and other private property dating back to centuries-old Spanish land grants. As a signpost to the troubles ahead, the government has still not finished the process from the last such undertaking a decade ago. . .

Trump plans to hire 20 government lawyers to fight the lawyers that the landowners have hired. This has become a lawyer full employment measure. . . .

Trump on the couch
Trump is vain. He's peculiarly unwilling to learn anything new. He feels endlessly persecuted. His attention span can be measured in minutes. He's paranoid over the slightest sign of disloyalty. He is vengeful. He demands constant attention. He makes up preposterous fictions to sustain his worldview and shield his ego from the slings and arrows of reality. He desperately wants to be liked by everyone. He's domineering. His personal relationships are almost entirely transactional. He never laughs. He can't stand people poking fun at him. He's often unable to control his emotional outbursts. And he likes his steaks really well done.

Trump's obsession with television and garbage journalism

According to Gabriel Sherman, National Affairs Editor at New York Magazine, people close to the White House say Mr Trump has begun watching “a lot” of Fox News recently . . . “But the other thing he does, a source close to the White House has told me, is that he DVRs [digitally records] basically all of the cable news.” . . .
Conservative darling Tomi Lahren says that she is pro-choice. Rock solid on every other litmus test, but her career is in jeopardy now because ideological diversity is verboten

If a tree falls in the forest, and Fox World ignores it, did it make a noise?

One less "talented legal mind" in Fox World

After GCHQ Wiretapping Charge, Andrew Napolitano Disappears From Fox

***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 ( 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.***