Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BOILING POINT


Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein gives Trump the investigation he wants -- but not in the way he wants

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/rosenstein-tries-to-buy-time-in-the-face-of-trump-demands/
In response to President Trump demanding an investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated” his presidential campaign, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “asked its internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, to expand its current inquiry into the surveillance of a former Trump campaign official to include the questions raised by the president” . . . “By handing the question to the inspector general, Mr. Rosenstein appeared to be trying to thread the needle, giving the president what he said he wanted without fully bowing to his demands. But it was not clear whether that would satisfy Mr. Trump, who in February complained that it was ‘disgraceful’ for the Justice Department to hand over the surveillance investigation to an inspector general who lacks prosecutorial power, saying it would ‘take forever’ and suggesting that he was ‘an Obama guy.'”

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765806 

See the consistent theme?

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-announces-plans-politicized-justice-department-probe
As yesterday progressed, and Donald Trump kept tweeting, it seemed obvious that the president’s latest tantrum was reaching a boiling point. It started with Trump accusing Hillary Clinton of corruption – the election was 558 days ago – followed by him accusing the New York Times of also being corrupt. That was soon followed by a series of “witch hunt” claims, criticisms of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, and poorly written complaints about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Christopher Steele’s dossier, the DNC, the FBI, and John Podesta’s brother. Those who want to believe the president is emotionally stable would’ve been wise to avert their eyes. . . .

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/new-trump-tower-meeting-george-nader-erik-prince-don-jr-russia-mueller.html
Why the New Times Report on the Gulf Meeting Is Freaking Trump Out

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765909
Trump's weekend unraveling continues on Monday with an attack on the CIA and John Brennan

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/trump-comes-unglued-amid-growing-pressure-from-mueller.html
Donald Trump Comes Unglued Amid Growing Pressure From Bob Mueller

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/21/trumps-phony-investigation-of-the-fbi-desperate-switchback-worthy-of-o-j-simpson/
More than anything else, the president’s tweets represent the shrieking lament of a man who can feel the legal noose tightening and has no narrative of innocence to speak of. Not once has Trump tried to explain what was really going on with the numerous contacts between his campaign henchmen and Russians, not to mention the new revelations about possible conspiracies with leaders from Arab Gulf nations including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. . . .

[NB: We always knew this moment was coming -- when the inexorable mounting of evidence against Trump and his people would trigger a crisis. Now we are seeing the first stages of Trump's unhinged response: recycling all the old grievances, seeing "traitors" everywhere, and upping the pressure on the Justice Department to defend him and investigate his long list of enemies. It's not clear where this goes, but experience shows that these tantrums inevitably end up with Trump doing things that make his actual legal situation worse. Buckle up!]

Poking the beast with sharp sticks 

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sally-yates-says-that-trump-is-taking-all-out-assault-on-the-rule-of-law-to-a-new-level
[Sally Yates] Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates weighed in Monday on President Donald Trump’s accusation that the Obama-era Department of Justice spied on his campaign, saying that the President is “taking his all-out assault on the rule of law to a new level.” Watch . . . 

https://twitter.com/JohnBrennan/status/998301133545312259
[John Brennan] Senator McConnell & Speaker Ryan: If Mr. Trump continues along this disastrous path, you will bear major responsibility for the harm done to our democracy. You do a great disservice to our Nation & the Republican Party if you continue to enable Mr. Trump’s self-serving actions.

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/congressman-adam-schiff-alarmed-about
[Adam Schiff]  I think, second to the firing of Comey, this is the most direct assault on the independence of the Justice Department, the most direct effort to interfere with this investigation of the Trump campaign. It's deeply disturbing. It obviously puts the Justice Department in a very difficult position. . . . We have members of Congress that are only too happy to be complicit with the President in beating down the independence of the Justice Department. This is a major threat to the rule of law. . . . I think they're trying to figure out how to skin this cat at the Justice Department, how to, on the one hand, not be insubordinate to an order by the President, but on the other hand, make sure they don't erode the independence of the Justice Department.

From Fox World directly into Trump's tweets

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-jumps-on-fox-news-guest-anti-brennan-tirade
“John Brennan is panicking. He has disgraced himself, he has disgraced the Country, he has disgraced the entire Intelligence Community. . . ." 

Don't get distracted

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/don-t-get-distracted-biggest-weekend-story-was-other-2016-n875936
The biggest weekend story was the other 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Plus the Russia meeting: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/what-happened-in-don-jr-s-trump-tower-meeting-with-russians.html

More: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/there-is-only-one-trump-scandal/560825/
There Is Only One Trump Scandal . . . The myriad Trump scandals can obscure the fact that they’re all elements of one massive tale of corruption. . . 

It looks as if the DOJ did make one big concession -- to release (some) classified information to congressional leaders. Let's see how long it takes before it gets leaked

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1766048
[Colonel Sanders] said the men also agreed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would set up a meeting where congressional leaders can review “highly classified and other information they have requested” from the Justice Department’s probe of Russian meddling and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it.

[NB: Given Devin Nunes' proven track record as a conduit for information with the White House, I can't believe they will share anything really crucial. But who knows?]

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1766069
After a mysterious agreement in the White House today for the FBI to perhaps reveal top secret information about the ongoing Russia probe to House Republicans demanding it, Donald Trump "lawyer" Rudy Giuliani isn't even pretending that those documents won't be ending up in his own hands. Check out what he's telling reporters . . .

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/21/trump-justice-department-fbi-informant-601572
But the breadth of the agreement — and what information, exactly, might be provided — was not immediately clear. The Justice Department had previously indicated that sharing details about its informant could risk lives and endanger national security. It's also unclear who will be permitted to view the documents. The Justice Department typically shares its most sensitive information with the so-called "Gang of Eight" — the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the Republican and Democratic leaders of each chamber's Intelligence Committee.  . . [read on]

Giuliani says Robert Mueller promised to wrap up his investigation by September 1. That date did not come from Mueller -- Giuliani "made it up"

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/21/giuliani-made-up-september-1-deadline/
“He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president’s attorneys cooks up.”

More: https://thinkprogress.org/giuliani-is-not-muellers-spokesman-but-pretends-to-be-anyway-trump-108048cd176d/
Rudy Giuliani keeps pretending to be Mueller’s spokesman. It’s not going well. 

Another key player in the Saudi/UAE dealings: Elliot Broidy (yes the other Michael Cohen client who paid $1.6 million to a playmate he allegedly impregnated) -- this is quite a story

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/the-princes-the-president-and-the-fortune-seekers
Trump fixer Michael Cohen, acting as a consultant for a major Trump inauguration donor, met with the donor and a representative of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund in early April seeking an investment for the donor’s nuclear plant project, two reports Monday indicated. . . .

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/elliott-broidys-company-got-its-biggest-us-government-contract-ever-while-he-pitched-trump-administration

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/reports-cohen-and-trump-donor-seeking-investment-met-with-qatari-official-in-april

[NB: Playing both sides against each other.] 

More: https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/05/who-did-playboy-model-shera-bechard-really-have-an-affair-with/
Who Did Playboy Model Shera Bechard Really Have an Affair With? 

The RNC is paying the legal fees for Trump aides caught up in the Russia probe

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/rnc-paid-half-million-legal-fees-hope-hicks-others

More: https://thinkprogress.org/how-can-trump-secure-the-loyalty-of-top-aides-in-the-russia-investigation-money-77d8fabce584/
How can Trump secure the loyalty of top aides in the Russia investigation? Money.

Sure looks like Erik Prince lied to Congress

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/erik-prince-appears-lied-congress-russia-trump-meetings

Trump has been insulting and attacking the FBI for months. How is that affecting morale? They don't want you to know . . . which I think answers the question



https://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/trump-admin-hit-with-lawsuit-for-keeping-survey-on-fbi-morale-under-wraps

https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/05/a-majority-of-republicans-think-they-cant-trust-the-fbi/

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/were-in-venezuelatrumps-latest-fbi-attack-stuns-saddens-justice-officials
Trump’s Latest FBI Attack Stuns, Saddens Justice Officials

Trump knows that the source of all his troubles is . . . leakers

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765933

In other news . . .

Trump uses an unsecure phone because he doesn't want to give security folks access to it

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/21/trump-doesnt-use-a-secure-phone/

More: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/21/trump-phone-security-risk-hackers-601903

On every front, China is winning

https://www.thedailybeast.com/as-trump-focuses-on-korea-beijing-flaunts-its-takeover-of-south-china-sea
Over the weekend, the Chinese military landed a bomber on Woody Island in the disputed waters of the South China Sea where Beijing has a slew of construction projects on unpopulated atolls and rocks it claims as part of its territory. . . .

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/22/donald-trump-was-right-trade-wars-are-easy-to-win-for-the-chinese-anyway/
“China is winning Trump’s trade war,” ran the mocking headline atop Heather Long’s Sunday story in the Washington Post, which observed that Trump and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, had gotten no specific promises from the Chinese on reducing the trade deficit, prosecuting intellectual property theft (meaning the theft of patents and business secrets), limits on Chinese investment in the U.S. or much of anything else. If anything, the administration retreated on all fronts: Kudlow told reporters on Friday that Chinese negotiators had agreed to reduce the deficit by “at least” $200 billion, but the Chinese immediately denied it and the official statement released by the White House the next day mentioned no such number. . . .

https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/05/zte-lives-thanks-donald/
The U.S. and China have agreed on the broad outline of a deal that would save imperiled Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. . . .

The Iran hawks are in charge

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mike-pompeo-threatens-iran-offers-treaty-for-massive-disarmament

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/pompeo-threatens-strongest-sanctions-against-iran

More: https://www.vox.com/world/2018/5/21/17375760/pompeo-iran-nuclear-deal-sanctions-strategy-speech
Nothing about what Pompeo said on Monday is new. Last October, President Trump offered his strategy for countering Iran. Here, verbatim, is what he said . . [read on]

Hold onto that Nobel Peace Prize . . .

https://www.vox.com/world/2018/5/21/17376130/north-korea-trump-kim-jong-un-summit-bbc-dad
The much-anticipated summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, scheduled for June 12, is in trouble. . . [read on]

More: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-begins-confront-difficult-reality-north-korea


But they do have a coin! (For a summit meeting that hasn't happened yet, and may never happen)

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/21/17377278/trump-north-korea-kim-jong-un-challenge-coin
Part of the problem is the design. An official American coin with a likeness of Kim Jong Un on it that refers to him as “Supreme Leader” feels off, to say the least, given that his government is currently holding at least 120,000 of its own people in vicious camps designed specifically to hold and punish political prisoners. The coin also depicts Trump and Kim looking at each other eye to eye, as if they’re on equal footing — exactly the kind of status boost that the pariah regime in Pyongyang wants to achieve in this summit. . . . 

The Trump admin assault on immigrants gets worse and worse

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/21/17376398/jeff-sessions-immigration-ruling-courts
The Trump administration’s biggest obstacle to scaling up deportations of unauthorized immigrants is the massive backlog in immigration courts: Almost 700,000 immigrants are waiting to have their cases decided before the government can deport them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he wants to fix the court backlog, but he’s just issued a policy that could add to it. Sessions opened the door to potentially reopening 350,000 deportation cases the government previously agreed to close. . .  

They talk about merit-based immigration, but they won't even let in nurses: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/877347

The White House tries to whitewash history, re-explaining (again) what Trump meant by his "animals" comment

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-animals-white-house-statement-ms-13-c87acb8d4478

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/18/17368716/trump-animals-immigrants-illegal-ms-13

Will SC Justice Kennedy retire?

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/21/kennedy-retirement-rumors-swirl-once-again/

Raising the heat on Devin Nunes

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/21/devin-nunes-california-challenge-599597

In Fox World

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/fox-news-host-says-obama-agencies-all-trying-to-take-trump-down
Fox News Host: Obama’s DOJ, FBI, IRS, CIA All ‘Trying To Take Down’ Trump

Theocracy watch

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/21/arizona-may-no-longer-teach-evolution/
“The teaching of evolution in Arizona classrooms could be taking a big step backwards,” KVOA-TV reports. “School Superintendent Diane Douglas is apparently behind a rewrite of science standards for all Arizona school children that would delete references to evolution.”

In WV, Don Blankenship screws the GOP establishment by trying to run as a third-party candidate

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/21/don-blankenship-third-party-constitution-party-600779

The GOP is the least transparent governing majority, ever

https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/regular-order-faa-bill
“Anyone who thinks House Republicans are turning over a new leaf to a more open process clearly hasn’t been paying attention,” Rules ranking member Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said in a statement. . . . Of the 140 bills that have been brought to the floor under a rule (some move under suspension of the rules, requiring two-thirds support for passage), none have been debated under an open rule that would allow unlimited amendments.  More than half, a total of 79, have been moved under a closed rule allowing no amendments . . . In the first session of the 115th Congress last year, House Republicans broke the record for the most closed rules during a single session, with a total of 58 adopted. The previous record of 48 was set in the first session of the 114th Congress. If just five more closed rules are adopted this year, which seems likely, the 115th Congress will set a record for the most number of closed rules adopted during a full Congress. The current record of 83 was set in the 113th Congress. . . .

[NB: They've now broken the record for a year -- 84, and counting. And it's only May.]

Today's primaries  

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/22/17376818/georgia-kentucky-arkansas-texas-polls-close-may-22

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/22/17376408/primary-election-2018-may-22-texas-georgia-kentucky-arkansas

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/texas-arkansas-kentucky-georgia-the-most-important-primaries-and-what-they-mean-for-the-midterms.html

Can the Dems run against Trump's rampant corruption, without triggering the impeachment issue -- which probably works against them

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/21/democrats-will-turn-focus-to-trump-corruption/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-democrats-must-get-a-lot-tougher-on-the-trump-scandals-or-they-will-lose-the-midterms

More: https://www.vox.com/2018/5/21/17376128/democrats-better-deal-democracy-midterm-2018
The plan is called “A Better Deal for Our Democracy” — a spin on their economic platform, “A Better Deal” — with proposals to protect and improve voting rights, new ethics laws, and campaign finance reforms, including policies that would make lobbyists’ activities more transparent and tighten rules around bribery and fraud convictions. . . . [read on]

The future of the Dems

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/21/women-2020-elections-599591
Surge of female candidates reshapes Democratic Party


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Monday, May 21, 2018

A MATTER OF PRIORITIES

Well, this isn't surprising -- because we know how highly Trump values the lives of our men and women in the armed services

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/sunday-morning-bobblehead-thread-1

Another one: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765580
Friday morning started with a school shooting that left 10 dead in Santa Fe, Texas, and it ended with deadly gunfire at a graduation in Jonesboro, Georgia, south of Atlanta. . . . 

Video games, Ritalin, and the Common Core. Gun defenders want to blame everything else for school shootings instead of the obvious primary cause

https://thinkprogress.org/nras-oliver-north-school-shootings-caused-by-ritalin-70d7b7a81d6f/
 
Former Ed Sect'y Arne Duncan has a dramatic -- and utterly unrealistic -- proposal on how to get the country serious about protecting kids in schools

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/arne-duncans-answer-school-shootings 

Yes, I think this qualifies as a "rant'

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/trump-goes-on-twitter-rant-about-mueller-probe-and-asks-what-about-her-emails.html
"At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP! " . . . [read on!]

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/bizarre-sunday-morning-twiiter-outburst
Read Sunday AM tweets from @realDonaldTrump: they are a portrait of a man alone, paranoid, isolated, hearing the footsteps, anxious, untrusting, knowing what will be revealed, intent on creating diversions, consumed with his own future, not the country’s. . . . [read on]

Fact check: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/5/20/17373682/donald-trump-russia-investigation-mueller-fbi-twitter
The Mueller investigation cost the government about $6.7 million in its first five months . . . [read on]

More: https://thinkprogress.org/trump-dismisses-ny-times-story-on-arab-princes-who-wanted-to-influence-election-1f9e5efc345e/

And later . . .

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765757
"I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"

[NB: Trump has been waiting for an opportunity to establish that he can direct the DOJ to investigate whatever and whomever he wants. This is a very dangerous tipping point.]

More: https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/05/20/full-blown-insanity-trumps-paranoia-gets-worse/
Full-Blown Insanity: Trump’s Paranoia Gets Worse 

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/20/17374098/trump-fbi-campaign-spy-twitter-justice-department
This is a big deal . . . 

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/20/trump-orders-doj-to-investigate-his-infiltrated-campaign/
This order is, according to Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes, a "nakedly corrupt attempt on the part of the President to derail an investigation of himself at the expense of a human source to whose protection the FBI and DOJ are committed." 

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein basically tells Trump, nicely and respectfully, that he is FOS

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765806
The Deputy Attorney General issued the following statement: "If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action." [read on]

[NB: Key word: "if"]

More: https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/rosenstein-tries-to-buy-time-in-the-face-of-trump-demands/
 
Investigators are getting their hands on materials seized from the raid on Michael Cohen's offices, as the attorney/client review seems to be proceeding quickly

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/attorney-client-privilege-review-in-cohen-raid-is-on-track 

I keep saying that Trump will never testify to Mueller -- now Giuliani adds a new condition that he knows perfectly well will never be agreed to

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/giuliani-sets-new-conditions-for-mueller-interview/

[NB: It sure looks like the Stefan Halper disclosure has them freaked out. Now they're desperate to find out what he knows, so they can discredit it.]

More: https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/giuliani-claims-mueller-plans-to-wrap-up-obstruction-probe/
Rudy Giuliani told the New York Times that special counsel Robert Mueller plans to finish by September 1 its investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, the New York Times reports. He said that “waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in the midterm elections in November.” “Mr. Giuliani’s comments were an apparent attempt to publicly pressure Mr. Mueller amid their interview negotiations. . . . .” 

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765785
Rudy Giuliani is a liar; that Rudy Giuliani is claiming the special counsel's team has told him this or that is only news in that it provides a window into what Rudy Giuliani thinks is, on any given day, the most pressing issue for his new client. And right now his client wants the investigation into his campaign to go away, right now, this moment, before any other potentially criminal acts are exposed. . .[read on]

An email about Donald Jr, from one of the participants in the Trump Tower meeting

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/collusion-for-dummies.html
"Why did he release this e-mail admitting to collusion?"

Roger Stone might be charged, but only an "extraneous crime"

https://thinkprogress.org/roger-stone-expects-may-be-indicted-extraneous-crime-8afcf4af2ebf/
“It is not inconceivable now that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business, or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election.” he added. “I would chalk this up to an effort to silence me.”

More: https://www.vox.com/2018/5/20/17373864/roger-stone-indictment-mueller-wikileaks-russia

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/20/roger-stone-believes-an-indictment-from-robert-mueller-is-imminent/

SNL presents Trump and his cronies as "The Sopranos"

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/snl-recreates-sopranos-ending-with-trump/ 

[NB: The point is to remember what happened in the final scene of "The Sopranos".]  

What Devin Nunes cares about -- and what he mysteriously doesn't care about

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/devins-curious-blind-spot.html
  • Russian academics paying Carter Page to speak in Moscow
  • A pro-Russian Syrian group paying Don Jr to speak in Paris
  • Multiple Russian banks floating massive amounts of support to Jared 
  • Russia’s RT paying Mike Flynn to appear at an event with Putin
  • Turkish pass-throughs paying Flynn to make a movie
  • Saudi, Israeli, and Emirati sources offering campaign assistance
  • Oleg Deripaska offering to forgive Paul Manafort’s $20 million debt for updates on the Trump campaign
  • Russians offering dirt on Hillary to get a meeting with Trump’s campaign manager, son, and son-in-law
In other news . . . 

Trump has badly misplayed the North Korea issue, and now realizes it could be a big loser. But he still doesn't want to bother to learn the specifics before a possible meeting with Kim Jong Un

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/trump-grappling-with-risks-of-north-korea-meeting/
“President Trump, increasingly concerned that his summit meeting in Singapore next month with North Korea’s leader could turn into a political embarrassment, has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should take the risk of proceeding with a historic meeting that he had leapt into accepting” . . .  “Mr. Trump’s aides have grown concerned that the president has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much… The aides are also concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program, and what he must insist upon as the key components of denuclearization.”

More: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/trump-aides-worry-he-doesnt-get-north-korea-situation.html
Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through. . .

In yet another needless fight he picked, Trump blinked

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/mnuchin-were-putting-the-trade-war-on-hold
Mnuchin On China: ‘We’re Putting The Trade War On Hold’

More: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/20/mnuchin-nafta-trade-trump-598805
Mnuchin: Trump could tolerate NAFTA vote slipping into 2019 

Paul Ryan's keeps yielding to the hostage-takers. What has it gotten him?

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/20/paul-ryans-house-is-collapsing/
Paul Ryan’s House is collapsing, and if the chaos keeps accelerating it could force him out of the speakership before his planned graceful exit at the end of the year. . . . 

School desegregation hasn't succeeded. What do we do now?

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/why-america-needs-new-approach-school
Despite all the time and effort invested desegregating the nation’s schools over the past half century, the reality is America’s schools are more segregated now than they were in 1968. . . .

With the latest Dana Loesch videos, it has become increasingly clear that the NRA wants to morph from a gun-rights lobby into an umbrella organization for a (heavily armed) far-right insurgency against the government, media, and liberal elite

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/20/oliver-north-nra-guns-members-598804

Kellyanne Conway, evil genius

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/05/20/wizard-of-lies-kellyanne-conways-malevolent-masterpiece/

Bonus item: Free at last!



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Sunday, May 20, 2018

A DEBATE

This is the Jonathan Turley article Trump's defenders are going wild about. I've always thought of Turley as a pretty reasonable analyst -- but this column is a piece of crap. Allow me. . . .

http://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/388436-after-year-of-investigation-trump-can-rightly-claim-some-vindication
After year of investigation, Trump can rightly claim some vindication

In early 2017, President Trump was widely ridiculed for alleging that the Obama administration placed his campaign under surveillance. . . . Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper came forward to assure the media that he could categorically deny the allegation and stated, “There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.” 

[NB: And that is entirely true. OTHER people were wire-tapped, which may have swept up some Trump people who were talking to them.]

We now know there was, indeed, surveillance ordered repeatedly on Trump campaign figures before and after the election. Rather than acknowledge the troubling implications of an administration investigating the opposing party’s leading candidate for president, the media shifted to saying that there was ample reason to order the surveillance. . . .

[NB: "Surveillance" isn't wiretapping, it's a very broad and vague term that could be used to characterize any kind of data gathering. And yes, there was "surveillance," because there was copious evidence of suspicious conduct that needed to be looked into. . . .

And, of course, we know that "the administration" (ie, the independent agencies of law enforcement) were investigating BOTH campaigns, because they had good reason to do so. But that fact isn't acknowledged here.]

[M]uch of the coverage brushes over the fact that no charges were brought against the principle target, Carter Page, or that the secret warrants for surveillance were based in part on a dossier paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a fact known but not fully disclosed by the FBI to the secret FISA court. . . .

[NB: THIS AGAIN? Its is well-established that Page was being looked at long before the Steele dossier; that the Papadopoulos conversation is what initially alerted the FBI, not the dossier; and that the FISA application DID disclose the potentially partisan nature of the dossier and the information in it. Turley should be ashamed to still be recycling this nonsense now.]

The documented Russian interference, thus far, has been largely a Russian operation out of St. Petersburg that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has said was carried out without the knowledge of Trump campaign officials. 

[NB: They have said nothing of the sort. It is far from clear what Trump and his people knew and when, but they CERTAINLY knew that Russia was interfering and trying to influence the outcome of the election. What we don't know (yet) is the degree of their active cooperation in that effort.]

It should be a serious concern that the Obama administration used secret counterintelligence powers to target officials in the campaign of the opposing party.

[NB: And what exactly were they supposed to do when they were contacted by officials from other countries who were so alarmed by what the Russians were doing that they contacted the FBI to tell them? When they found evidence (evidence which has only grown and been confirmed over time) that Trump's campaign manager and three of his self-identified chief foreign policy advisors were deeply entangled with the Russians -- were they supposed to just ignore that?]

FBI officials consciously decided not to seek conventional criminal warrants or pursue a criminal investigation because it might be discovered and raised by Trump during the campaign. Thus, as Trump campaigned against the “deep state,” FBI officials hid their investigation deeper inside the state. 

[NB: This is a dishonest and tendentious characterization of what happened. In fact the FBI didn't reveal this investigation during the campaign IN ORDER NOT TO INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME. We covered all this the other day. Too bad they didn't apply the same standard to Hillary Clinton -- a disclosure that unquestionably cost her the election. If this was a plot by the "deep state" to destroy Trump, they sure did a lousy job of it. Unless you think they knew he was going to win and were laying the groundwork A YEAR BEFORE THE VOTE to undo the results of his victory . . . a narrative that is laughably absurd.]

However, the publicly released FISA material describes interactions with Russians that could have applied easily to myriad other “Beltway bandits” who regularly cash in on foreign contracts, including leading figures of both parties. The still unresolved question is why these particular allegations of foreign contacts merited the extraordinary decision to target an opposing party’s campaign or campaign figures before a major election.

[NB: Jonathan, Jonathan. Are you really pretending you don't know the answer to that question?]

More on the "deep state" conspiracy theory: https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/laying-on-deep-state-thick-by.html
It's the attempt to create an "aha, truth" moment for people who are already part of the pro-Trump choir, looking for something to hang their hat on. The classic move for this crew is deflect and distract.  Andrew McCarthy is a former prosecutor, worked for Giuliani in the U.S. attorney's office, been a writer for "National Review" for a while, conservative but often credible. That said, you've got to parse language carefully. . . . there is a fundamental difference between an informant and a spy.

Here's what we know about what Trump called the "imbedded spy." Not a spy, and not embedded in the campaign. A long-time intelligence source (a retired prof) who reached out to three people -- Clovis, Page, and Papadopoulos -- all of whom have been pooh-poohed in the past by Trump and his defenders as not very important members of the team. So these are the makings of the Major Scandal that his loyalists think will discredit the entire Mueller investigation.

We've seen this sideshow before

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/fbi-informant-retired-professor-met-three-trump-campaign-aides 

AND . . .  here he is

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/19/trump-campaign-informant-revealed-as-cambridge-professor-sparking-debate-on-treason/
Stefan Halper

More: https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/05/in-huge-disappointment-the-fbis-super-secret-trump-informant-turns-out-to-be-stefan-halper/

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/the-fbis-trump-campaign-informant-what-you-need-to-know.html
By all accounts, launching a counterintelligence investigation to ensure that campaign officials aren’t vulnerable to foreign influence and blackmail is standard operating procedure at the FBI, not a scandal. There is no indication that Halper went beyond this mandate, nor is there any sign that anyone at the FBI actually took steps to damage Trump’s campaign in the public eye by attempting to reveal the ongoing investigation to the public.  In an op-ed, former FBI agent Asha Rangappa writes that “relying on a covert source rather than a more intrusive method of gathering information suggests that the FBI may have been acting cautiously — perhaps too cautiously — to protect the campaign, not undermine it.”  

Here's what the tin-foil hat crowd is already saying

https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/05/stefan_halper_and_the_origins_of_the_fbi_counterintelligence_investigation_of_the_trump_campaign.html
... there was collusion between certain members of the U.S. and British intelligence communities to spy on the Trump campaign. This may explain, in large part, the reluctance of the Department of Justice to reveal what it knows publicly. . . And that the likely suspect is shadowy Stefan Halper...  ... someone who worked with U.S. and apparently British intelligence, with a record of trying to spy on lowly campaign workers and even trick them into compromising actions, a U.S. citizen with strong ties to British intelligence who lived in the U.K. 

http://www.investmentwatchblog.com/stefan-halper-speaking-to-the-bbc-trump-headed-toward-watergate-who-is-the-spy/
Stefan Halper Speaking To The BBC – “Trump Headed Toward Watergate” . . . Halper is a former CIA operative, a current informant for the FBI, has an anti-Trump motive, is connected to Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, and worked to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 presidential election. . .

https://theintercept.com/2018/05/19/the-fbi-informant-who-monitored-the-trump-campaign-stefan-halper-oversaw-a-cia-spying-operation-in-the-1980-presidential-election/ 
Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering. . . .

Trump's version

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/19/trump-fbi-informant-russia-probe-598051
"If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal." [read on]

[NB: In what twisted version of reality does someone think the FBI was out to HELP Clinton? As noted above, there is a simple question: Why didn't the FBI make public before the election that Trump's people were under investigation, if their purpose was to undermine him and help her? In fact, they did the opposite.} 

But THIS is the really big news story of the day

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/19/it-wasnt-just-russia-that-tried-to-help-trump/
“Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor,” the New York Times reports. “The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office.” “The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election. . . .”

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/nyt-don-jr-met-gulf-emissary-who-wanted
Just to reflect on where we're at: Now, if someone references a Trump Tower meeting in which emissaries from a foreign government offered to help the Trump campaign win, there's a necessary clarifying question: "Which one?" [read on}

https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/19/mueller-probe-expands-to-israeli-entrepreneur/
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is looking more closely into Middle Eastern involvement during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, as it is now exploring the role of an Israeli entrepreneur with ties to a Gulf monarchy,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Mueller has been conducting interviews about the work of Joel Zamel, an Australia-born Israeli businessman with experience in social media and intelligence gathering… Mr. Zamel met with Donald Trump Jr. , Mr. Trump’s eldest son, at Trump Tower in the months before the 2016 election along with George Nader, a top adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss an offer to help boost the campaign. Erik Prince, a U.S. defense contractor who specializes in the Middle East and had close ties to the campaign, also attended the meeting . . . .”

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/19/erik-prince-congressional-testimony-trump-tower-meeting-598052
A report that Erik Prince attended an August 20016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. casts doubt on the Blackwater founder’s prior congressional testimony about his involvement with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. . . .

In other news . . . 

The Kushner-led "Middle East Peace Plan" is nothing less than a total assault on the Palestinians -- because making them even more poor and desperate is sure to lead to peace

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-admin-middle-east-plan-slash-humanitarian-funds  

The disturbing new trend in 911 calls

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/05/20/the-call-is-coming-from-inside-the-white-house-trumpism-and-911-abuse

The Cesspool

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/zinke-requested-vip-national-park-tours-friends
Zinke, Wife Requested VIP National Park Tours For Friends And Acquaintances

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/20/john-bolton-former-lobbyist-national-security-council-597917
Bolton relied on ex-lobbyist as he staffed NSC

I don't know if the bottom-feeding excuse makers in Fox World can go much lower than this

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/morally-bankrupt-howard-safir-blames
Morally Bankrupt Howard Safir Blames Common Core For Santa Fe HS Shooting 

94% of public school teachers buy supplies out of their own money

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/public-school-teachers-personal-money-classroom-needs

More: https://www.salon.com/2018/05/19/science-teachers-sacrifice-to-provide-lab-materials-for-students_partner/ 

Fox World, where they want a range of informed views on every issue

https://crooksandliars.com/2018/05/fox-host-faulkner-quickly-cuts-guest-when
Fox Host Faulkner Quickly Cuts Off Guest When He Dismisses Armed Teachers As Antidote To School Shooting 

It's all they've got, folks

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/1765390
New Hampshire GOP passes bill to suppress college student voters 

Can this marriage be saved?

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/388467-trump-misspells-melanias-name-in-initial-tweet-welcoming-her-back-to
Trump misspells Melania's name in initial tweet welcoming her back to White House

More: https://politicalwire.com/2018/05/19/why-was-melania-in-the-hospital-so-long/
Why Was Melania In the Hospital So Long?  


***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.***