Friday, July 20, 2018


A hell of a way of doing business
Russia’s ambassador to the United States told the media in Moscow on Wednesday that Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had reached several “verbal agreements” on weapons treaties and Syria. But U.S. officials are scrambling to figure out what those agreements might have been . . . 

President Trump said he is “looking forward” to meeting again with Russian President Vladimir Putin to “begin implementing” issues they discussed during their summit earlier this week, CNN reports.

A hell of a way. . .
Trump Invites Putin to Visit, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats Learns About It From Tweet Read To Him on Stage

Dan Coats left stunned. . .
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Thursday that he wishes President Donald Trump hadn’t met alone with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Finland. . . . On Trump’s meeting with a Russian ambassador last year: Coats said he did not know Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was visiting the Oval Office last May. It’s “probably not the best thing to do,” Coats said . . . 

Doubling down: this is classic Trumpism. You criticize my meeting with Putin? I'm gonna invite him over here for another one!

Trump tells us how great and awesome the Putin visit is going to be
"The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media. I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems...but they can ALL be solved!"

[NB: Yes, folks, Don and his BFF will solve all these problems, if we just get off their backs, stop the investigations, and let them work it all out together.]

“Vladimir Putin told Russian diplomats that he made a proposal to Donald Trump at their summit this week to hold a referendum to help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but agreed not to disclose the plan publicly . . . Details of what the two leaders discussed in their summit in Helsinki, Finland, remain scarce, with much of the description so far coming from Russia.”

[NB: No, no, and no. A referendum only in Eastern Ukraine would give Putin the cover to annex it. If Trump ever reviewed his briefings, or listened to the people around him, he would know that this a trap.]

Republicans block an effort to subpoena the translator to find out what really happened at the meeting

I really don't expect Trump's offer to let Putin's thugs interrogate a former U.S. Ambassador and others to come to anything. The pushback behind the scenes must be ferocious. But what a travesty that Trump even thought it was a reasonable possibility. (Though I'm sure he hates Michael McFaul, who has been a strong critical voice against his Russia policies)
Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin ‘conversation’ about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul


Finally, Trump comes out saying he is "against" the idea, as if he had nothing to do with it
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Thursday that President Donald Trump “disagrees” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to haul in a list of Americans for questioning in exchange for giving the U.S. access to the 12 indicted Russian hackers.  . . . On Monday during the press conference after the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, Trump called the idea an “incredible offer.”

In fact, the White House statement came only as the United States Senate was rushing to consider a non-binding proposal opposing the Russian request to be given "access" to McFaul and others; that resolution has now passed by a vote of 98-0.

Trump releases a video supposedly showing that he has been consistent in calling out Russian election meddling. First, it doesn't include the many other times when he has dismissed it. Second, IN EVERY INSTANCE, he qualifies the claim by saying it was lots of other people (or nations) doing it too -- as he also ad-libbed in his "correction" comments just the other day

Trump doesn't want to offend Putin by calling him a liar. That doesn't stop him with career intelligence officials (and others) here in the U.S.

This is appalling, but whenever you see a poll like this you have to turn it around and see it as a measure of who is left in the dwindling GOP
Poll: only 32 percent of Republicans think Russia interfered in the 2016 election

In other Russia news. . . 

It's the oldest Perry Mason trick in the book: "I never mentioned a phone call. Why did YOU bring up a phone call??!?"
[Trump] "My lawyers are working on that. I’ve always wanted to do an interview, because look, there’s been no collusion. There’s been no talk of Russia. There’s been no phone call. There’s been nothing. . . ." 

Who is Maria Butina?

A chart:

[NB: It is becoming more and more likely that the NRA was a conduit for illegally channeling Russian money into the Trump and other GOP campaigns.]

The exhibit list for Paul Manafort's trial


In other news . . . 

I continue to look for signs that post-Helsinki people are less willing to give Trump free rein
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Thursday that he’d asked the chairmen of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees to “recommend to the Senate additional measures that could respond to or deter Russian malign behavior.” . . .

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a resolution against allowing Russia to question former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul or other U.S. officials. It was a formal rebuke to President Donald Trump, who touted the offer at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. . . .
President Donald Trump’s disastrous performance since his press conference alongside Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has sent West Wing morale to its lowest level since the Charlottesville fiasco almost a year ago. . . . “People are just depressed,” said one Republican close to the White House. “Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they’d leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable.”
Fervent Trump supporters are starting to back down

The Trump gang is ignoring court orders on immigration

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering a plan that would drastically and unilaterally restrict legal immigration to only the wealthiest and most privileged applicants. . . .

Trump court nominee pulled minutes before a Senate vote they would have lost

Here's why:

The cost of Trump's pointless, ego-feeding "military parade" is greater than the joint training exercise with Korea that he called “tremendously expensive”

There is a reason these agencies are set up to be independent
Trump says he’s “not thrilled” by Federal Reserve interest rate hikes

Remember when Trump said he was going to replace Air Force One, and save a ton of money doing it?

Remember Trump's campaign promises about better, cheaper health care?

How many more indignities can John Kelly stand?

What's the MATTER with her?
In a remarkable break with U.S. intelligence agencies, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted Thursday that there was no evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election with the express purpose of helping then-candidate Donald Trump win...

DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen still will not condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville

Cuomo indicates New York is prepared to probe state criminal charges against Trump Foundation

Just about perfect, isn't it?
High End Russian Hooker Ring Run From Miami Trump Property

The end of the Endangered Species Act?

Theocracy watch: we live in a time when "religious rights" for a few outweigh treating others with tolerance and respect
Republican reps vote to let religious child-welfare groups discriminate against LGBTQ people

Big wins for progressives in the Dem primaries. Now let's hope they can win their general elections

Democrats wisely drop the "T" word
“Democrats are happy to say President Trump undermined American democracy. That he patted Vladimir Putin on the back for interfering in U.S. elections. That he’s being blackmailed by Russia,” the AP reports. “But that he committed treason? That’s too far for some leading Democrats worried about sending the wrong message during an election year.”

How the Russia hacks and email release exacerbated divisions between Clinton and Sanders supporters -- as it was intended to. Maybe, just maybe, we're getting past that

I remember Nixon and his press sect'y Ron Zeigler. There were some very rough moments with the press. And I remember what he said about the press on those tapes. But we have never seen an administration so totally dedicated to destroying its relation to the press, and so opposed to the press's very value and existence, as Trump's
Trump Rips Media, The ‘Real Enemy Of The People,’ Who Want ‘War’ With Russia
Trump: Russia Is a Friend, Journalists Are the Enemy
The vanishing White House press briefing

And the press is pushing back:

Fox World does more and more to cement its reputation as the press office of the Republican party

Bonus item: Trumpspeak

***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!

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Thursday, July 19, 2018


NO ONE believes Trump's half-hearted and completely implausible "clarification" of his Putin press conference comments. Saying he said "would" when he meant "wouldn't" is a risible lie. Either way, changing that one word changes NOTHING about the wider message he was sending
Although President Trump took back one word from his news conference with Vladimir Putin, claiming he misspoke, First Read highlights what he didn’t try to clean up:
  • “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.”
  • “I think that the [Mueller] probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”
  • “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the [DNC’s] server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that.”
  • “What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”
  • “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
  • “And what [Putin] did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 [indicted Russians]. I think that’s an incredible offer.” (By the way, Putin’s condition for that offer? That Americans and U.S. residents who Russia believes have committed illegal actions should be questioned, too.)
“So what should be the major takeaway? That Trump tried to clean up a couple of statements from his meeting with Putin? Or that didn’t walk back everything else he said in Helsinki.”

[NB: By the way, one last thing on this. His "revised" statement, "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't have been Russia," even if you accept his bogus excuse, is still a pathetically lame way to say, "IT WAS RUSSIA."]

Twitter is merciless:
[Adam Schiff] I would say that I completely believe President Trump misspoke and that he has full faith and confidence in the members of our intelligence community and understands that Putin and Russia were fully responsible for intervening in our election. Sorry. I meant wouldn’t.
Trump Defends Russia: ‘I’m Not Pro-Russia,’ But They Did Help Us Win Wars

[NB: He's not pro-Russia. He's pro-PUTIN.]

From Russian state TV
"Let's analyze Trump's performance at the presser. At which point in time could you say he was licking Putin's boots? . . . It is very bizarre, you can't bash your own country like that - especially when you're the President.. . . When Trump says our relations are bad because of American foolishness and stupidity, he really smells like an agent of the Kremlin." [read on!] 

Even when Trump kinda sorta admitted that Russia did hack the election, reading a prepared statement written for him, he couldn't resist adding, But it could have been a lot of other people too. We've heard that before

BREAKING NEWS: This changes everything. We now learn from the NYT that Trump was told IN 2017, and shown proof, that Putin was behind the election hacking. This is not a "who do you believe" choice, it is not a case of Trump's ability to construct beliefs that fit what he wants to believe -- HE KNEW. That means for more than a year he has lied and covered up the criminal attack by Russia, directed by its leader, against this country
Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation. . . . Ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role. That included one particularly valuable source, who was considered so sensitive that Mr. Brennan had declined to refer to it in any way in the Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration . . . Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

[NB: I agree with Drum here -- somebody in the intelligence community is alarmed enough to leak this very major story. Are we seeing the start of a concerted push back, post-Helsinki?]

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yesterday Trump read an obviously reluctant and insincere statement that he TOTALLY respects the judgment of his intelligence agencies and accepts their conclusions on Russian election meddling, Today he contradicts their conclusions on Russian election meddling
After Wednesday's cabinet meeting wrapped up, Trump responded to a reporter who asked if Russia is still targeting the U.S. by saying, “Thank you very much, no,” . . . DNI Dan Coats just told the American people, "The warning signs are there. The system is blinking," over new Russian cyber-terrorism threats . . .


[NB: If you have been tracking Trump's comments, he's been saying that Russia might have done it, but it's in the past and it didn't make any difference and we just need to get over it and move on. That doesn't work if THEY'RE STILL DOING IT -- which they are.] 

Colonel Sanders comes back to her non-daily "daily press briefing," offers another ridiculous walkback: "no" didn't mean "no"
White House: Trump Was Just Saying ‘No’ To More Questions, Not Russia Threat!

“Is Russia still targeting the U.S.? Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?”

“Thank you very much, no,” Trump replied.

“No, you don’t believe that to be the case?” the reporter followed up.

“No,” Trump said
But the video clearly shows him answering following questions . . .

Trump stands behind everything he said during the summit, except one word. Uh-huh, right. Let's look again at what he said about NATO
Trump Doesn’t Get Why U.S. Has to Defend NATO Allies

Trump somehow still doesn’t understand NATO

What's up with Montenegro?
Asked by Fox News white nationalist propagandist Tucker Carlson about why America should bother defending NATO members like the tiny Montenegro, Trump bashed the country . . . “You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. . . . They are very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III.”

At Trump’s first NATO summit in 2017, he shoved aside Montenegro’s prime minister, Duško Marković, during the so-called family photo that brings together the leaders of the alliance’s member states in order to get a more prominent position in the picture. . . .

We talked yesterday about a major change to the official transcript of the Trump-Putin press conference. They've done this kind of thing before

A better translation:

Trump now says he is SO TOUGH on Putin ("There's been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia"), that Putin is actually AFRAID of him. You saw that, didn't you?

"I think President Putin knows that better than anybody … he's not happy about it, and he shouldn't be happy about it." 

[NB: Yes, everything in Putin's comments, body language, and facial expressions indicated that he was TOTALLY COWED by the mighty Trump.]

I don't believe this for a second
President Donald Trump says in an interview with CBS News that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States won’t tolerate election interference in the future. Trump says: “I let him know we can’t have this. We’re not going to have it and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Putin is already talking about "implementing agreements" made during his meeting with Trump. WHAT AGREEMENTS???!!!???

“‘Important verbal agreements’ were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New Start and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question.” “But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.” 

Did Trump agree to let Russia interrogate FORMER AMBASSADOR Michael McFaul and American-born financier Bill Browder?

Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador. . . .[read on]

Who is Browder? 

Did Trump and Putin discuss the Magnitsky Act?

I don't know if this a trend or a sign of something bigger, but after Trump's press conference DNI Dan Coats stood up for his agency in direct opposition to what Trump said. Now FBI Director Chris Wray does the same thing. And the State Dept comes out vigorously against the "absolutely absurd" idea that we would turn over American citizens to be questioned by Putin's thugs. Are we seeing these folks start to put loyalty to their agencies and their staffers over loyalty to Trump?


Dan Coats' remarkable rebuke to President Trump

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado that his view has not changed and he stands behind the intelligence agencies' assessment that Moscow meddled in the election. And he says Russia continues malign activities to sow discord in America.
FBI Director Wray: Mueller is not on a witch hunt 

State Dept:
A State Department spokeswoman on Wednesday dismissed Russian claims against Americans as “absolutely absurd” . . .“What I can tell you is that the overall assertions are absolutely absurd — the fact that they want to question 11 American citizens and the assertions that the Russian Government is making about those American citizens,” . . . Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a joint press conference with President Trump on Monday that he wanted permission for Russian investigators to question people “who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia.” . . .  

Her comments followed a tense White House briefing earlier in the day where the administration did not dismiss Russia’s proposal . . . “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States,” Sanders said at Wednesday’s press briefing. “The president will work with his team and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”  Trump previously called Putin's suggestion an "interesting idea." . . .

[NB: There is only one answer for a U.S. head of state committed to defending freedom and the rights of his citizens. But I guess Trump has other priorities.] 

In other Russia news . . .

Russia operatives use arguments from Trump's Supreme Court nominee to fight Mueller investigation 

Maria Butina. Remember that name
Maria Butina, Who Infiltrated NRA and GOP Has Ties to Russian Intelligence

Prosecutors Say Russian Used Sex to “Infiltrate” NRA, Republican Party
Alleged Russian Spy Was Working to Infiltrate Religious Right As Well As Gun Groups
In other news . . . 

Yesterday Kevin Drum suggested that until further notice the default option for everything Trump says should be the assumption that he's lying. That may seem a little harsh -- but here is his latest series of tweets, verbatim. EVERY ONE is a bald-faced lie
The economy of the United States is stronger than ever before!
The meeting between President Putin and myself was a great success, except in the Fake News Media!
The Democrats want to abolish ICE . . .
“Donald Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do as a candidate, now as the most effective president, the most successful president, in modern American history.”
So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. . .
While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph . . . the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success.
Russia has agreed to help with North Korea, where relationships with us are very good and the process is moving along. . . .
Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened  . . .
A lot of Democrats wished they voted for the Tax Cuts because the economy is booming - we could have 4% growth. . .
Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war . . .
3.4 million jobs created since our great Election Victory - far greater than ever anticipated, and only getting better as new and greatly improved Trade Deals start coming to fruition!


Trump loves his enemies
“Well I think Brennan is a very bad guy and if you look at it, a lot of bad things happened under his watch,” he said. “I think he’s a very bad person. I also think that when you watch Peter Strozk and Lisa Page, when you watch all the things that have happened, Comey, take a look at that and McCabe, who’s got some pretty big problems I assume. . . . You look at the deception, the lies and what’s gone on in the last fairly long period of time– before I won. Long before I won, I mean during the campaign I guess probably during the Republican, when I was fighting against 17 other Republicans — this has been going on for a long time. . . But these are people, in my opinion are truly bad people. They are being exposed for what they are and it’s a shame that it has to happen, but it’s really hurt our country.”

[NB: Can you help me parse this?]  

The Cesspool
“The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has launched a full investigation into a real estate deal involving a foundation established by Ryan Zinke and developers including Halliburton Chairman David Lesar”  

Why aren't Trump properties paying their taxes on time? 

Trump likes to say that audio recordings will vindicate his version of controversial events. But he never, ever produces them. Wonder why?

The OMB releases frightening numbers on the deficit and federal debt (not the same thing) -- and still Trump and the GOPers want to pass more tax cuts

What Republicans really think about Trump
Yes, almost every elected Republican we talk to privately thinks President Trump’s warm embrace of Vladimir Putin was unexplainable, unacceptable and un-American. Yes, they wish they could say this publicly. No, they won’t — not now, and probably never. . . .
The more President Trump talks about Russia, the more Republicans cringe,” Politico reports. “The president’s effort to clean up his disastrous Monday news conference is falling flat on Capitol Hill — and White House aides are doing little to assuage an increasingly frustrated GOP. The reason: Threats from Republican lawmakers about confronting the president or pushing bills to punish Russia for further election interference are ringing hollow inside the White House, which has grown accustomed to panic, followed by inaction, on Capitol Hill.”

Will they do anything about it?

Bad checks  
71% of Americans – including a narrow majority of Republican voters – said yes, Congress should be a check on the White House . . . [read on] 

House Repubs are trying to quietly weaken Russia sanctions 

Iran sues U.S., restarts nuclear program. Heckuva job, Donnie!

One of the phony baloney issues in our Supreme Court process is the pretense that officials don't question a candidate about a specific issue, and the candidate always says they don't prejudge any case that might come before them. No litmus tests! But Trump TOLD everyone during the campaign that he would only appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade and that if he became president it was going away. So don't insult my intelligence please
Kavanaugh Already Has One of the Clearest Records Against Roe of Any Recent Supreme Court Nominee

Trouble ahead for Kavanaugh?

It's not just the Supreme Court
“The Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm another one of President Trump’s judicial nominees, Andrew Oldham, despite more than 200 civil rights groups opposing him over his record of trying to restrict voting and civil rights”
Every admin tries to get its own people into government posts. But no modern president has so aggressively purged career officials, even in nonpartisan positions

Where Trump gets his "news"
Donald Trump’s media diet is about as healthy as his actual diet. . . [read on]

Yes, I can see the crisis. There just aren't enough venues to get conservative ideas into circulation these days

I can't believe the level of "analysis" the Dems are dishing up these days
Outside of truly extreme proposals, there’s basically no plausible position a politician or political party can endorse or enact that will have a meaningful impact on their likelihood of retaking political power. The US has for decades had a stable system where liberal and conservative policy coalitions (which have sorted out under the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively) semi-regularly alternate in power, with long periods of divided rule and gridlock in the middle. Dramatic shifts in the ideological makeup of both parties during that same period did not upset that alternation of power. It continued apace. The upshot of this phenomenon is that parties should be a little less nervous about sticking to their guns and arguing for what they believe, whether or not it polls well. Call it, if you like, the “do what you want” theory of politics.

A new campaign slogan for House Dems
"For the People"

Does it matter?

"Corruption" may be a winning issue for the Dems this fall

Shut up Jim!
Former FBI director James Comey blasts Trump, then urges Americans to vote for Democrats in November

We talked about the cash advantage Dems have in the House races. Good news on the Senate side too

Bonus item: The rise of rage: why angry posts in social media are spiking

[NB: Poor "Thankful"!]

***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.***