Wednesday, January 31, 2018


There is a lot written about Trump's threats to democracy. But in fact he has done very little: he appointed a far-right SC justice (any Republican president could have done that); he passed a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy (any Republican president could have done that); he has led an assault on federal rules and regulations (any Republican president could have done that). His tweets and public comments are outrageous and norm-shattering, but on the whole they have led to very little policy. 

The danger for us is making Trump seem more powerful than he is. The fact is that, bluster aside, he is a highly ineffectual president, surrounded by people of questionable competence, running up constantly against the brakes and balances that the founding fathers put in place to prevent radical, sudden change. He is racked by constant scandal, staff frictions, and leaks that remind us of how dysfunctional this White House is. 

None of this means we should be complacent or stop fighting and criticizing him. There is a crucial midterm election coming up in a few months. But to me the overall message is in fact how durable the institutions of democracy actually are -- as long as we make use of them. Here are a range of recent posts on this topic
Death by a thousand tweets: Is Trump slowly killing democracy?
The Surprising Resilience of American Democracy
Democracy Has Survived a Year of Trump. But the Fight Isn’t Over.
How American democracy survived President Trump’s first year
U.S. ‘approaching important turning points’ in democracy under Trump
How's Democracy Holding Up After Trump's First Year?
It was a bad year for American democracy.


[NB: To me the bigger long-term story is the far-right shift of the Republican party and the decline of two-party governance. The assault on voting rights and extreme gerrymandering. The removal of any constraints on secret fundraising. The emergence of openly ideological, partisan media outlets. All of these preceded Trump and will continue long after he is gone. These constitute the real threats to democracy in our time.]

Quote of the day. Adam Schiff puts his finger on a very disturbing trend: the Trumpification of the Republican party  
“When you have a deeply flawed person in the Oval Office, that flaw can infect the whole government, and today tragically it affected our committee,” Schiff said.
Nancy Pelosi: House Republicans crossed from dangerous irresponsibility into the realm of cover up
Defending the Indefensible
Republicans Have All But Given Up on Opposing Trump
Rick Wilson: “The Republican Party’s head first dive into breathless conspiratorial fantasies in defense of Donald Trump is a brand-defining moment as the Party of Lincoln morphs into the Party of LaRouche. Listening as members of Congress, the Fox/talk-radio world and the constellation of batshit crazy people drawn to Esoteric Trumpism adopt increasingly baroque theories to protect The Donald isn’t just depressing, it’s tragic. A diseased slurry of fake news, post-Truth Trumpism and Russkie agitprop infects the Republican Party. It’s an Ebola of wild-eyed MK-ULTRA paranoiac raving, spreading to every organ of the Republican body politic. This loon-centric new world of crazy talk has dissolved the old ideological skeleton of the GOP and reduced it from the Conservative Party of Ideas to the Crackpot Party of Infowars.” “Covering up the connections between Donald Trump, his campaign officials and family members with Russia, and this president’s efforts to obstruct justice and derail Mueller will come at a still-untallied cost to our nation, our institutions, and the dignity and reputation of the GOP. It’s going to get worse as Mueller closes in.”

Trump's lawyers lay the groundwork for refusing to let him testify 

Trump's "expectations" that DOJ protect him
Bloomberg reported Monday that President Trump exploded in anger at a statement from the Justice Department warning that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to publicize what’s come to be known as the Nunes memo without a security review. In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly conveyed Trump’s anger to Justice Department officials and “lectured them on the White House’s expectations,” according to the report.  Those contacts by Kelly may have violated at least the spirit and perhaps the letter of the Trump administration’s own guidelines regulating communications between the White House and DOJ. . . .

Rosenstein, Wray Made Last-Ditch Appeal To Kelly To Block Memo
Trump Says He’ll Release Secret Memo  

I think this is huge
Devin Nunes Won’t Say if He Worked With White House on Anti-FBI Memo

Oh, yes, there was a speech last night. One of the longest State of the Union addresses, ever. I've never been a big fan of these overstuffed productions, but Trump's was worse than usual -- full of absurd lies and exaggerations about his accomplishments, and meaningless promises and plans for the future -- because from him promises and plans mean nothing. So I'll cover it with a few entertaining details, not diving into the substance. Hey, his orange tan was so bright it practically glowed. . .
House issues tickets for State of the 'Uniom'
First lady Melania Trump traveled without her husband to the Capitol for the event, a break with tradition . . . She chose a Christian Dior pant suit — which some saw as white, others as cream. Female Democratic lawmakers dressed in white — which suffragettes wore as they fought for the right to vote — in protest of Trump’s first speech to Congress last year. (Also, another pretty notable female politician wore a white pantsuit to Trump’s inauguration one year ago.)
President Trump's First SOTU Address: 7 Super Awkward Moments
Signature line from Trump’s State of the Union stolen from Hillary Clinton
David Duke loved this line in Trump’s State of the Union
As Trump said "we sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and our government," one Democrat very audibly said "Oh Jesus." . . .
“The speech was packed with made-for-TV moments, including a North Korean defector who hoisted his crutches in the air and young boy who plants flags on veterans’ graves. Trump’s remarks about a police officer who adopted a baby girl from a woman addicted to heroin . . .”
In his remarks, which were met with loud boos from Democratic lawmakers, Trump made several inaccurate statements about the current immigration system . . .
7 big fact checks from Trump’s State of the Union
The Washington Post Saw a “Call for Bipartisanship” In Trump’s State of the Union Address. Where?

Trump Turns State of the Union Address Into Campaign Fundraising Opportunity
Trump’s State of the Union fundraising plan blurs ethical lines

Who wrote the State of the Union address? Trump doesn't want us to know
“Trump hates the idea that anybody puts words in his mouth. He hates the idea that everything isn’t written by him,” one said. “That’s something he jealously guards.” (read on)

“It’s the lowest net positive rating for a State of the Union address since at least 1998, when CNN first asked the question. There is no equivalent poll for addresses before 1998.” A USA Today focus group rated the speech “on the plus side of mediocre.”

Trump's phony infrastructure plan

$200 billion taken from other programs. Taxpayers borrow $800 billion plus interest. Then come tolls and user fees
Facts about the Trump economy
Job growth was slower in 2017 than every year since 2010 . . . (read on) 

The truth about the Trump economy
Here are 3 signs it’s not as great as he says.

Joe Kennedy III's great response


The comedians' response

In other news . . .

Unfinished business
Four months after Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico devastated, federal assistance is coming to a close, and will "officially shut off" on Wednesday. Parts of the island, however, are still left in desperation, and have said federal aid distribution should continue. Since the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has distributed over 30 million gallons of potable water and nearly 60 million meals to the island's residents since the storm struck late last September . . . But a third of Puerto Rico still lacks electricity, some areas still don't have running water . . .

Trump orders Gitmo to remain open

The Pentagon won't share data about how we're doing in Afghanistan

No, the Republicans don't care about deficits, when it's THEIR deficit
U.S. budget deficit to top $1-trillion in 2019: budget experts

Trump wants to PROSECUTE Mueller and his team?

A new explanation for Andrew McCabe's resignation from the FBI

The coordinated assault on Rod Rosenstein

Who actually wrote the "Nunes memo"?

The rule they used to justify releasing it:
Chris Christie, new employee for ABC, says that Trump shouldn't agree to meet with Mueller at all

The WH refuses to impose congressionally mandated sanctions on Russia for election meddling. But they did release a list of Russian oligarchs. Where did they get it?

What EPA head Scott Pruitt thought of Trump two years ago
Trump approval, by state
Trump’s approval rating is below 50% in 38 states

Well, he seems very calm about it. I'm not
Pompeo Says Russians Will Try to Hack Midterm Elections 

Kellyanne: Russia didn't interfere in the election, the media did!

The RNC demanded that Dems give back Harvey Weinstein's donations. So, what are they doing about Steve Wynn?
What does this tell you? Trump CHEATS at golf 

That Stormy Daniels interview? Blah

Bonus item: Yes, but why would you want to?
How to Talk Like Trump
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Well, it's total war now. In case you had any doubts that Robert Mueller's got the goods on Trump and that the WH and its allies are engaged in a full-court press to disrupt and discredit the investigation, yesterday's events prove it. First, House Intel chair Devin Nunes (despite being "recused") succeeds in getting his piece of garbage "memo" released on the basis of a party line vote. The justification? "Transparency." But when the Dems on the committee want their rebuttal document released? Not so much transparency. Well, it's all pretty transparent now.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Monday said that Republicans on the committee voted to release a memo by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) against Democrats’ objections. . . .  He said he made a secondary motion to have the FBI and Department of Justice “come and brief the entire House in a classified session on both memoranda on the underlying facts and underlying materials so that the committee could make a responsible judgment” before making the document public. “That motion was voted down by the majority,” Schiff said. He said the vote to release Nunes’ memo took place along party lines, and that a vote to release a Democratic memo countering Nunes’ document failed, also along party lines. . . .
[Schiff] "It was disclosed to the minority today for the first time that the majority has evidently opened an investigation of the FBI and an investigation of the Department of Justice. Under our committee rules, of course, that has to be the product of consultation with the minority, but we learned about that for the first time here today."

And what about the concerns from the DOJ and FBI that the Nunes memo compromises intelligence sources? The HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE says, they don't care
Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo that they had compiled. Democrats called the three-and-a half-page document a dangerous effort to build a narrative to undercut the department’s ongoing Russia investigation, using cherry-picked facts assembled with little or no context. . . .

The White House, which says it hasn't seen the memo, also calls for its release, despite the objections of the president's own Justice Department
On Wednesday, as Republicans were clamoring to make public a secret document they think will undercut the investigation into Russian meddling, President Trump made clear his desire: Release the memo. Trump’s directive was at odds with his own Justice Department, which had warned that releasing the classified memo written by congressional Republicans would be “extraordinarily reckless” without an official review. . . . Trump recently revived his complaints that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was not properly supervising Mueller’s probe, and suggested that he should fire Rosenstein — a highly controversial action against the person officially overseeing the special counsel’s investigation, an adviser who speaks frequently with Trump said. . . . The president has told close advisers that the memo is starting to make people realize how the FBI and the Mueller probe are biased against him, and that it could provide him with grounds for either firing or forcing Rosenstein to leave, according to one person familiar with his remarks. He has privately derided Rosenstein as “the Democrat from Baltimore.” Rosenstein is not a Democrat.

More: White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly relayed the president’s view to Attorney General Jeff Sessions — although the decision to release the document ultimately lies with Congress. . . . The intervention with Sessions, which has not previously been reported, marked another example of the president’s year-long attempts to shape and influence an investigation that is fundamentally outside his control. Trump, appearing frustrated and at times angry, has complained to confidants and aides in recent weeks that he does not understand why he cannot simply give orders to “my guys” at what he sometimes calls the “Trump Justice Department,” two people familiar with the president’s comments said.
The wrong White House to sing the virtues of ‘transparency’
President Trump’s “frustrations with the Russia investigation boiled over on Air Force One last week when he learned that a top Justice Department official had warned against releasing a memo that could undercut the probe” . . . “For Trump, the letter was yet another example of the Justice Department undermining him.” 

So much for Sessions' "recusal":

But that's not all. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe "resigns," but don't you believe it -- he was forced out. Let's just review, shall we? Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, FIRED. FBI Director James Comey, FIRED. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, FIRED. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump TRIED to fire him (and may try again). Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, constant rumors that they might be fired. 

Now, new indications that Rosenstein is directly in the crosshairs (which is a stepping-stone for going after Mueller). There has never been, even under Nixon, such a wholesale attack on the DOJ, the FBI, and their independence. And it is all, all, about one thing -- and you know what that is
AG Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of Trump — had been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, Axios' Jonathan Swan scooped last week. . .
McCabe didn't retire—he was 'removed'

Sanders: Trump 'didn't play a role' in FBI deputy director's stepping down
Trump called Andrew McCabe’s wife a “loser” in a bizarre call

Seth Meyers Goes Off on Trump for Insulting McCabe’s Wife: ‘You Are Awful’ 

You bet they are
Trump’s lawyers explore ways to avoid Mueller interview


The case for impeachment, chapter and verse

The full timeline:

Another quid for all those quos 
Trump Refuses To Impose Congress-Mandated Russian Sanctions


Dutch investigators uncover proof of Russian hacking into U.S.

Let's go back to that memo, shall we? The basic content has already leaked: that the FBI FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page drew in part from information from Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier. What is the scandal here? That Carter Page looked dirty and needed looking into? That Steele INDEPENDENT OF THE DOSSIER provided supporting information? That Rosenstein approved a FISA application that was strong enough to make it through the extremely arduous FISA court review?
Of Course Rosenstein Extended Surveillance of Carter Page  

And remember who FIRST funded the FusionGPS investigation (hint: not the Dems)

In other news. . . 

Folks aren't buying the tax cut lies

What happens when a real estate guy develops an "infrastructure" plan

Trump keeps saying he's not a racist, and keeps proving that he is

Senate rejects 20 week abortion ban

Republicans Lose 33rd House Member With Rodney Frelinghuysen Retirement

A nice overview of the key Democratic primaries (thanks to RR for the link)

Dems need more white working class votes

More from the fever swamps of Fox World
Fox Radio Host: Trump Should Order ICE To Arrest Undocumented SOTU Guests

[NB: Wouldn't that be the perfect Trumpian moment? Jack-booted thugs weaving through the audience at the State of the Union, arresting people and dragging them out? Unthinkable? That's JUST what Trump wanted to happen at his rallies.]

Trump team flips its collective wig over Hillary Clinton’s Grammy appearance


***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.***