Friday, July 21, 2017

Russian To Judgment, Con't

We talked yesterday about Trump's NY Times interview where he left the door open to firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller if Mueller didn't back off of Trump's business deals, that Trump considered it a "red line" and left it unsaid what fate would await the investigation if Mueller crossed it.  Well, turns out yesterday's late Trump/Russia news included new information implying strongly that the Mueller investigation of Russia has indeed now widened to include Trump's business interests.

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that he was unaware of the inquiry into Trump’s businesses by the two-months-old investigation and considered it beyond the scope of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be examining.

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he wrote in an email.

The Trump regime's response last night was breathtaking and instantaneous:  Trump is now floating a Nixon-style Saturday Night Massacre scenario where Trump fires everyone involved in the investigation and is even openly considering blanket pardons.

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people
. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.

A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job.

The president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller’s probe could reach into his and his family’s finances, advisers said.

Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.

Trump has repeatedly refused to make his tax returns public after first claiming he could not do so because he was under audit or after promising to release them after an IRS audit was completed. All presidents since Jimmy Carter have released their tax returns.

Further adding to the challenges facing Trump’s outside lawyers, the team’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned on Thursday, according to two people familiar with his departure. Corallo did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

“If you’re looking at Russian collusion, the president’s tax returns would be outside that investigation,” said a close adviser to the president.

The NY Times is backing up the Washington Post on this, adding that the Trump legal team is looking for any dirt they can find in order to dismantle the Mueller investigation entirely without "firing" him...for now.

For weeks, Republicans have publicly identified what they see as potential conflicts among Mr. Mueller’s team of more than a dozen investigators. In particular, they have cited thousands of dollars of political donations to Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, made by Andrew Weissmann, a former senior Justice Department official who has expertise in fraud and other financial crimes. News reports have revealed similar donations by other members of Mr. Mueller’s team, which Mr. Trump’s allies have cited as evidence of political bias. Another lawyer Mr. Mueller has hired, Jeannie Rhee, represented the Clinton Foundation.

To seek a recusal, Mr. Trump’s lawyers can argue their case to Mr. Mueller or his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. The Justice Department has explicit rules about what constitutes a conflict of interest. Prosecutors may not participate in investigations if they have “a personal or political relationship” with the subject of the case. Making campaign donations is not included on the list of things that would create a “political relationship.”

The examination of Mr. Mueller’s investigators reflects deep concerns among the president’s aides that Mr. Mueller will mount a wide-ranging investigation in the mold of the inquiry conducted by the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr during the 1990s. Mr. Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton began by reviewing an Arkansas land deal and concluded several years later with the president’s impeachment over a lie about a sexual affair.

By building files on Mr. Mueller’s team, the Trump administration is following in the footsteps of the Clinton White House, which openly challenged Mr. Starr and criticized what Mr. Clinton’s aides saw as a political witch hunt.

Of course, it didn't work then, and it's not going to work now.   The panic is starting to set in at the White House, and panicked people do stupid, stupid things.  But as I said before, this is the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end.  There's still a long way to go.

StupidiNews!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Last Call For Interview With A Ham Pyre

Somehow, Donald Trump went over to the "failing" NY Times and gave them an exclusive interview, and his army of lawyers were somehow not present in order to consider using a device that would instantly encase him in rubber cement in order to keep him from talking.  This allowed the Times to put Trump's words both on paper and to record the audio when asked questions, and frankly if anyone had any doubts left as to what Trump was planning to do as far as making Nixon look like a candidate for sainthood by comparison, those doubts were splattered all over the windshield of Trump's limo.


President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said. 
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election. 
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office. 
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

While the interview touched on an array of issues, including health care, foreign affairs and politics, the investigation dominated the conversation. He said that as far as he knew, he was not under investigation himself, despite reports that Mr. Mueller is looking at whether the president obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. 
“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” he said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.” 
Describing a newly disclosed informal conversation he had with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a dinner of world leaders in Germany this month, Mr. Trump said they talked for about 15 minutes, mostly about “pleasantries.” But Mr. Trump did say that they talked “about adoption.” Mr. Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children in 2012 after the United States enacted sanctions on Russians accused of human rights abuses, an issue that remains a sore point in relations with Moscow.

I don't even know where to begin on this.  He never would have appointed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions if he knew Sessions wouldn't kill the Russia investigation, he left the door wide open as to firing Mueller, he thinks Comey is part of a huge conspiracy against him and he believes his son did nothing wrong meeting secretly with Russian money launderers peddling Clinton campaign dirt.

Also he's innocent, he says. Innocent!

This is bonkers stuff and should really fill us all with dread.  It will not be long now until Mueller is fired along with probably Sessions.

Then things get really ugly.

It's About Suppression, Con't.

Former Obama DoJ civil rights division head Vanita Gupta sounds the alarm over VP Mike Pence and Kansas GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the Trump regime's "election-integrity commission" and calls it what it is: massive federal voter suppression of Democrats.

The Trump administration’s election-integrity commission will have its first meeting on Wednesday to map out how the president will strip the right to vote from millions of Americans. It hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start: Its astonishing request last month that each state hand over voters’ personal data was met with bipartisan condemnation. Yet it is joined in its efforts to disenfranchise citizens by the immensely more powerful Justice Department. 
Lost amid the uproar over the commission’s request was a letter sent at the same time by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It forced 44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. It cited the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor-Voter law, which mandates that states help voters register through motor vehicle departments. 
The letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging
Usually the Justice Department would ask only a single state for data if it had evidence the state wasn’t complying with Motor-Voter. But a blanket request to every state covered under that law is virtually unprecedented. And unlike the commission, the Justice Department has federal statutory authority to investigate whether states are complying with the law. 
These parallel efforts show us exactly how the Trump administration will undertake its enormous voter suppression campaign: through voter purges. The voter rolls are the key. Registration is one of the main gateways to political participation. It is the difference between a small base of voters pursuing a narrow agenda and an electorate that looks like America.

Here’s how the government will use voters’ data. It will create a national database to try to find things like double-voters. But the commission won’t be able to tell two people with the same name and birthday apart. Such errors will hit communities of color the hardest. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of the 100 most common last names. 
Purging voters is part of a larger malicious pattern that states have employed across the country. Georgia and Ohio are being sued for carrying out early versions of what we can expect from the Trump administration.

I can't stress this enough, guys. Tens of millions of people will lose the right to vote before 2020 and most likely before 2018 if the Trump regime's little project comes to fruition here.  Whether or not they can get that right to vote back, well the Trump DoJ will make that as difficult as humanly possible.  The GOP will be able to count on winning elections for decades.  It doesn't take much, either.

We have to fight this with everything we have, or we are lost.

It's that simple.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Three stories today on the developments in the Trump/Russia investigation, both involving Trump's inner circle.  First, it turns out that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort owed a bit of money to some folks, and while that's not suspicious in itself, the people Manafort owned money to are A) foreign interests and B) pro-Russian.

Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions. The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees.

The records, which include details for numerous loans, were certified as accurate by an accounting firm as of December 2015, several months before Mr. Manafort joined the Trump campaign, and were filed with Cyprus government authorities in 2016. The notion of indebtedness on the part of Mr. Manafort also aligns with assertions made in a court complaint filed in Virginia in 2015 by the Russian oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, who claimed Mr. Manafort and his partners owed him $19 million related to a failed investment in a Ukrainian cable television business.

After The Times shared some of the documents with representatives of Mr. Manafort, a spokesman, Jason Maloni, did not address whether the debts might have existed at one time. But he maintained that the Cyprus records were “stale and do not purport to reflect any current financial arrangements.”

A campaign manager in hock for at least $17 million can probably be convinced to have his campaign and candidate to do all kinds of things, I would think.  Certainly that's the kind of thing the FBI and CIA would want to know about, especially if he accrued said debts working for the political interests of a foreign government as an agent of that government, and then failed to disclose that arrangement.

And that brings us to story number two today, Trump's son-in-law and current White House adviser Jared "How Does This Asshole Still Have A Security Clearance" Kushner will have some very pointed questions to answer under oath in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling on Monday, July 24, ABC News has learned. The closed-door session sets up what could be one of the most highly anticipated interviews for lawmakers to date.
Kushner's lawyer Abbe Lowell confirmed the meeting to ABC News. “As Mr. Kushner has been saying since March, he has been and is prepared to voluntarily cooperate and provide whatever information he has on the investigations to Congress," Lowell said. "Working with and being responsive to the schedules of the committees, we have arranged Mr. Kushner's interview with the senate for July 24. He will continue to cooperate and appreciates the opportunity to assist in putting this matter to rest.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has said since March that Kushner is one of many within the Trump administration it planned to question as part of it's Russia investigation.

The appearance by Kushner, who has kept a low public profile since joining the administration, marks a new phase in the investigation as one of the president's closest confidantes is called to answer questions.

Congressional investigators are expected to focus on Kushner's contacts with Russians during and immediately after the campaign. All contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials have come under intensified scrutiny following repeated denials from the Trump administration that there were no undisclosed meetings with Russians -- statements that have since been proven false.

Additionally, investigators are likely to ask about Kushner's failure to disclose some of those encounters on his security clearance application, as required by law. Another attorney for Kushner, Jamie Gorelick, has previously stated that Kushner's security clearance form, known as an SF-86, was "prematurely submitted" and that "among other errors, [it] did not list any contacts with foreign government officials." Kushner has since updated that form with all relevant meetings, including "over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries," Gorelick told ABC News.

And while it may be a closed-door session, it's that second part about glaring omissions on his SF-86 security clearance form that Kushner himself faces the most trouble for. Lying on one of those is a federal crime and Kushner damn well knows it.

But Kushner won't be alone in Senate testimony next week.  Both Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. will get to chat with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as we come to the third leg of our trip this morning.

Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have been scheduled to testify before the Senate judiciary committee on July 26, the panel announced Wednesday. 
President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is also expected to appear before the Senate intelligence committee on Monday. A source told CNN Kushner's testimony would be behind closed doors. 
The interest in Trump Jr. and Manafort builds on already intensive congressional investigations. In June 2016, the President's eldest son agreed to meet with someone described as a "Russian government attorney" after receiving an email offering him "very high level and sensitive information" that would "incriminate" Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to emails Trump Jr. publicly released last week. Manafort and Kushner attended that June 16 meeting. 
A spokesperson for Manafort told CNN that he'd received the invitation to testify and wouldn't comment further. 
Earlier this week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, said that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller had signed off on the committee's request to interview Manafort and Trump Jr. in public.

The Senate Judiciary committee hasn't been too involved up until this point, because it's been run by Iowa Sen. Chuck "Assume Justice Dead" Grassley.  But apparently the Donald Trump Jr. story has pissed Grassley off enough that he's bringing the committee to bear, and that means critics on both sides of the aisle will get some tough questions in, including ranking member Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, and Dick Durbin, on the Democratic side as well as Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham on the GOP side.

It should be a very entertaining session next week.  Stay turned.

StupidiNews!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Last Call For There Is No Dana, Only Fool

The Trump-Russia story is bad enough, but we need to take a look at other compromised Republicans in DC these days, starting with California GOP Congressman (and long-time friend of Russia) Dana Rohrabacher.  Turns out Dana hasn't just been taking lobbyist cash from the folks Don Trump Jr. likes to hang out with in meetings, he also takes policy direction...and apparently direct orders from the Kremlin to boot. Nico Hines at the Daily Beast:

Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill. 
The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya
Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened and agreed to allow a hearing on Russia at the full committee level with a Moscow-sympathetic witness, according to multiple congressional aides. 
An email reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that before that June 14 hearing, Rohrabacher’s staff received pro-Kremlin briefings against Browder, once Russia’s biggest foreign investor, and his tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky from a lawyer who was working with Veselnitskaya. 

The Browder in this case is William Browder, the US businessman and portfolio manager who was represented by Sergei Magnitsky before Magnitsky's unseemly death.  Rohrbacher by the way freely admitted to meeting with this Russian cast of characters back in May.

Although House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) had prohibited Rohrabacher from showing the Russian propaganda film in Congress, Rohrabacher’s Capitol Hill office still actively promoted a screening of the movie that was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2016. Veselnitskaya was one of those handling the movie’s worldwide promotion. 
Invitations to attend the movie screening were sent from the subcommittee office by Catharine O’Neill, a Republican intern on Rohrabacher’s committee. Her email promised that the movie would convince viewers that Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Russian prison cell, was no hero.

The invite, reviewed by The Daily Beast, claimed that the film “explodes the common view that Mr. Magnitsky was a whistleblower” and lavishes praise on the “rebel director” Andrei Nekrasov. 
“That invitation was not from our office. O’Neill was an unpaid intern on the committee staff. Paul denies asking her to send the invitations,” said Ken Grubbs, Rohrabacher’s press secretary, referring to the congressman’s staff director, Paul Behrends. 
O’Neill went on to secure a job on the Trump transition team and then in the State Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. She did not return a call for comment. 
Rohrabacher’s office was given the film by the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow, which is run by Yuri Chaika, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin who is accused of widespread corruption, and Viktor Grin, the deputy general prosecutor who has been sanctioned by the United States as part of the Magnitsky Act. 
That same Prosecutor General’s office also was listed as being behind the “very high level and sensitive information” that was offered to Donald Trump Jr. in an email prior to his now infamous meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower on June 9—just days before the congressional hearing. Veselnitskaya attended that meeting with Trump Jr. She also happens to have worked as a prosecutor in the Moscow region and is a close personal friend of Chaika. 
The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of a document that was passed to Rohrabacher in Moscow in April 2016. The document, marked “confidential,” was given to Rohrabacher and Behrends. It lays out an alternate reality in which the U.S.—and the rest of the world—has been duped by a fake $230 million scandal that resulted in sanctions being imposed on 44 Russians linked to murder, corruption, or cover-ups.

So cooler heads prevailed, but Rohrabacher was literally going to use a Russia popaganda film as evidence in a House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Russian sanctions, and this was all just around the time that we start seeing the Russians mess with voter registration systems, and start openly contacting the Trump people.

And yes, it's once again Valerie Veselnitskaya and friends.  Again.

Mueller has to be looking at Rohrabacher too.  You can make the case that Trump may not be fully involved (but knew what was going on) on the Russia side, but there's zero doubt in my mind that Dana Rohrabacher is outright taking orders from a foreign government.  Best case he's a fanatic and patsy, but worst case his actions meet the very definition, historical, literal, and legal, of treason.

We'll see how deep this krolichya nora goes.

Flaking Out In Arizona

One of the few GOP Senators in 2018 that may be vulnerable, Sen. Jeff Flake is now facing a massive primary challenge funded by...Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump and White House officials have had a series of conversations with prospective Republican candidates about challenging Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake in the 2018 primary. 
Kelli Ward, who has already launched her campaign, and Robert Graham, a former state GOP chair and Trump adviser who is considering it, both told CNN on Monday they have had multiple conversations with White House officials about opposing Flake in the Senate primary. 
Graham said the talks began shortly after the 2016 presidential campaign concluded, and both Graham and Ward said further conversations took place as recently as two weeks ago.

Another potential candidate -- state treasurer Jeff DeWit -- has had multiple conversations with Trump, sources familiar with those talks said. DeWit is close with Graham, making it unlikely both would run. 

If you're surprised in the least by Trump coming to slice Flake's throat open, you haven't been paying attention to the Revengeaholic-In-Chief .
Trump was furious at Flake last fall when the Arizona senator called on Trump to withdraw from the presidential race after the emergence of the "Access Hollywood" tape
He told a small group of Arizona Republicans last fall -- including Graham -- that he would spend $10 million on defeating Flake in the 2018 Senate primary, a source familiar with the conversation confirmed. That conversation and the White House's further involvement in recruiting a primary challenger were first reported Monday by Politico's Alex Isenstadt. 
"They used Jeff Flake in Hillary Clinton's ads, for heaven's sakes. It was like pouring salt on the wounds," Graham told CNN.

Flake made Trump look bad.  Now Trump will most likely end Flake's political career.  The message is clear: if there are any Republicans in the Senate even considering turning on Trump, they're dead and buried where they stand.

By the way, one of the Democrats running against Flake in 2018 is Deedra Abboud, a Muslim attorney who lives in Phoenix. If Trump's blackballing doesn't end Flake's career, then Flake refusing to attack Abboud for being Muslim should finish him off nicely.

I have no sympathy for Flake because I know whoever replaces him on the GOP side will be worse.

None whatsoever.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Donald Trump's major issue is that in the end, he can't stop telling lies of omission. When he gets caught, he claims it's no big deal, tweeting furiously at the "fake news" press.  The problem is that Trump always gets caught anyway, and that the lies always, always seem to involve Russia.

Hours into a dinner with world leaders who had gathered for the Group of 20 summit meeting, President Trump left his chair at the sprawling banquet table and headed to where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was seated.

The two presidents had met earlier in the day for the first time and, as the White House put it, had developed a rapport even as they talked about Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 elections.

The July 7 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, was the single most scrutinized of the Trump presidency. But it turned out there was another encounter: a one-on-one discussion over dinner that lasted as long as an hour and relied solely on a Kremlin-provided interpreter.

No presidential relationship has been more dissected than the one between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, a dynamic only heightened by the swirl of investigations into whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to sway the election in his favor. Nevertheless, the meeting was confirmed by the White House only on Tuesday, after reports surfaced that some of the guests had been surprised that it occurred.

The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.

A White House official said there was nothing unusual about it. And in two tweets late Tuesday, Mr. Trump derided news reports about it as “sick.” He said the dinner was not a secret, since all of the world leaders at the summit meeting and their spouses had been invited by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. “Press knew!” he tweeted.

“Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!” Mr. Trump added.

Except of course an hour-long, off -the-record, omitted conversation with no official record from the White House, with the Russian president that Trump is already accused of being far too friendly with, is exactly the kind of  unforced error that the White House keeps committing time and time again.

You know, like the country finding out there was an eighth person at Don Jr.'s little Russian Clinton dirt festival in June of 2016., and of course that person was a Russian involved in international money laundering.

A U.S.-based employee of a Russian real estate company took part in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., bringing to eight the number of known participants at the session that has emerged as a key focus of the investigation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians.

Ike Kaveladze attended the meeting as a representative of Aras and Emin Agalarov, the father-and-son Russian developers who hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, according to Scott Balber, an attorney for the Agalarovs who said he also represents Kaveladze.

Balber said Tuesday that he had received a phone call over the weekend from a representative of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III asking whether Kaveladze would agree to be interviewed. Balber said his client would cooperate.

The request is the first public indication that Mueller’s team is investigating the meeting.


The presence of Kaveladze at the Trump Tower meeting introduces a new and intriguing figure into the increasingly complex Trump-Russia drama. A native of the Soviet republic of Georgia who came to the United States in 1991, Kaveladze was the subject nearly two decades ago of a congressional inquiry into Russian money laundering in U.S. banks, although he was never charged with a crime and Balber said there was never any sign of wrongdoing by Kaveladze.

But at least we now know that Don The Even Lesser's meeting is squarely on Robert Mueller's radar.

The longer this goes, the more we find out.

StupidiNews!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day Of The Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver

Meanwhile, while all the attention is on the Senate GOP's Trumpcare tire fire, Paul Ryan and the House GOP are showing their budget proposal cards and are planning trillions in austerity cuts over the next ten years and a plan to force it through the Senate on just 50 votes.

The House Budget Committee blueprint, which is set for a Thursday committee vote, sets out special procedures that could ultimately allow Republicans to pass legislation over the objections of Senate Democrats who can normally block bills they oppose. GOP leaders in the House, as well as top Trump administration officials, hope to use those procedures — known as reconciliation — to pass a tax overhaul later this year. 
The instructions in the draft budget, however, go well beyond tax policy and set the stage for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending and more. Those are policy areas where Republicans have, in many cases, already passed legislation in the House but have seen Democrats block action in the Senate.

House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said the spending proposal is “not just a vision for our country, but a plan for action.” 
“In past years, our proposals had little chance of becoming a reality because we faced a Democratic White House,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “But now with a Republican Congress and a Republican administration, now is the time to put forward a governing document with real solutions to address our biggest challenges.” 

In other words, the House still plans to ram this through on reconciliation.

Like the spending blueprint released this year by President Trump, the House plan envisions major cuts to federal spending over the coming decade, bringing the budget into balance by relying on accelerated economic growth to boost revenue. Under the House plan, defense spending would steadily increase over 10 years while nondefense discretionary spending would decline to $424 billion — 23 percent below the $554 billion the federal government is spending in that category this year
Unlike Trump’s budget, the House proposal cuts into Medicare and Social Security — entitlement programs that the president has pledged to preserve. The House plan also makes a less-rosy economic growth assumption of 2.6 percent versus the 3 percent eyed by the Trump administration. Both, however, exceed the 1.9 percent figure used by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in its most recent economic estimates.
The House blueprint won a strong endorsement from White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who served on the House Budget Committee before joining the Trump administration.

“It is a bold effort that follows the leadership of President Trump in Making America Great Again,” he said in a statement. “Critically, this budget lays a pathway for Congress to pass, and President Trump to sign pro-growth tax reform into law.”

So yeah, total cuts across the board over ten years will easily be in the trillions of dollars to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs.  They expect this to sail through the House and Senate and for Trump to sign it.

Of course, they expected the same thing for Trumpcare.

Oops.

A Problem Of Compound Interest

Meanwhile our good friends the Russians really are expecting their cute little spy HQ buildings back from when mean ol' Obama threw a bunch of Russian agents out of the country last December, and they're rapidly running out of patience with the current American regime they bought and paid for.

Russia has described any possible conditions set by Washington to return two of the country's diplomatic compounds in the US that were closed down late last year as "unacceptable." 
"We have repeatedly said that we think any conditions are unacceptable. We think that the diplomatic property must be returned without any conditions and talks," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN Monday. 
"What is happening is -- de facto and de jure -- a violation of international law," he said. "Contacts are happening between the foreign policy departments. Kremlin, as it is, does not really participate but as you know this issue was raised by President [Vladimir] Putin during his G20 meeting with President Trump in a quite straightforward manner." 
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. 
Last December, then-President Barack Obama imposed a range of sanctions against the Russian government for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including the closure of two Russian compounds located in New York State and Maryland. 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov is expected to meet with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington later Monday to discuss the diplomatic compounds.

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to stop Trump from giving these compounds back as part of a package of new sanctions against Moscow last month. The Russians have gone from miffed to annoyed to outright angry at this point, and expect the man they installed in power to follow through on this.

Meanwhile the House GOP is dodging the Russian Senate bill and instead wants to tie Russian sanctions to new measures against North Korea.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Friday that the House is looking to add North Korea provisions to a Russia and Iran sanctions bill that is stuck in a procedural morass.

The House passed a standalone North Korea sanctions bill in May on a 419 — 1 vote, but the Senate has yet to take up the measure. Adding North Korea to the Russia and Iran sanctions measure would ensure speedier Senate consideration.

“I believe Iran, the work Russia has done and what North Korea has done, it would be a very strong statement for all of America to get that sanction bill completed and done and to the president’s desk,” McCarthy said in floor remarks Friday. 
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce told reporters earlier Friday that he was working on a bipartisan sanctions measure that could see floor action as soon as next week. He did not specify the contents.

So who knows where this will all end up in the end.  The House GOP almost certainly wants some pretty tough measures against North Korea if they are going to go along with the Senate on Russia.

We'll see.

Reports Of Trumpcare's Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Yesterday morning Trumpcare stood at two GOP senators against it, Maine's Susan Collins, who though Trumpcare was too cruel, and Kentucky's Rand Paul, who thought Trumpcare wasn't cruel enough. Three Republicans against it would mean Mitch McConnell wouldn't have the votes to pass it. 

That brings us to last night, when Nevada's Dean Heller, stuck in days of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" hell and facing re-election in 2018, had his legs cut out from under him by two of Rand Paul's crew, Utah's Mike Lee and Kansas's Jerry Moran, both coming out against the Senate bill for not killing enough poor people. Mitch is now going with plan C: calling out Rand Paul's crew on the "not cruel enough" part by planning a vote to defund Obamacare immediately and then repeal the ACA in two years.

President Donald Trump's top legislative priority was dealt a potentially fatal blow Monday night as two more Republican senators announced their opposition to the party's health care overhaul. 
Trump quickly called on Republicans to simply repeal Obamacare and begin work on a new health care plan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would try to do so.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," McConnell said. 
The Kentucky Republican said he planned to hold a vote in the coming days to take up the House-passed bill to replace the 2010 health law and then call up an amendment to eliminate major parts of Obamacare, such as the Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies and fines for the employer and individual mandates. 
Republicans passed a similar bill to effectively repeal Obamacare in 2015 under reconciliation — the fast-track budget procedure the GOP is using to thwart a Democratic filibuster — but it was vetoed by President Barack Obama. 
McConnell added that the repeal-only bill is "what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015," but GOP lawmakers have voiced severe doubts that such a plan can win the 50 votes necessary this year given the uncertainty it would throw onto insurance markets. The 2015 vote was viewed as mostly symbolic at the time given Obama’s certain veto. 
But after his own caucus tanked McConnell's attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously and at the prodding of the president, the GOP leader is going to force his caucus to go on the record on health care. If the Senate does vote to open debate on the House bill, which is not guaranteed, the repeal-only bill would be the first amendment. But senators would still be able to offer unlimited amendments to the bill, leading the GOP down an uncertain road once the process began. 
"Republicans should just 'REPEAL' failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!" Trump tweeted shortly before McConnell's statement came out.

That House 2015 bill was literally the worst case scenario, it would kick 32 million people off health care coverage and double premiums by 2026.  This is what Mitch is daring Rand Paul to block, as Trump will more than happily sign it.  The bill was window dressing when Obama was around to veto it.  It was never supposed to become law, but now Mitch is forcing his own caucus to eat this flaming poop sandwich and, you know, destroy the individual health insurance market in the process.

Rand Paul and his faction wanted something more cruel?  They got it.  And unless we fight back hard now, we're the ones who are going to "get it".

Got it?

Good.

Call your Senators.

StupidiNews!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Last Call For The True Price Of Trumpcare

Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price went on ABC's This Week to defend Trumpcare, and tried to play it off as business as usual.  Price of course forgot that business before the Affordable Care Act meant insurance companies could regularly deny people insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions and could cut off care due to yearly and lifetime caps.  

Even insurance companies flat out said last week that under revised Trumpcare legislation that they would have no choice but to seek significant financial help from the government to keep offering policies, and that millions of policies would be disrupted.

Price's response: let's go back to 2008 when health insurance sucked.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Price was asked to respond to a blistering criticism of the Senate Republicans’ health care proposal by two major groups representing the U.S. health insurance industry. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week, the groups called the latest version of the bill “simply unworkable in any form” and warned that it would cause “widespread terminations of coverage” to people with serious medical problems.

“It’s really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare,” Price said, referring to an amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would allow insurers to resume sales of policies that leave out key benefits, such as prescription drugs or mental health treatment.

“A single risk pool, which is what they’re objecting to, is exactly the kind of process that was ― that has been utilized for decades to care for individuals,” he added.

America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of America, the two groups who wrote the letter, oppose the latest draft of the legislation. They say it would allow insurance companies to discriminate among customers based on medical status ― essentially causing insurance premiums for people with pre-existing conditions to skyrocket.

In discussing their health care plan, Republicans do not usually speak as candidly as Price about returning the nation’s health care system to its pre-Obamacare period, a period marked by egregious insurance company abuses. Protections for pre-existing conditions remain highly popular around the country, and GOP lawmakers are loath to admit their policies would weaken them.

Prior to Obamacare, 79 million — more than one in four Americans — either lacked health insurance or were underinsured. The poor, especially, lacked adequate coverage.

In his appearance on “This Week,” Price countered by arguing that the Trump administration would be taking further administrative actions on health care and that the Senate health care bill is “not the entire plan.”

Price isn't wrong about that last part: Trumpcare would give him phenomenal power over who gets health coverage in America. The bill would mean that Price would get the final decision about which states get Medicaid money and how much under the GOP's block grant scheme, and the decision would be his and his alone.

Remember "death panels"?  Tom Price would be a one man show.

Meanwhile, Trumpcare is going to be so awful that the White House is already attacking the CBO score of the revised Senate GOP bill before it's even out.

Keep calling your senators.
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