Monday, April 30, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is well aware of the fact that his greatest shield in his investigation of Donald Trump is a sniper-accurate leak from the press gallery just to remind everyone that the investigation is moving along particular lines, and today's round from way downtown is a solid hit.

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself, according to a list of the questions obtained by The New York Times.

[Read the questions here.]

The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

The questions provide the most detailed look yet inside Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy since he was appointed nearly a year ago. The majority relate to possible obstruction of justice, demonstrating how an investigation into Russia’s election meddling grew to include an examination of the president’s conduct in office. Among them are queries on any discussions Mr. Trump had about his attempts to fire Mr. Mueller himself and what the president knew about possible pardon offers to Mr. Flynn.

“What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?” Mr. Mueller planned to ask, according to questions read by the special counsel investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to The Times by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team.

A few questions reveal that Mr. Mueller is still investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. In one of the more tantalizing inquiries, Mr. Mueller asks what Mr. Trump knew about campaign aides, including the former chairman Paul Manafort, seeking assistance from Moscow: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” No such outreach has been revealed publicly.

Mueller has been pretty tight-lipped since the Comey book and the Cohen raid, and there's been a lot of speculation as to what he's been up to.  Sometimes it's good to keep your opponent guessing, but other times, it's good to show a few cards in your hand just to let the other guy know he's the mark at the table and there's not a damn thing he can do about it.

Mueller asking specific questions about Flynn, Sessions, Comey and that fateful June 2016 meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower, mean Trump is in real trouble.

And Mueller wants Trump to know that.

PS:  Mueller already knows the answers.  All of them.

Your move, Donny.

Kelly Green

White House Part-Time Maybe Chief of Staff John Kelly is back at it, saving the world from Donald Trump's stupidity or something.

White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president's intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials. 
The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as "an idiot" multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they've witnessed the comments.

Three White House spokespeople said they don't believe it's accurate that Kelly called the president an "idiot," adding that none of them has ever heard him do that or otherwise use that word. 
Officials said Kelly's public image as a retired four-star general instilling discipline on a chaotic White House and an impulsive president belies what they describe as the undisciplined and indiscreet approach he's employed as chief of staff. The private manner aides describe may shed new light on why Kelly now finds himself — just nine months into the job — grappling with diminished influence and a drumbeat of questions about how long he'll remain at the White House. 
"He says stuff you can't believe," said one senior White House official. "He'll say it and you think, 'That is not what you should be saying."
Trump, who aides said has soured on his second chief of staff, is aware of some though not all of Kelly's comments, according to the current and former officials.

The White House spokespeople said they haven't heard Kelly talk about himself as the one saving the country, and that if anything he may have spoken in jest along those lines. 
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said Kelly's comments about Trump, when compared to previous White House chiefs of staff, "suggest a lack of respect for the sitting president of a kind that we haven't seen before." Beschloss said the closest similarity would be President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff during his second term, Don Regan, who "somewhat looked down on" his boss and eventually lost the support of the staff and the president. Regan was replaced after two years by Howard Baker. 
The last time it became public that one of Trump's top advisers insulted his intelligence behind his back, it didn't go over well with the president. White House aides have said Trump never got over former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling him a "moron" in front of colleagues, which was first reported by NBC News. Trump later challenged Tillerson to an IQ test and fired him several months after the remark became public. 
Current and former White House officials said Kelly has at times made remarks that have rattled female staffers. Kelly has told aides multiple times that women are more emotional than men, including at least once in front of the president, four current and former officials said.

So just a reminder that yes, John Kelly is far, far from the "adult in the room" when it comes to riding herd on Trump.  He goes on to say that he takes credit for scrapping the DACA deal last year, and saved Trump because he's an idiot.

Trump actually is pretty dense, but that doesn't mean Kelly isn't a screaming racist asshole.

The National Russia Association, Con't

Lost in the noise this weekend about Trump and the WHCD this weekend was the NRA quietly going to the ramparts because they know they're going to be under investigation for their ties to Russian oligarchs and funneling Russian money to the Trump campaign.

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation. 
The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions. 
The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin -- a relationship that ensnared members of Trump's team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny. 
Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump's candidacy -- more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Dallas next Friday, an official told CNN. 
The NRA recently found itself facing allegations that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money through the group to bolster Trump, according to a McClatchy report. The NRA has publicly denied any contact from the FBI and insisted it hasn't accepted illegal donations. 
Despite the public denials, officials at the gun-rights group have been anxiously preparing as if they were already under investigation, sources said. Some employees have been tasked with preserving years of documents mentioning Torshin or his associate, Maria Butina, who runs a pro-guns group in Russia, a source familiar with the situation said. Privately, some officials have expressed anxiety about a potential investigation and the group's Russian ties.

Even the Trump regime has acknowledged Torshin is a mobbed-up Putin flunky, leveling sanctions against him last month.  Sure, the Trumpies dragged their feet long enough for the Russians to move their cash out of the US and into offshore safe havens, but the point is Torshin's on the list, and his favorite charity is the NRA.

And suddenly the NRA had $30 million to give just to Trump's campaign.

I know foreign campaign donations are pretty small potatoes compared to the rest of the wrongdoing by the Trump regime, but if it takes both Trump and the NRA out of the GOP equation in 2018 and especially 2020, I'm all for it.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Last Call For The Wolf Among The Sheep

The White House Correspondents' Dinner did have a comedian last night, Michelle Wolf, and she unloaded on Trump, the press, and the whole nine yards in the most brutal takedown since Colbert.

Do watch the whole thing, it's hysterical.

Here's your money quote though:

“You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric. But he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.”

Needless to say, the Sunday shows have been howling all day about this.  Hit dogs holler the loudest. But as Steve M. points out, Wolf's real accomplishment was upstaging Donald Trump.

Since Trump descended that escalator in 2015, no one's managed to upstage him -- except a comedian who was as harsh and vulgar as he is.

Clinton aide Philippe Reines told us last month that the Democrats should run someone in 2020 who'll get down and dirty the way Trump does, who'll be as brazen and uncensored. Last night suggests that he has a point -- except that nearly all the coverage of Michelle Wolf is negative.

So you can't seize attention from Trump except by being Trump, but if you are Trump, they'll slam you. You can't win.

Democrats need to keep that in mind.  No matter what the Dems' message is in 2020, it will be drowned out by the Trump Show.  "Hillary Clinton didn't have a platform" was the biggest lie of 2016, and I expect the same will be true of the Dem running in 2020.  The media certainly didn't care.  What they cared about was Trump, because Trump sold copy, commercials, and clicks.

Clinton wasn't news until she lost.

Looking Through The Genes Catalog

Last week an arrest was made in the 40-year old Golden State Killer case, and it seems like one of America's most notorious unsolved serial killers was nabbed thanks to DNA evidence.  But that evidence meant California investigators went through commercial DNA databases from online genealogy companies to catch a killer, and not through criminal databases. 

Police may have their man, but at what cost to the rest of us in an era where data privacy already is greatly flawed and companies have, and own, your genetic information?

No one has thought about what are the possible consequences.”The trail of the Golden State Killer had gone cold decades ago. The police had linked him to more than 50 rapes and 12 murders from 1976 to 1986, and he had eluded all attempts to find him. 
In the years since, scientists have developed powerful tools to identify people by tiny variations in their DNA, as individual as fingerprints. At the same time, the F.B.I. and state law enforcement agencies have been cultivating growing databases of DNA not just from convicted criminals, but also in some cases from people accused of crimes. 
The California police had the Golden State Killer’s DNA and recently found an unusually well-preserved sample from one of the crime scenes. The problem was finding a match. 
But these days DNA is stored in many places, and a near-match ultimately was found in a genealogy website beloved by hobbyists called GEDmatch, created by two volunteers in 2011. 
Anyone can set up a free profile on GEDmatch. Many customers upload to the site DNA profiles they have already generated on larger commercial sites like 23andMe. 
The detectives in the Golden State Killer case uploaded the suspect’s DNA sample. But they would have had to check a box online certifying that the DNA was their own or belonged to someone for whom they were legal guardians, or that they had “obtained authorization” to upload the sample. 
“The purpose was to make these connections and to find these relatives,” said Blaine Bettinger, a lawyer affiliated with GEDmatch. “It was not intended to be used by law enforcement to identify suspects of crimes.”

But joining for that purpose does not technically violate site policy, he added.
Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University and expert on DNA searches, said that using a fake identity might raise questions about the legality of the evidence. 
The matches found in GEDmatch were to relatives of the suspect, not the suspect himself. 
Since the site provides family trees, detectives also were able to look for relatives who might not have uploaded genetic data to the site themselves.
On GEDmatch, “it just happens they got lucky,” said Dr. Ashley Hall, a forensics science expert at the University of Illinois in Chicago. 
23andMe has more than 5 million customers, and has 10 million. But the DNA in databases like these are relevant to tens of millions of others — sisters, parents, children. A lot can be learned about a family simply by accessing one member’s DNA. 
“Suppose you are worried about genetic privacy,” Ms. Murphy said. “If your sibling or parent or child engaged in this activity online, they are compromising your family for generations.”

If I'm DeAngelo's defense attorney, I'm moving to have all this DNA evidence tossed on on that technicality.  And even though from a genetic perspective, I'm adopted and I'd like some genetic testing done for the possibility of hereditary diseases, I'm loathe to do so for exactly these reasons.

It's a lot to think about in the era of privacy.  When I was in school the Human Genome Project was just getting underway.  20 years later we have commercial DNA databases with millions of subjects.  It's something that needs regulation, and fast.  It doesn't meet the Dr. Ian Malcolm test:

"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

We've got to get a handle on this fast, because it's going to be used again, and quickly.  The intersection of Silicon Valley tech, police investigation, and data privacy is already a massive trainwreck.

Sunday Long Read: Rebuilding In Boise

Idaho, like nearly all of the Rocky Mountain states, flipped heavily to Trump and the GOP in the last six years (and even then Colorado is purple at best).  Democrats have been all but wiped out between the Mississippi River and the West Coast, and the Gem State is no exception. 

Coming out of the wilderness and getting back to the kind of balance that brought Western Dems to power won't be easy, but in this state, there's at least one candidate who isn't waiting around and wants to surf the blue wave right into the Governor's office.

Shake Paulette Jordan’s hand and you likely won’t forget it. Her handshake is firm enough to be just shy of crushing, and she’s an expert at that disarming, straight-in-the-eye engagement. Jordan wants to make sure you know that she sees you. She’s tall — just under 6 feet — and her years on the basketball court compound the air of dominance with which she navigates a room. You could call it cocky. Or you could just use the word her supporters use: confident.

On a blustery day in March, Jordan is in Boise, Idaho, for an evening fundraiser featuring local indie-rock darlings Built to Spill. She’s spent a fair amount of time in the state capital, both as a representative of her tribe, the Coeur d’Alene, and the tribes of the Northwest, but also as a member of the Idaho state legislature. 
But Boise isn’t home. That’s up north, in the Idaho Panhandle, just outside of Plummer, Idaho, where her family grows timothy hay and bluegrass. As a teen, Jordan’s parents or grandparents drove her an hour each way, every day, to go to school at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Washington — a city where another Democrat, Lisa Brown, is making national headlines running as a candidate in an area previously assumed to be a Republican stronghold. 
“Lisa Brown is really great,” Jordan told me at a coffee shop just blocks away from the capitol building. “She’s a nice lady. But I don’t do nice. That’s not me.” 
At 38, after serving just two terms as a state representative, Jordan is not a conventional gubernatorial candidate. Until she resigned to dedicate herself full-time to running for governor, she was the only left-leaning legislator from North Idaho to survive the 2016 Trump wave that took out even the most established Democrats in the area. She’s a progressive, but declines comparisons to Bernie Sanders; she’s a woman of color, running to become the US’s first Native American governor, in a state that is 82% white. In the Idaho house, she refused to toe the party line. She’s referred to state Rep. Heather Scott, a far-right legislator and favorite liberal enemy, as a friend. 
And while the bulk of the Idaho Democratic establishment has endorsed Jordan’s opponent, Boise school board member A.J. Balukoff, Jordan has earned the support of the progressive PAC Democracy for America, Planned Parenthood, Our Revolution, and was among the first five candidates endorsed on the national level by Indivisible. In January, Jordan was asked to speak at the national Women’s March gathering in Las Vegas; while there, she met and was endorsed by Cher. 
Her candidacy has come to symbolize the breadth of the post-Trump wave of candidates who are energizing Democrats on both the local and national levels. When Mic ran a brief piece about Jordan in January, it stamped a picture of Jordan with “Young, Progressive, and Running.” At least 250,000 people shared or liked the piece on Facebook — several thousand more than live in all of North Idaho. 
Jordan’s not a centrist or a moderate, nor is she a veteran or a handsome white guy with two kids, like many of the candidates who have been forwarded by the Democratic Party to win over swing states and districts. And she’s not intimidated by calls, such as those from her opponent, that she should bide her time. “I think I bring more experience this time around and had leadership roles that Paulette hasn’t had,” Balukoff, who previously ran for governor in 2014, told Idaho Politics Weekly. “I think people should stay with me this time around. She may be what we need next time.” 
“We’ve seen this attitude all across the country, especially with female candidates,” Jordan said in reference to the article, which had been published just days before. “We saw it with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We see it now. People say, well, not this time. But my grandmothers were always at the forefront. They’d say, we make the difference we want to see.” 
Jordan has caught the national eye as a Native woman, and a progressive at that, who is vying to make history in a conservative state. In Idaho, however, she’s marketed herself as an independent, straight-talking, ranch-raised woman, in touch with the needs of people outside of urban areas and willing to work across the aisle to find solutions that work. But ahead of the May 15 primary, she still needs to persuade Idaho Democrats — many of whom remain convinced of their party’s impotency and irrelevance across the state — that the person they choose to run in a long-shot race against Republicans actually matters.

I have no idea if Jordan can succeed outgoing GOP Gov. Butch Otter, , who is hanging up his hat after 3 terms, let alone win her primary against Balukoff.  But keep an eye on her.  She's the kind of candidate the Dems need right now and in the future.

Throwing The New Guy In The Deep End

There's no rest for the wicked as newly confirmed Trump Regime SecState Mike Pompeo is already off on his first leg of the "Sorry We Didn't Have A Secretary Of State For Two Months" Tour and is already trying to put out fires in the Middle East.

As Saudi Arabia considers digging a moat along its border with Qatar and dumping nuclear waste nearby, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on his first overseas trip as the nation’s top diplomat with a simple message: Enough is enough.
Patience with what is viewed in Washington as a petulant spat within the Gulf 
Cooperation Council has worn thin, and Mr. Pompeo told the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, that the dispute needs to end, according to a senior State Department official who briefed reporters on the meetings but who was not authorized to be named. 
Last June, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led an embargo by four Arab nations of Qatar, accusing the tiny, gas-rich nation of funding terrorism, cozying up to Iran and welcoming dissidents. Years of perceived slights on both sides of the conflict added to the bitterness. 
Mr. Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex W. Tillerson, spent much of his tenure trying to mediate the dispute, which also involved Egypt and Bahrain, but without success. The Saudis, keen observers of Washington’s power dynamics, knew that Mr. Tillerson had a strained relationship with President Trump and so ignored him, particularly because Mr. Trump sided with the Saudis in the early days of the dispute.

But Mr. Pompeo is closer to Mr. Trump and thus a more formidable figure. And in the nearly 11 months since the embargo began, Qatar has spent millions of dollars on a Washington charm offensive that paid off earlier this month when its leader, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump during which the president expressed strong support for the tiny country.

So Mr. Pompeo came here to deliver the same message to Mr. Jubeir at an airport meeting Saturday afternoon; to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later that night; and to King Salman in a meeting planned for Sunday: Stop. 
Confronting Iran, stabilizing Iraq and Syria, defeating the last of Islamic State, and winding up the catastrophic civil war in Yemen are seen in Washington as increasingly urgent priorities that cannot be fully addressed without a united and more robust Arab response. 
Mr. Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on the same day that Houthi forces in Yemen shot eight missiles at targets in the southern Saudi province of Jizan, killing a man. The fusillade was the latest sign that Yemen’s blood bath is a growing threat to the region.

I'm thinking that the Saudis are going to continue to tell the State Department to go screw themselves because they know they can go over Pompeo's head to Trump the same way they did with Rex the Wreck.  It's sad that at this point everyone is freely admitting how awful Tillerson was at this job, and that how Pompeo is actually an improvement somehow, but the point is that the real problem with America's foreign policy is Donald Trump, and until that changes, nobody's going to take us seriously.

Qatar might get a break, but the Saudis do love picking on them, and Trump does love a bully, so who knows?

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Last Call For Cult Of Personality

Donald Trump skipped the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner again tonight in favor of a rally in Michigan where he could be the star without any jokes at his expense, because Trump is a bully and tyrant who cannot tolerate the notion that everyone doesn't love him.

President Donald Trump kicked off a campaign-style rally in Michigan on Saturday by taking a shot at the media as journalists gathered in Washington, DC, for the White House correspondents' dinner.

"You may have heard I was invited to another event tonight -- the White House Correspondents' dinner," Trump said, "but I'd much rather be in Washington, Michigan, than in Washington, DC right now. That I can tell you."

This is the second year in a row that the President has skipped the annual dinner in favor of rallying with his supporters.

In the opening minutes of the rally, Trump called on the crowd to "elect more Republicans so we can protect our cities, defend our borders, grow our economy, and continue to make America great again."

Trump also took aim at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who are running for reelection this year.

"The Democrats don't care about our military. They don't, and they don't care about our borders, and I don't think they care much about crime," Trump said. "Nancy Pelosi and her gang -- they've got to be voted out of office. They've got to be voted out of office."

Trump went on to say Stabenow "wants people to flow into the country. And you people just keep putting her back again, and again, and again. It's your fault. So you gotta get to the poll."

Trump is definitely going to take his attack show on the road to personally go after Democrats this summer, and it's going to be ugly.  Expect a lot more of this in the months ahead.

A Tester Of The Bully’s Pulpit

Donald Trump has found his scapegoat for the failure of Ronny Jackson's nomination for VA Secretary, and it's not Roony Jackson (or Donald Trump, who of course didn't bother vetting Jackson.)  No, the villain is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Montana's Jon Tester, who has now been targeted by Trump for complete annihilation because nobody is allowed to oppose Dear Leader, and examples must be made.

President Trump called on Saturday for the resignation of Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who helped thwart his effort to install the White House physician in the cabinet, suggesting that the president may try to exact retribution in the fall congressional elections in a state that he won by a wide margin. 
Two days after the doctor, Ronny L. Jackson, withdrew from consideration for secretary of veterans affairs amid a flurry of reports about his conduct on the job, Mr. Trump made clear he did not intend to let the matter go. In a pair of early morning messages on Twitter, the president said the accusations raised by Mr. Tester against Dr. Jackson were fabricated. 
 “Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false,” Mr. Trump wrote. “The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign.” 
He added: “The great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human being. Admiral Jackson is the kind of man that those in Montana would most respect and admire, and now, for no reason whatsoever, his reputation has been shattered. Not fair, Tester!” 
Mr. Tester fired back a few hours later with a statement noting that Mr. Trump had signed eight of the senator’s bills to make the Department of Veterans Affairs more accountable and responsive to veterans. “It’s my duty to make sure Montana veterans get what they need and have earned, and I’ll never stop fighting for them as their senator,” he said.

The president has been sharply criticizing Mr. Tester for days, singling out the Democrat while ignoring Republican opposition that had built to Dr. Jackson’s nomination. Mr. Tester, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, took the lead in publicly questioning Dr. Jackson’s record, but he had the support of Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the Republican chairman of the committee, who signed a joint statement with him saying the issues should be investigated. 
But Mr. Tester is from a conservative state that in 2016 supported Mr. Trump strongly, giving him 55.6 percent of its votes to 35.4 percent for Hillary Clinton. Even before the flap over Dr. Jackson, Mr. Trump and the Republicans had hoped to use the power of that 20-point margin to defeat Mr. Tester for re-election this fall and defend their narrow 51-seat majority in the Senate. 
Mr. Tester released a list of accusations this week against Dr. Jackson alleging loose distribution of prescription drugs, a hostile work environment and drunkenness.
The allegations, Mr. Tester said, were raised by more than 20 current and former military personnel who had worked with Dr. Jackson, whose White House medical unit is run by the military. 
Several of those military officials also described their experiences and concerns about Dr. Jackson to reporters, although they spoke on the condition of anonymity because of their status as members of the military.

Expect this to be Trump's modus operandi over the next several months. Republicans may not want his endorsement in November, but they'll settle for him relentlessly attacking key Democrats in Trump states and there's a damn good chance it's going to work.

Let’s be honest here, if I’m Trump’s strategist (or whatever dark corner of Trump’s brain passes as such) I’m attacking red state Dem senators as much as possible.  I treat them like I treated Hillary Clinton. I hold rallies in those states and start “Lock them up!” chants. I blame everything that has gone wrong in my first 18 months on the fact the GOP doesn’t have 60 seats in the Senate.

What’s our press going to do, call him out on it? Like they “did” in 2016?  Please.  They’re just as terrified of this bully as the Dems are, because Trump and his goons have outsized power that we give them and refuse to take from them.

Now Tester has to either keep trying to placate Trump, or stand his ground in a state where Clinton lost by 25 points. Either path is fraught with instant peril.

And then Trump will move on to his next Democratic prey, maybe Claire McCaskill, maybe Joe Donnelly, maybe Joe Manchin or Heidi Heitkamp.  Yes, I know I said earlier today and it will be easy to bring Trump into any race as Republicans with primary challengers will, but it doesn’t mean that’s a winning strategy fo Dems in a state where Trump is at 55 or 60% approval.

Remember that these are the same Dems that had to balance on a tightrope in 2012 and won for various reasons, and yes, sometimes those reasons were outright running as a check against Barack Obama.  I didn’t like it then, but your alternate choice was someone like Todd Akin or another lunatic Republican and I’ll take the Democrat every time rather than somebody I know who will be proud to vote with Trump 96% of the time.

Does that make me a pragmatic son of a bitch?  It does.  But that pragmatism is the only way we get to 51 senators and kicking Mitch McConnell out of the Senate majority leader’s office.

Like it or not, the Senate system massively favors small red states just like the House massively favors large blue ones.  We have to play both to win both. And that means backing Senate Dems, even the Manchins and Heitkamps and Testers.

The Party Of Trump, All Day, Every Day

Democrats running in 2018 don't have to lift a finger trying to tie Republican candidates to Donald Trump, the GOP is scrambling every day to do it themselves.

Congressman Robert Pittenger couldn’t go 30 seconds without mentioning President Donald Trump.

At a church 5K run and a local Republican convention, an early voting station and a panel discussion hosted by a pro-Trump group, the GOP congressman in the midst of a primary battle typically waited between five and 30 seconds before invoking the president as he campaigned last weekend—and often, the favorable comparisons to iconic conservative President Ronald Reagan weren’t far behind.

It was a constant reminder of the lengths Republican candidates are going to embrace Trump this primary season, from here in Pittenger’s district to Senate races in West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana, all places where primary Election Day comes May 8. It’s more evidence of the president’s grip on the GOP base—and of the perils facing any Republican candidate in a conservative area who is perceived as insufficiently supportive of Trump.

“You can’t be against the president and make it work,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who hails from another conservative North Carolina district and is familiar with the dynamics in Pittenger's Ninth District stretching from suburban Charlotte east to the Fayetteville area. “Yet at the same time, you have to be true to who you are and hopefully make a compelling case on how you’re going to be representative of the people.”

In Pittenger’s primary, there is no doubt that the animating issue of the campaign is support for Trump—and he and his most prominent opponent, the deeply conservative Mark Harris, are taking increasingly extreme measures to prove their Trumpian bona fides.

They have fought over the timing of their Trump endorsements in 2016 (a matter of weeks, according to PolitiFact), featured Trump in their campaign materials, run ads questioning the other’s support for Trump, in Pittenger’s case—or Trump’s support for Pittenger, in Harris’s case—and dropped the president’s name at every opportunity.

As GOP activists arrived at their tables for a lunchtime gathering of the Ninth District GOP convention here on Saturday about an hour outside of Charlotte, they found cards at their places, informing them that “just like he did on the campaign trail in 2016, Mark Harris will stand with President Donald Trump” on issues such as "build the wall" and "repeal Obamacare."

And as they pulled back their chairs, they were greeted by an image of Trump— posing on another, larger placard, next to Pittenger. “Congressman Pittenger: Working with President Trump to deliver conservative results for the 9th District!” read the missive.

“You get endeared to Reagan because he’s a national treasure, we had him longer,” Pittenger said when asked about his favorite president. But, he added, “Frankly, Donald Trump has already begun endearing himself to people because he is so principled.”

As he offered those reflections, Pittenger stood near a table stocked with his campaign literature, including a flier that touted his “pro-Trump voting record.” The original number, a 95.7 percent rating, had been crossed out by hand, and now read, in large pink penmanship, “97 percent.”

Grown men falling all over themselves to be Donald Trump, because the primary voters demand it.  They demand his racism, his misogyny, his ignorance, his hatreds, from every candidate.  They want to take a sledgehammer to every liberal in America and keep smashing and smashing and smashing until we stop existing.

The GOP is the party of Trump, all day, every day, and this primary season will prove that there's no room for anyone but Trump in the party.

There are no "moderates" left in the GOP, in case that wasn't painfully obvious.  and after this spring, there will only be Trump and the people howling to serve him as Dear Leader.

Might want to take that into consideration.

Bloodbath At RedState

Our old friend Erick Erickson has discovered that all whining about lefty purity pogroms just means you get narced on first when the Stasi comes 'round looking for insufficiently being loyal to Dear Leader.

Salem Media, owner of the influential conservative outlet RedState, froze the site on Friday and dismissed many of its writers. 
Bloggers were locked out of their accounts -- some just temporarily, while the cuts were made, and others permanently. 
Erick Erickson, who founded the site 13 years ago, and left in 2015, tweeted about what he called the "mass firing" on Friday morning. 
"Very sad to see, but not really surprising given Salem's direction," he wrote. "And, finally, after all these years, they've turned off my account." 
Multiple sources told CNNMoney that they believed conservative critics of President Trump were the writers targeted for removal. 
"Insufficiently partisan" was the phrase one writer used in a RedState group chat. 
"They fired everybody who was insufficiently supportive of Trump," one of the sources who spoke with CNNMoney said, adding, "how do you define being 'sufficiently supportive' of Trump?"


Only state media is approved, Comrade.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Russian To Judgment, Con't

In an admission that should surprise nobody, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower in June 2016 to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton really was in fact working for the Russian government, surprise, I know, hey look collusion!

The Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officialsin Trump Tower in June 2016 on the premise that she would deliver damaging information about Hillary Clinton has long insisted she is a private attorney, not a Kremlin operative trying to meddle in the presidential election. 
But newly released emails show that in at least one instance two years earlier, the lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, worked hand in glove with Russia’s chief legal office to thwart a Justice Department civil fraud case against a well-connected Russian firm
Ms. Veselnitskaya also appears to have recanted her earlier denials of Russian government ties. During an interview to be broadcast Friday by NBC News, she acknowledged that she was not merely a private lawyer but a source of information for a top Kremlin official, Yuri Y. Chaika, the prosecutor general.

“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she said. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general

The previously undisclosed details about Ms. Veselnitskaya rekindle questions about who she was representing when she met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and others at Trump Tower in Manhattan during the campaign. The meeting, one focus of the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference, was organized after an intermediary promised that Ms. Veselnitskaya would deliver documents that would incriminate Mrs. Clinton.  
Ms. Veselnitskaya had long insisted that she met the president’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman in a private capacity, not as a representative of the Russian government.

Let's review our files on Natalia Valerie Veselnitskaya, here, shall we?

First of all, we knew she was petitioning the Trump campaign to kill sanctions under the Magnitsky Act.

The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children. 
The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.

That was her price.  The prize was dirt on Clinton.  We also know that Russia's favorite House Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, was also very keen on stopping the Magnitsky Act.

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.

We know that Veselnitskaya, and through her, Yuri Chaika, were delivering instructions to both the Trump campaign and Rohrabacher's office.

Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia “hysteria.” 
But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim
The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman. It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,” as the president’s son later said.

Remember, even Steve Bannon thought Trump Jr. and Manafort meeting with Veselnitskaya was a terrible idea in a quote from Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury.

He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.” 
The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. 
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

And now Veselnitskaya is admitting herself that she was working for Yuri Chaika, part of Putin's inner circle.  No wonder then that the GOP head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck "Assume deer dead" Grassley, wants to release the transcripts of the Committee's interviews about the meeting.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week that he is eager to release transcripts of interviews with Donald Trump Jr. and other participants in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting that included a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. 
Grassley first announced plans to release the transcripts in January, one day after two committee Democrats urged him to share them with special counsel Robert Mueller. Three months later, Grassley told POLITICO that the transcripts "ought to be getting out" following some redactions, describing it as the next step in the committee's Russia oversight work.

"I don’t understand the process of redaction, I’m not an authority in that, and I think you have to have people who are an authority in it," Grassley said in a Tuesday interview. "But we ought to get the redactions done and get them out." 
Aside from Trump Jr., the committee anticipates releasing written responses from Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower alongside the president's eldest son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 
A Republican Judiciary panel aide said Grassley's "staff has completed its work to redact personally identifiable information, law enforcement sensitive material and third party personal information irrelevant to our inquiry."

Meanwhile in the House, Republicans have no officially washed their hands of the Russia investigation and have of course cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee found no evidence during a monthslong investigation that the Trump campaign aided Russia’s election meddling, the lawmakers concluded in a 250-page report released on Friday that assails President Trump’s political rivals and criticizes the F.B.I. and the intelligence community for their responses to Moscow’s interference. 
But in a dissenting document, Democrats on the committee accused the Republicans of prematurely closing the investigation out of a desire to protect Mr. Trump and asserted that eagerness by Trump campaign associates to accept offers of Russian assistance suggest “a consciousness of wrongfulness, if not illegality.” 
The strikingly divergent conclusions closed a chapter for a congressional committee that, while charged with oversight of American spy agencies, has fractured into warring factions that often seemed to see the advancement of political agendas as their primary mission. 
[Read the report.] 
In the charged political climate that has engulfed Washington, the report — the first out of several government investigations into Russia’s interference — immediately served as a useful political tool for Mr. Trump and his allies. The president seized on the Republicans’ findings, extolling the conclusions on Twitter and calling the inquiries “A total Witch Hunt!”

“MUST END NOW!” he added.

I expect another story in a month or so about how Trump had to be talked out of firing Mueller again this weekend.

We'll see.

Whatsoever You Do To The Least Of My People

Departing GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has gotten himself into yet another major mess as it appears he has driven out the House Chaplain over philosophical differences.

The chaplain of the House said on Thursday that he was blindsided when Speaker Paul D. Ryan asked him to resign two weeks ago, a request that he complied with but was never given a reason for.

The sudden resignation of the chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, shocked members of both parties. He had served in the role since he was nominated in 2011 by Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Catholic. In an interview, Father Conroy was categorical: His departure was not voluntary.

“I was asked to resign, that is clear,” Father Conroy said. As for why, he added, “that is unclear.”

“I certainly wasn’t given anything in writing,” he said. “Catholic members on both sides are furious.”

Father Conroy said he received the news from Mr. Ryan’s chief of staff. “The speaker would like your resignation,” Father Conroy recalled being told. He complied.

“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” Father Conroy wrote in a letter to Mr. Ryan several days later. “I wish all the best of the House of Representatives, and for your upcoming search for a worthy successor in the office of the chaplain.”

His final day will be May 24.

Father Conroy’s resignation is all the more contentious in Catholic circles because Mr. Ryan is a Catholic conservative, whereas Father Conroy is a Jesuit, a branch that is viewed by some as more liberal.

Asked whether differences in politics were a factor in his ouster, Father Conroy said: “I do not want to politicize this. I have thoughts about it, but I am not contributing to that.”

But, he said, Capitol Hill is an inherently political place. “There are Catholics who are Republicans and there are Catholics who are Democrats,” he said. “I don’t know if there is a religious divide; there certainly is a political one.”

Though Father Conroy said he did not know whether politics were behind his departure, he pointed to a prayer he had given on the House floor in November, when Congress was debating tax overhaul legislation.

“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” he prayed. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

About a week later, Father Conroy said, he heard from the speaker’s office. “A staffer came down and said, We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political,” he said. “It suggests to me that there are members who have talked to him about being upset with that prayer.

Shortly after, when he saw Mr. Ryan himself, Father Conroy said that the speaker told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

The road of my faith has long taken me away from the Catholic Church I grew up with as a kid 30 years ago, but to basically fire a Jesuit because he suggested that Congress should be nicer to "the least of my people" is insane.

Why do Republicans hate Christians so much?


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Last Call For Jackson Action

The New Yorker's Masha Gessen has the after-action report on the failed Trump nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson as Veterans' Affairs Secretary, and what it means for the regime and the millions of American vets who are still looking on this country to make good on the promises we made to the people we sent in harm's way.

Appointing people to run federal agencies who are opposed to the work and, sometimes, to the very existence of those agencies is an established gesture of the Trump Presidency. Scott Pruitt all but promised to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency during his confirmation hearing, last January. Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary, once wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, though he apparently didn’t understand what the department was. Betsy DeVos, a stranger to and an apparent foe of public schools, became the Secretary of Education. In a distinct but related kind of gesture, Trump has appointed people who are clearly unqualified for their jobs, as when he made Ben Carson the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or when he tapped Jackson for Veterans Affairs. The two kinds of gestures send messages consistent with the themes of Trump’s never-ending Presidential campaign: he sees the U.S. government as a “swamp” that is best drained by destruction. He also continues to reprise his television persona of the boss whose power is displayed through hiring and firing—the more unpredictably and dramatically, the better. 
The Jackson nomination built on this pattern. Why shouldn’t Trump appoint his own doctor to run a vast health-care bureaucracy? The incongruence of job and résumé cannot be an obstacle: White House physician is to head of Veterans Affairs roughly as head of the Trump Organization is to President of the United States. Jackson’s appointment would have served indirectly to affirm, yet again, that President Trump is conceivable. 
Jackson has, famously, affirmed the President more directly. In a January press conference, he praised Trump’s “excellent health” and shared the results of a cognitive exam in which the President achieved a perfect score. Jackson also revealed a height and weight for Trump that strained credulity for many observers. Compelling subordinates to lie for him is another of the ways in which Trump asserts power. There was, in the earliest days, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, lying about the size of the Inauguration crowd. Last May, there was H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, telling reporters that the President had not divulged security information to Russian interlocutors. In October, there was the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, lying on behalf of the President to discredit Representative Frederica Wilson. It is easily conceivable that Ronny Jackson was yet another man in uniform who had been reduced to lying to show his loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief. 

So how did Jackson fail?  Simple: the one unforgivable sin in the Trump regime is making Dear Leader look bad.

Lying for Trump has become such a familiar practice in American politics that it would almost certainly have had no impact on the Jackson nomination. But Jackson’s problems were bigger. He has been accused of creating a hostile work environment; of dispensing painkillers and sleeping aids too liberally; of drinking; of drinking and driving recklessly; and of drinking himself into a stupor that made him unavailable when his services were needed. These are all allegations, as yet uncorroborated; in a statement on Thursday morning, Jackson called them “completely false and fabricated.” But, according to Democratic Senator Jon Tester, of Montana, more than twenty people have brought accusations against Jackson. Furthermore, as long ago as 2012, an inspector-general report raised the alarm about “unprofessional behaviors” in the White House medical unit. The sheer number of people making complaints and the inspector-general report serve to corroborate each other.

Trump took that as a rightful knock on his already garbage judgment.  Jackson embarrassed Trump, and for that, Trump will flay you alive.

So Jackson will get his retirement from service, and how rough the Navy is on him will depend on how much of an appetite is left for cleaning house after the Fat Leonard scandal (which is still justifiably wrecking Naval careers) or if there's basically anyone left to turn out the lights out and burn Jackson's service jacket.

As far as our veterans, well, just like everyone else in America who isn't a millionaire, they don't matter to this regime and never did, and fixing the problems in the VA will fall to the poor bastard who comes after Trump.

Part of me thinks we're all being primed for Pence being slightly less of a moron just so we get into a "grass been brown so long it looks green to me" situation in 2020.

We'll see.

Maybe, Just Maybe, The Anxiety Wasn't Economic

Some 18 months after the 2016 election and I can't believe we're still having the argument about whether white voters shifted to Trump out of Southern Strategy fear of those people taking over the government and us maybe treating white people like they're not the most important humans on Earth, but at least people are finally beginning to realize that it could have been about race, guys.

For the past 18 months, many political scientists have been seized by one question: Less-educated whites were President Trump’s most enthusiasticsupporters. But why, exactly? 
Was their vote some sort of cri de coeur about a changing economy that had left them behind? Or was the motivating sentiment something more complex and, frankly, something harder for policy makers to address? 
After analyzing in-depth survey data from 2012 and 2016, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist Diana C. Mutz argues that it’s the latter. In a new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she added her conclusion to the growing body of evidence that the 2016 election was not about economic hardship. 
“Instead,” she writes, “it was about dominant groups that felt threatened by change and a candidate who took advantage of that trend.” 
“For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country,” Mutz notes, “white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race.” When members of a historically dominant group feel threatened, she explains, they go through some interesting psychological twists and turns to make themselves feel okay again. First, they get nostalgic and try to protect the status quo however they can. They defend their own group (“all lives matter”), they start behaving in more traditional ways, and they start to feel more negatively toward other groups.

This could be why in one study, whites who were presented with evidence of racial progress experienced lower self-esteem afterward. In another study, reminding whites who were high in “ethnic identification” that nonwhite groups will soon outnumber them revved up their support for Trump, their desire for anti-immigrant policies, and their opposition to political correctness. 
Mutz also found that “half of Americans view trade as something that benefits job availability in other countries at the expense of jobs for Americans.” 
Granted, most people just voted for the same party in both 2012 and 2016. However, between the two years, people—especially Republicans—developed a much more negative view toward international trade. In 2012, the two parties seemed roughly similar on trade, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s views on trade and on “China as a threat” were much further away from the views of the average American than were Trump’s.
Mutz examined voters whose incomes declined, or didn’t increase much, or who lost their jobs, or who were concerned about expenses, or who thought they had been personally hurt by trade. None of those things motivated people to switch from voting for Obama in 2012 to supporting Trump in 2016. Indeed, manufacturing employment in the United States has actually increased somewhat since 2010. And as my colleague Adam Serwer has pointed out,“Clinton defeated Trump handily among Americans making less than $50,000 a year.”

Meanwhile, a few things did correlate with support for Trump: a voter’s desire for their group to be dominant, as well as how much they disagreed with Clinton’s views on trade and China. Trump supporters were also more likely than Clinton voters to feel that “the American way of life is threatened,” and that high-status groups, like men, Christians, and whites, are discriminated against
This unfounded sense of persecution is far from rare, and it seems to be heightened during moments of societal change. As my colleague Emma Green has written, white evangelicals see more discrimination against Christians than Muslims in the United States, and 79 percent of white working-class voters who had anxieties about the “American way of life” chose Trump over Clinton. As I pointed out in the fall of 2016, several surveys showed many men supported Trump because they felt their status in society was threatened, and that Trump would restore it. Even the education gap in support for Trump disappears, according to one analysis, if you account for the fact that non-college-educated whites are simply more likely to affirm racist views than those with college degrees. (At the most extreme end, white supremacists also use victimhood to further their cause.)

White victimhood, especially Christian white male victimhood, is nothing new.  But it's important to remember that every time it comes up, it's because circumstances arise that confront America with a changing demographic tide.  And every time it gets ugly before it ends up being accepted as inevitable.

We go through cycles like this, but America has been one long fight for people other than white landowning dudes actually having human rights.

BREAKING: Bill Cosby Convicted In Retrial

It doesn't get much bigger than this.

A jury has found Bill Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his suburban Pennsylvania home in 2004. The jury handed down the guilty verdict on all three counts of indecent aggravated assault after more than 12 hours of deliberation, following a retrial that lasted more than two weeks
Cosby’s conviction concludes an acrimonious case that played out in the courtroom and in the press. In 2014 and 2015, dozens of women came forward with allegations that the comedian had drugged and sexually abused them. The statute of limitations had long since expired in almost all of those cases. 
Andrea Constand’s was the exception. In December 2015, Montgomery County prosecutors charged Cosby with three counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to accusations from Constand. Constand, who went to police in 2005, alleged that Cosby had given her pills in his suburban Pennsylvania home that left her incapacitated and molested her. The case went to trial in June 2017, and ended in a mistrial
Then came the #MeToo movement. After the New York Times and the New Yorker reported on the widespread allegations of sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein,more and more stories came pouring out about high-profile men who abused their power. Ten months elapsed between the two trials, but Cosby returned to court in a very different climate. And this time, the jury believed the women who accused him.

Jury was majority male, by the way.

Justice served.

Trump Faces The Storm, Con't

The near-certainty of devastating state and federal criminal charges being leveled soon against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is making for some tough times in the White House these days for the embattled ocher ogre in the Oval Office, and it's not helping things now that we find out Cohen will plead the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels case.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit filed against the president by Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star better known as Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Cohen’s decision, disclosed Wednesday in a court filing in California, where the suit was filed, came a day before a federal judge in Manhattan was set to hold a hearing regarding materials seized from Mr. Cohen during an F.B.I. raid earlier this month.

Mr. Cohen cited the Manhattan investigation in his filing on Wednesday, saying that, if called as a witness in Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit, “I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

Ms. Clifford was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about claims that she had an affair with Mr. Trump. She sued last month to get out of the nondisclosure agreement she signed in October 2016, alleging that it was void because Mr. Trump had never signed it.

Citing the Fifth Amendment in the Clifford case allows Mr. Cohen to avoid being deposed and revealing sensitive information in the more important criminal investigation. That investigation — which prosecutors say has been going on for months — became public in dramatic fashion on April 9, when agents from the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment and a room at the Loews Regency Hotel he had been using. The inquiry is said to be focusing on hush-money payments that Mr. Cohen made to — or helped arrange for — Ms. Clifford and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who has also said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

For days now, prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan have been sparring with Mr. Cohen’s lawyers — and with lawyers for Mr. Trump — for the right to review the records first, a step that will shape the contours of how the government presses its investigation into whether Mr. Cohen tried to suppress negative news coverage of the president in the run-up to the 2016 election.

First Michael Flynn takes the Fifth (and is almost certainly cooperating with Mueller now) and now Michael Cohen does the same.  I have to say that it most certainly doesn't look good for Trump or for Cohen at this point.  The Trump regime is scrambling to get its hands on the evidence taken during the raid, too.

In a filing Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for President Donald Trump told the federal judge overseeing the investigation of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump would, as necessary, personally review documents to ensure that privileged information is not revealed accidentally to the FBI or prosecutors.

“…Our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf,” wrote attorneys Joanna Hendon, Christopher Dysard and Reed Keefe in their filing.

The filing is part of the ongoing effort by Cohen and Trump to get the first crack at reviewing records seized earlier this month from Cohen’s home, hotel and office. So far, US District Judge Kimba Wood has ruled against Cohen and Trump, though she has said she would be willing to consider their backup request to have an independent third-party review record before prosecutors and agents do.

And of course everything involving Trump will be "classified" and "privileged", especially the stuff showing Trump's criminal conspiracy with his own lawyer.

"The Mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"

--Donald Trump

Of course, then Trump called into Fox and Friends morning show on his favorite state TV network to make things even worse.

President Trump made two significant legal errors during a Fox & Friends phone interview on Thursday morning, during which he became audibly agitated about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — at one point yelling about FBI raids on his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work. 
“Michael is in business — he’s really a businessman, a fairly big business as I understand it, I don’t know his business but this doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said, attempting to distance himself from Cohen. “Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business, he also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something to do with his business. This doesn’t have to do with me. I have many attorneys — sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it.” 
Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press
The day after the raid on his longtime personal attorney, Trump suggested that it shouldn’t even have happened because of attorney-client privilege. 
But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.

His second problem:  admitting to obstruction of justice on national live TV.

“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI — it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t — our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me and Russia, and everybody knows it.” 
Trump appeared to want to continue talking but the Fox News hosts, seemingly sensing he was doing himself no favors, cut him off and ended the interview.

Stay tuned.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Last Call For Black Lives Still Matter

The NY Times has obtained audio of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's meeting last October with NFL owners and players about blackballed former Niners QB Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem protests in the league, and it is depressing to read about, but should not be shocking in any way.

N.F.L. owners, players and league executives, about 30 in all, convened urgently at the league’s headquarters on Park Avenue in October, nearly a month after President Trump began deriding the league and its players over protests during the national anthem. 
It was an extraordinary summit; rarely do owners and players meet in this manner. But the president’s remarks about players who were kneeling during the anthem had catalyzed a level of public hostility that the N.F.L. had never experienced. In the spirit of partnership at the meeting, the owners decided that they and the players should sit in alternating seats around the large table that featured an N.F.L. logo in the middle. 
“Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said to begin the session. 
The New York Times has obtained an audio recording of the roughly three-hour meeting, and several people in the room corroborated details of the gathering. The unvarnished conversation reveals how the leaders of the most dominant sports league in the country and several of its most outspoken players confronted an unprecedented moment — mostly by talking past one another.

I know it's easy to dismiss this as millionaires whining to billionaires about how unfair life is when most of us are out here trying to make a buck to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, but follow along here with me.

The players sounded aggrieved. After discussing a proposal to finance nonprofit groups to address player concerns, they wanted to talk about why Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who started the anthem protests to highlight social injustice and police brutality against African-Americans, was, they believed, being blackballed by the owners. The owners sounded panicked about their business under attack, and wanted to focus on damage control.

“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long said at the meeting.

Long said he did not wish to “lecture any team” on what quarterbacks to sign, but “we all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster.” The owners’ responses were noncommittal. The Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said that fighting for social justice is not “about one person.” 
The New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft pointed to another “elephant in the room.” 
“This kneeling,” he said. 
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said Kraft, who is a longtime supporter of Mr. Trump’s. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.” 
The owners were intent on finding a way to avoid Trump’s continued criticism. The president’s persistent jabs on Twitter had turned many fans against the league. Lurie, who called Trump’s presidency “disastrous,” cautioned against players getting drawn into the president’s tactics. 
“We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,” Lurie said. “We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.” 
The Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula sounded anguished over the uncertainty of when Trump would take another shot at the league. “All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again,” Pegula said. “We need some kind of immediate plan because of what’s going on in society. All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on what’s going on in the country.” 
The Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan countered that the worst was behind them. “All the damage Trump’s going to do is done,” he said.

The owners kept returning to one bottom-line issue: Large numbers of fans and sponsors had become angry about the protests. Boycotts had been threatened and jerseys burned and — most worrisome — TV ratings were declining. 
Pegula complained that the league was “under assault.” He unloaded a dizzying flurry of nautical metaphors to describe their predicament. “To me, this is like a glacier moving into the ocean,” he said. “We’re getting hit with a tsunami.” He expressed his wish that the league never be “a glacier crawling into the ocean.” 
The Houston Texans owner Bob McNair was more direct. He urged the players to tell their colleagues to, essentially, knock off the kneeling. “You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you.” 
After the Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross raised the idea of a “march on Washington” by N.F.L. players and owners, Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate and the first player to kneel alongside him, brought the discussion back to Kaepernick.
Reid, who attended the meeting wearing a Kaepernick T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie, said that his former teammate was being blackballed. 
“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Reid said of Kaepernick. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us.” The room fell quiet. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”

Two things here:  The NFL owners were terrified of Trump attacking them (and still are).  They are, quite frankly, cowards, even Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, arguably among the most progressive of team owners.

It's been six months since this meeting, and nobody's given Kaep a shot still.  And as long as he kneels, they won't.

Because they fear Trump and the hate he commands more than Kaepernick and the players and fans who support him and his free speech.  I skipped the NFL completely last season, but until Kaepernick gets a shot, I'm not going back.

Two, Eric Reid is 100% correct.  Kaepernick is being blackballed.  I hope he wins his case against the NFL and gets tens of millions, and I hope he turns around and gives that money to charity, he's already given so much of his time and his blood and his soul.  But you know what?  Part of me wants Kaep to get $100 million from these guys and keep the cash just to spite the league.

We'll see.  But after this, there's no chance I'm going back to the NFL without Kaep.

And I blame Donald Trump for this too.
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