Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

So remember back in June when CNN fired three journalists over a retracted article that stated that a Russian investment fund with ties to Trumpies was being investigated?  The CNN reporters were fired over not having solid information, but Trump screamed FAKE NEWS for weeks:

An internal investigation by CNN management found that some standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published, people briefed on the results of the investigation said. 
The story, which reported that Congress was investigating a "Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials," cited a single anonymous source. 
These types of stories are typically reviewed by several departments within CNN -- including fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers -- before publication.
This breakdown in editorial workflow disturbed the CNN executives who learned about it. 
In a staff meeting Monday afternoon, investigative unit members were told that the retraction did not mean the facts of the story were necessarily wrong. Rather, it meant that "the story wasn't solid enough to publish as-is," one of the people briefed on the investigation said
The reporting about the Russian investment fund and Trump officials was not relayed on CNN's television channels, but it was published on the web and shared on social media.

Fast forward to this week, where the New York Times does get the CNN story correct and gives a whole lot more to add.

An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter
Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump’s political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president’s political efforts. It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.

Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller’s investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting. 
Mr. Nader’s cooperation in the special counsel’s investigation could prompt new legal risks for the Trump administration, and Mr. Nader’s presence at the Seychelles meeting appears to connect him to the primary focus of Mr. Mueller’s investigation: examining Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Nader represented the crown prince in the three-way conversation in the Seychelles, at a hotel overlooking in the Indian Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meeting, Emirati officials believed Mr. Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team, and a Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, represented Mr. Putin, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Nader, who grew close later to several advisers in the Trump White House, had once worked as a consultant to Blackwater, a private security firm now known as Academi. Mr. Nader introduced his former employer to the Russian.

Hey look, it's our old friend Erik Prince, Blackwater founder and brother of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos!  If  the Times story seems familiar, that's because it should be. The CNN story that got retracted was really the other half of last year's Washington Post story from April on Prince attending this secret early January 2016 meeting with the Russians in the Seychelles.

Now we know who the UAE's broker was, George Nader...and he's cooperating with Mueller over possibly extremely illegal foreign campaign contributions to Trump. Kudos to the New York Times for putting these together.

Prince runs as a fixer for this meeting where money flows to Trump, and his sister ends up in Trump's cabinet.  Oh, and Prince gets access to the Pentagon to sell his latest mercenary war scheme just as the drums of war start up for North Korea.

Now imagine what Mueller's team knows about Nader, Prince, and DeVos, folks.  If Nader is getting a deal to talk to Mueller, the information he has is valuable to his investigation.  That means it's high-level stuff, like say, the Russians sending money to Trump's campaign through the UAE, and expecting things in return.

You know, like conspiracy to collude with Moscow.

Somebody should remind Erik (and all the Trumpies for that matter) that Moscow ties up its loose ends with loose lips rather abruptly.

A former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent in England this week, the British authorities said on Wednesday, heightening suspicions that the episode was an assassination attempt by a national government, amid rampant speculation that Russia was responsible. 
The development forces the British government to confront the possibility that once again, an attack on British soil was carried out by the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, which Western intelligence officials say has, with alarming frequency, ordered the killing of people who have crossed it. 
In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who was harshly critical of Mr. Putin, was fatally poisoned in London with a rare radioactive metal; in 2016, an official inquiry concluded that he was murdered by Russian operatives, probably with Mr. Putin’s approval
“This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent,” said Mark Rowley, Britain’s chief police official for counterterrorism and international security.

Stay tuned.

No Sanctuary In The Trump Era

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to take legal action against sanctuary policies and the state and local governments that have them almost since day one of the Trump regime, and this week he made good on that promise as the DoJ is now suing California over its sanctuary state laws.

The lawsuit targets three state laws that interfere with federal immigration enforcement and violate the Constitution, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento.

Specifically, the statutes at issue restrict state and local law enforcement entities, as well as private employers, from sharing information about undocumented immigrants with federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Justice Department said in the lawsuit.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is scheduled to visit Sacramento Wednesday, and Homeland Security officials have threatened for months to take punitive action against the largest U.S. state over its refusal to help ramp up deportations. Just last week, a top administration official accused the mayor of Oakland, one of California’s largest cities, of sabotaging a federal raid targeting undocumented
immigrants after she issued a public warning about the enforcement action.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra -- named individually as a defendant in the lawsuit -- said local police will continue to work “in concert” with federal agents on issues related to drug enforcement and sex trafficking, but the Trump administration remains misguided in its attempts to encumber enforcement of California laws aimed at protecting its undocumented residents.

“We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation, and we’ll continue to uphold all of the laws, including AB450 and SB54,” he said at a press briefing in San Francisco shortly after the case was made public. “Our track record so far with this administration in court has been pretty good. We’ve proven that California is doing things the way it should, and also proven that it’s the Trump administration that has acted outside of the law.”

Sessions plans to discuss the lawsuit during a speech he is scheduled to give on Wednesday at a law enforcement conference in Sacramento.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed,” Sessions wrote in his prepared remarks. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America.”

It's been an ugly fight so far, with Sessions threatening to withhold billions in federal funding from sanctuary cities generating a court fight that's still ongoing, the Trump regime broadly threatening to move ICE agents out of the state while trying to turn ICE and the Boder Patrol into intelligence agencies, and Oakland's mayor informing the city's residents of a major ICE raid in the city last month.

I remain convinced that the goal here is a major Supreme Court ruling that gives the Trump regime broad search and deportation powers that would certainly be used, and one that hamstrings states from protecting the undocumented at all.  Federal courts have long said that states cannot be compelled to enforce federal laws, so that's going to strike out, I hope.  (Remember Medicaid expansion being shot down by the Roberts Court for that reason?)

But such a massive deportation machine may go into action anyway once the detention and arrest infrastructure is built, and new facilities and new ICE and Border Patrol agents are being pressed into service as we speak.  Trump may not be able to make states comply which is why he wants a large enough federal force to make that a moot point.  Alarm bells should be ringing off the walls here.

It won't be long now before such an attempt is made.

Trump's Tariff-ic Economic Damage

The Trump Tarriffs are going to wreck the economy and the GOP knows it.  Now we have a ballpark figure of the carnage to start: Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum would cost the economy nearly 150,000 jobs as a starter.

A new economic analysis of President Trump's proposed trade tariffs on steel and aluminum appears to paint a grim picture of the consequences -- some 146,000 jobs lost, according to a recent analysis.

released a report Monday predicting that there will be a net loss of thousands of jobs if the proposed tariffs on aluminum and steel are applied on imports from all countries.
The move to impose tariffs has drawn fire from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who suggested that there has to be a "smarter way" to combat steel and aluminum dumping by countries like China. 
A report put out by the Trade Partnership, which is also a consulting firm that does research on international trade, predicts that while there will be an increase in aluminum- and steel-based jobs in the U.S. because of increased demand; that jump would be far smaller than the number of jobs that would be lost in other sectors as a result of the increased cost of working with steel and aluminum. 
The Trade Partnership puts the number of jobs expected to be gained at 33,464 and the jobs lost at 179,334, resulting in the net loss of 145,870 jobs. 
In summary, the report states that more than five jobs would be lost for every one job gained.

And nearly all those losses would be in the construction, distribution and business sectors.  Automakers would also lose thousands of jobs, along with fabricated metals and the beverage industry.

Keep in mind these numbers don't count the effects of retaliation from America's trade partners, either.  If Canada, Mexico, China and the EU decide to retaliate in a full-scale trade war, those tens of thousands of job losses become hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

It will be a guaranteed disaster.  That's why Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn has hung it up and is out.

Gary D. Cohn, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said on Tuesday that he would resign, becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the Trump administration.

White House officials insisted that there was no single factor behind the departure of Mr. Cohn, who heads the National Economic Council. But his decision to leave came as he seemed poised to lose an internal struggle over Mr. Trump’s plan to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Mr. Cohn had warned last week that he might resign if Mr. Trump followed through with the tariffs, which Mr. Cohn had lobbied against internally.

“Gary has been my chief economic adviser and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again,” Mr. Trump said in a statement to The New York Times. “He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people.”

Mr. Cohn is expected to leave in the coming weeks. He will join a string of recent departures by senior White House officials, including Mr. Trump’s communications director and a powerful staff secretary.

Yet the departure of Mr. Cohn, a free-trade-oriented Democrat who fended off a number of nationalist-minded policies during his year in the Trump administration, could have a ripple effect on the president’s economic decisions and on the financial industry.

It leaves Mr. Trump surrounded primarily by advisers with strong protectionist views who advocate the types of aggressive trade measures, like tariffs, that Mr. Trump campaigned on but that Mr. Cohn fought inside the White House. Mr. Cohn was viewed by Republican lawmakers as the steady hand who could prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in activities that could trigger a trade war.

Even the mere threat, last August, that Mr. Cohn might leave sent the financial markets tumbling. On Tuesday, Mr. Cohn’s announcement rattled markets, and trading in futures pointed to a decline in the United States stock market when it opened on Wednesday.

GOP lawmakers in Congress, already facing a midterm bloodbath, now fear all-out extermination.

Warning of economic fallout, congressional Republicans and industry groups pressed President Donald Trump on Tuesday to narrow his plan for across-the-board tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. They said the White House appeared to be open to changes that might soften the impact.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin called for a "more surgical approach" that would help avert a potentially dangerous trade war. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said there was concern Trump's plan could lead to such disruptive turmoil.

"We are urging caution," McConnell said.

Trump said Monday that he wouldn't back down from his pledge to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum, and a White House official said Tuesday that Trump's "mind is made up" about those penalties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

But Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who opposes the tariffs, said after meeting Tuesday with White House chief of staff John Kelly that the administration was willing to consider his views. "Absolutely. There's an openness now," Perdue said.

"I think there's been a step back," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. "I don't think he's reconsidering, but I think he's trying to figure out what his best step is forward."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Trump was trying to balance protections for beleaguered steel and aluminum producers while "making sure that we don't do undue harm to the economy."

"We are not looking to get into trade wars. We are looking to make sure that U.S. companies can compete fairly around the world," Mnuchin said at a House hearing. 
Trump has been keenly aware of how the tariffs may play in a March 13 special House election in western Pennsylvania, part of the nation's steel belt, White House officials have said. The president is headlining a Saturday rally in support of Rick Saccone, who is battling Democrat Conor Lamb in the Republican-leaning district.

This is the key to Trump's "sudden" tarriff announcement.  Somebody convinced him this would save Republican Rick Saccone in PA-18, who has now fallen behind Democrat Conor Lamb in the polls with the election just a week away.  Republicans in Congress are in full-blown panic mode over this tariff announcement.  It could win them the PA-18 race, but would cost them dozens of other races in November and they know it.

Trump's Saturday announcement is going to be big either way.


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