Thursday, March 8, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Republicans are trying to motivate their voters in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district' special election the way they always do nationally, complain about everything and use fear of scary liberals and playing the victim card in order to get people to turn out, especially if they expect to lose the race.

Tuesday’s special election, which is being held in a district President Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points, has emerged as the latest testing ground of whether Republicans are headed for a midterm bloodbath. A loss would be wholly embarrassing, many Republicans privately acknowledge, given that it would take place in a state that Trump made a cornerstone of his 2016 victory. And the themes that the GOP has highlighted in the special election — namely tax cuts and opposition to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are the centerpieces of the party’s 2018 campaign plan. 
But as election day grows closer, the national GOP is increasingly pinning the blame on Saccone. In interviews with nearly two dozen administration officials, senior House Republicans and top party strategists, Saccone was nearly universally panned as a deeply underwhelming candidate who leaned excessively on the national party to execute a massive, multimillion-dollar rescue effort. It was complete with visits from the president, vice president and several Cabinet members. 
They describe a candidate who largely ignored pleas to raise the money he needed, who blindsided the White House and the national party with his choice of a political strategist, and whose amateur-style social media feed included low-quality videos of him at a local bar and yukking it up with Santa. To make matters worse, Saccone is up against a Democratic rival the party could hardly have engineered had it tried: Conor Lamb, an Ivy League-educated 33-year-old Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor. 
Lamb has used a nearly $4 million war chest to cast himself as independent of his party, airing slickly produced TV ads underscoring his aversion to Pelosi and his fondness for shooting machine guns. He has a campaign staff of 16 full-time employees, compared with just four for Saccone. 
“Candidate quality matters, and when one candidate outraises the other 5-to-1, that creates real challenges for outside groups trying to win a race,” said Corry Bliss, who oversees the principal House GOP-aligned super PAC, which has conducted an expansive TV and field deployment effort aimed at pushing Saccone over the top.

Now, I know why this story was written ahead of Tuesday's contest, if Saccone loses, the story establishes clearly that the blame is on him and him alone, he's a bad candidate, the GOP itself is "fine".  You know, just like Roy Moore's loss in Alabama.

But if Saccone survives, it will be because national Republicans -- and Trump's campaign stop on Saturday -- saved him.  Heads Trump is off the hook for "sad loser" Saccone's loss, tails, Trump is a genius for rescuing his campaign.

Now, you don't do this unless there's a good chance that you're going to lose, it's too cynical and self-defeating otherwise.  But this is a district that Trump won by 20 points less than 18 months ago.  There's no way it should be close at all.

Trump's already lost, and he knows it.

Could The WV Teachers' Strike Come To KY?

West Virginia teachers across the state shut down schools for over a week and earned a 5% raise from state legislators as teachers in the state are among the nation's lowest-paid.  Now as GOP Gov Matt Bevin and Republicans in Kentucky's General Assembly put teachers here in a vice with a new pension bill that will wreck state employees' health care plans and make steep cuts to teacher pay and benefits, Kentucky teachers are looking next door for inspiration.

Teachers in eight Kentucky counties will hold “walk-in” rallies Thursday morning to protest a Senate bill that cuts teacher retirement benefits in an effort to fix Kentucky’s ailing pension systems
“Promises were made to us by the commonwealth, and those promises need to be kept by the commonwealth,” said Erin Grace, a teacher at Rockcastle County High School and the president of Rockcastle County Education Association. “We need, as a state, to treat funding for our schools, the services our kids need and the people who devote their working lives to providing those services as a top priority, not as a burden.” 
Teachers and other school employees will gather outside 28 schools, then walk into the building while voicing their opposition to Senate Bill 1 in Clark, Franklin, Garrard, Lincoln, Montgomery, Rockcastle and Woodford counties and Danville Independent School District. Montgomery County teachers will also hold rallies after school. 
“I hope they walk in every day and teach our kids,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect. 

The joke of course is that Kentucky state lawmakers like Dave Osborne are only in session for 90 days every two years.  Humor, we have it here in the Bluegrass.

The rallies come amid a national movement for teachers. In West Virginia, teachers in all 55 counties went on a strike last month that lasted for more than week before the legislature approved a 5 percent pay increase for public employees. Teachers in Oklahoma have said they are considering a strike over teacher pay and school funding as well. 
When asked if he was worried about the prospect of a teachers strike Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin said any opposition to the pension bill was “ill-informed.” 
“The reality is, I’m saving the pension system,” Bevin said. “If they are upset about it, it’s either they are ill-informed or willfully blind…I think the vast majority of teachers are none of the above. They are very aware of the fact that they want the pension. Their leadership has their reason for fomenting things. God bless them. But I’m still going to save the pension whether they like it or not.”

We have to burn down the state employees' pension system in order to save it.  I think it's going to take a statewide strike in order to get Bevin and Osborne to do much of anything.

I wonder who's going to save Bevin's job in 2019 though?

We may have to burn it down in order to save it, you know.

Russian to Judgment, Con't

Three developments overnight in the ongoing Trump/Russia investigation, the first is a follow-up to yesterday's story involving a secret meeting in the Seychelles between Blackwater founder Erik Prince, brother to now Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Russian investors, brokered by a UAE adviser to Moscow named George Nader.  

Turns out that Robert Mueller knows all about that meeting because Nader is cooperating with Mueller's team, and that means there was far more to this January 2017 meeting than just a friendly chat.  We now know what that additional info is and what Nader is providing: it was a secret attempt at a backchannel between Trump and Putin and Nader was a witness to it all.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, according to people familiar with the matter.

In January 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

Nader began cooperating with Mueller after he arrived at Dulles International Airport in mid-January and was stopped, served with a subpoena and questioned by the FBI, these people said. He has met numerous times with investigators. 
Last year, Prince told lawmakers — and the news media — that his Seychelles meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian government-controlled wealth fund, was an unplanned, unimportant encounter that came about by chance because he happened to be at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean island nation with officials from the United Arab Emirates.
In his statements, Prince has specifically denied reporting by The Washington Post that said the Seychelles meeting, which took place about a week before Trump’s inauguration, was described by U.S., European and Arab officials as part of an effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and the incoming administration.

It also means that Prince lied to Congress straight up about the meeting when he testified.  Perjury is the kind of thing that puts you in federal prison.  Remember, Republicans impeached and attempted to remove Bill Clinton from office over his perjury.  We'll see what happens to Prince, but at this point, assume Robert Mueller has a nice box for him to live in for a while.

Speaking of testimony to Congress, we now know more about what outgoing White House Communications Director Hope Hicks had to say to Congress herself last week, and it too is a major development: the women who arguably had the closest working relationship with Trump and the classified data he had access to testified that she had her email hacked.

A day before she resigned as White House communications director, Hope Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee last week that one of her email accounts was hacked, according to people who were present for her testimony in the panel's Russia probe.

Under relatively routine questioning from Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., about her correspondence, Hicks indicated that she could no longer access two accounts: one she used as a member of President Donald Trump's campaign team and the other a personal account, according to four people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the closed meeting of the Intelligence Committee was supposed to remain private.

Hicks, who portrayed herself as not savvy in matters of technology, told lawmakers that one of the accounts was hacked, according to two sources who were in the room. It is unclear if Hicks was referring to the campaign or the personal account.

Her assertion of a hack raises the questions of who might have compromised her account, as well as when, why and what information could have been obtained. But there was no indication from any of the sources that those questions were pursued by the committee, which had limited leverage over Hicks because she was appearing voluntarily and was not under a subpoena for her testimony or records.

It is standard practice for lawmakers to ask witnesses about phone numbers and email accounts. But it is uncommon, according to people familiar with the committee process, for a witness to tell lawmakers that he or she no longer has access to past accounts.

Of course Hicks's email would be a prime target for spies.  Someone sure has access to it that should not, but then again that's kind of a running theme with this regime, isn't it?

And that brings us to story number three, information that certain people should and should not have access to, as we discover that Donald Trump absolutely likes to grill Mueller's witnesses about what they've told Mueller, which is, you know, indicative of obstruction of justice.

The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.

In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.

The White House did not respond to several requests for comment. Mr. Priebus and Mr. McGahn declined to comment through their lawyer, William A. Burck.

Remember that Don McGahn is still at the White House as legal counsel, while Reince is long-gone as White House Chief of Staff, but the point is openly asking witnesses what they told the feds about the thing you're being investigated for is such a mind-bogglingly stupid thing to do that it should be illegal because it is.

Just so.  Stay tuned guys, the sheer velocity of these new leaks along with the confirmation of leaks from previous stories means things are reaching a critical mass.


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