Thursday, August 23, 2018

Last Call For Calling A Lie, A Lie

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has refused to call Donald Trump's lies what they are, contemptible, purposeful, and told with intent to deceive.  But this week's Cohen plea on the Stormy Daniels payoff finally gets Kessler to use the L word.

The first denial that Donald Trump knew about hush-money payments to silence women came four days before he was elected president, when his spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, without hedging, “we have no knowledge of any of this.”

The second came in January of this year, when his attorney Michael Cohen said the allegations were “outlandish.” By March, two of the president’s spokesmen — Raj Shah and Sarah Huckabee Sanders — said publicly that Trump denied all the allegations and any payments. Even Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, got in on the action, saying the president “was not aware of any of it.”

In April, Trump finally weighed in, answering a question about whether he knew about a payment to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, with a flat “no.”

It’s now clear that the president’s statement was a lie — and that the people speaking for him repeated it.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Donald Trump’s presidency has been his loose relationship with facts. As of the beginning of this month, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker had documented 4,229 false or misleading claims from the president — an average of nearly 7.6 a day.

Trump’s allies have defended the president by suggesting that facts are debatable. Early into his presidency, one aide famously said he was operating with “alternative facts.” On Sunday, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani declared: “Truth isn’t truth.”

How to characterize Trump’s statements has become its own pitched political battle, with many of the president’s critics demanding that they be called “lies.” The Fact Checker has been hesitant to go that far, as it is difficult to document whether the president knows he is not telling the truth

On Wednesday, Sanders said during a White House briefing that it was “a ridiculous accusation” to say the president has lied to the American people.

But this week’s guilty plea by Cohen, offers indisputable evidence that Trump and his allies have been deliberately dishonest at every turn in their statements regarding payments to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

It's a start.  Pretending that Trump says things and doesn't intend them as lies is such a ghastly failure of journalistic integrity and accountability that it has led directly to Trump knowing full well that he can lie with impunity.

Those days have apparently ended as Michael Cohen turned on Trump, and there's not like he had much choice.

Michael Cohen had many reasons to play ball last weekend when his legal team sat down to talk to federal prosecutors.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office had testimony from Mr. Cohen’s accountant and business partners, along with bank records, tax filings and loan applications that implicated not only Mr. Cohen in potential criminal activity, but also his wife, who filed taxes jointly with her husband. Prosecutors signaled Mr. Cohen would face nearly 20 criminal counts, potentially carrying a lengthy prison sentence and staggering financial penalties.

Adding to the pressure, David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, provided prosecutors with details about payments Mr. Cohen arranged with women who alleged sexual encounters with President Trump, including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals.

This account of how Mr. Cohen went from a pugnacious defender of the president to turning on Mr. Trump is based on details provided by people close to Mr. Cohen and others briefed on the discussions with prosecutors.

For weeks, the president had been distancing himself from Mr. Cohen, including by stopping paying his longtime attorney’s legal fees, making clear amid the pressure that he was on his own.

Under oath on Tuesday, before a packed courtroom, Mr. Cohen created a spectacular moment without parallel in American history when he confessed to two crimes that he said he committed at the behest of the man who would become president.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes, including tax evasion and making false statements to a bank, capping a months-long investigation into his business dealings and work as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. For the president, it opens up a perilous new legal front.

Cohen was going away for the rest of his life.  He chose instead to implicate Donald Trump. And while I'm painfully aware that impeachment remains a fantasy that Democrats should best avoid, the rest of the GOP does not enjoy that kind of protection and is very vulnerable.

Regardless, the GOP in Congress continue to ignore the situation.  They have to be voted out before anything will be done.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

This is by far the best answer from a politician on exactly why NFL players kneeling is quintessentially an American sports movement, and Beto nails this.

“My short answer is no, I don't think it's disrespectful," O’Rourke said. "Here's my longer answer but I'm gonna try to make sure that I get this right because I think it's a really important question. And reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Let's begin there. And it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue, right?"

"Peaceful, non-violent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that Black men, unarmed, Black teenagers, unarmed and Black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability, and without justice," he added. "And this problem – as grave as it is – is not gonna fix itself and they're frustrated, frankly, with people like me, and those in positions of public trust and power, who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country. And so non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it. That is why they are doing it. And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, any time, anywhere, in any place.”

This man is going to go far, but he has to beat Ted Cruz in November.  GQ's Christopher Hooks profiles the race:

The day after Cruz's rally, O'Rourke is in Hutchins, a small town in Dallas County. Though he and Cruz are roughly the same age—45 and 47, respectively—O'Rourke looks and talks like a much newer model. The fervor that greets him verges on the messianic. (A state representative speaking at the event invoked Nelson Mandela.) He feels like a candidate tailored for the moment.

His campaign's product—what Beto offers—is an opportunity for dispirited Democrats to take part in something hopeful. But as Election Day has drawn closer, the tone has slowly shifted. It's gotten more urgent and a bit darker. Our country is in peril, he tells the crowd in Hutchins, and if there isn't a change in 2018, things could get worse: The “slip that we took in 2016, if unchecked in 2018, could become a slide,” he says, and “we could lose the things that have made us who we are for 242 years and counting.” Time is running out. “No pressure, folks. The entire fortune and future and fate of this country rests on our shoulders,” he says. O'Rourke calls the 2018 election the “moment of truth.” There is not the slightest bit of ironic distance here, and the crowd loves it. Somehow, it's cathartic.

Later that day, in the well-off suburb of Farmers Branch, over a thousand people pack a college gymnasium to hear O'Rourke speak, shutting out hundreds more. Even those unable to get into the rally are excited about the attendance. “Wonderful. Awesome,” one turned-away latecomer says. “It's so good that people are coming out.”

Standing in the shade with me near his campaign minivan after the event, O'Rourke acknowledges the tough road ahead—while noting that much good has already been done. His rallies, he says, are about something bigger than the current Senate race. “There's so many things going on right now that literally can't wait until the next election,” he says, still fired up just after having taken selfies with a line of hundreds.

Win or lose, the fervor brought about by the campaign could be leveraged on other issues, he says. “I feel that judgment of my kids and of history if we fail to do this. I mean, it is going to be on us. They won't say that Trump [alone is to blame], because they'll know that this is a democracy that all of us had a chance to participate in. They'll say, ‘Those pendejos in 2018, they were the ones who screwed this up.’ We can't screw this up.”

And God bless him, he's right.  O'Rourke is now within 4 points of Cruz and closing.

Let's help Beto seal the deal.  He gets it, guys.  He really does.

Trump's Technical Foul

It won't be long before the Trump regime decides that maybe the federal government taking control of social media platforms in order to defend "free speech" is in "the best interests of the people".

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that it is “very dangerous” for social media companies like Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Facebook Inc (FB.O) to silence voices on their services.

Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters come as the social media industry faces mounting scrutiny from Congress to police foreign propaganda.

Trump has made his Twitter account - with more than 53 million followers - an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics.

Trump previously criticized the social media industry on Aug. 18, claiming without evidence in a series of tweets that unnamed companies were “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.” In the same post, Trump said “too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad.”

Those tweets followed actions taken by Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) YouTube and Facebook to remove some content posted by Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones’ own Twitter account was temporarily suspended on Aug. 15.

“I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” said Trump.

Trump appeared on a show produced by Infowars, hosted by Jones, in December 2015 while campaigning for the White House.

In removing Jones’ content, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook each pointed to specific user agreement violations. For example, Facebook removed several pages associated with Infowars after determining they violated policies concerning hate speech and bullying.

The actual First Amendment violation will be when Trump steps in to take control of Twitter and Facebook, but the small government-loving, Libertarian right will be 100% okay with that.


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