Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Rep. Adam Schiff and the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are now ready to rock Donald Trump's world. Spencer Ackerman:

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia is officially back. And under the panel’s new Democratic management, it’s beyond supersized.

In its first official business meeting of the new Congress on Wednesday—facilitated by the House Republican leadership’s somewhat belated announcement of GOP membership on the committee—the much-watched House panel voted to re-establish an inquiry into what now might be called Collusion-Plus.

It’s about as different as possible from the committee’s previous investigative incarnation under Republican management, which last year released a report absolving the president and his campaign of any culpability in Russian manipulation of the 2016 election and turned its ire on those within the Justice Department and FBI investigating Trump.

Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) has made no secret of his emphasis on going after financial ties between Trump and Russia and subpoenaing documents thus far untouched by the panel. And on Wednesday, the committee voted to execute another long-standing priority of Schiff’s: giving Special Counsel Robert Mueller the transcripts of all witnesses before the House probe. Misleading the committee and its Senate counterpart has already led to indictments of former Trump advisers Michael Cohen and Roger Stone—and they may not have been the only ones to give false or incomplete testimony.

But an announcement from Schiff shortly after the Wednesday morning vote underscored the ginormous reach of the 2.0 version of the investigation.

The investigation will examine the “scope” of the Kremlin’s influence campaigns on American politics, both in 2016 and afterwards, and “any links/and or coordination” between anyone in the Trump orbit—the campaign, transition, administration, or, critically, the president’s businesses—and “furtherance of the Russian government’s interests.”
It will also look at whether “any foreign actor,” not only Russians, has any “leverage, financial or otherwise” over Trump, “his family, his business, or his associates”—and whether such actors actively “sought to compromise” any of those many, many people.

A related line of inquiry will examine whether Trump, his family, and his advisers “are or were at any time at heightened risk of” being suborned by foreign interests in any way. That includes a vulnerability to foreign “exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure or coercion.” All that makes it very likely that the committee examines Trump administration policy—think the Syria pullout, or ex-national security adviser and admitted felon Mike Flynn’s attempts to work with Russia’s military in Syria, or Trump’s infamous Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin—through that lens.

For nearly two years, we had Devin Nunes do everything he could to sink a real investigation into Trump's collusion.  Those days are now over, and a new sheriff is in town.  Trump and especially his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, his daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, are going to be in real trouble and soon.

Stay tuned.

You Wrecked It, Ralph, Con't

The political crisis in Virginia escalated dramatically Wednesday when another top Democrat — Attorney General Mark Herring — admitted putting on blackface in the 1980s, when he was in college.

With Gov. Ralph Northam’s career already hanging by a thread over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, Herring issued a statement saying he wore brown makeup and a wig in 1980 to look like a rapper during a party as a 19-year-old at the University of Virginia.

Herring — who has been among those calling on Northam to resign — said he was “deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.” He said that in the days ahead, “honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general.”

The 57-year-old attorney general issued the statement after rumors of a blackface photo of him had circulated at the Capitol for a day or more. But in his statement, he said nothing about the existence of a photo.

The disclosure further roils the top levels of Virginia government, which has been hit with one crisis after another since the yearbook picture came to light last Friday.

On Monday, Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would become governor if Northam resigned, was confronted with uncorroborated allegations of sexual misconduct dating to 2004. He denied the accusations, calling them a political smear.

Herring would be next in line to be governor after Fairfax. After Herring comes the speaker of the state House, Kirk Cox, a Republican.

I can't believe that Democrats would let the line of succession crumble like this all the way to letting a Republican run the state, but at this point they haven't exactly shown good judgment in the first place.  Virginia Republicans should have a field day with their "See, Democrats are racist and misogynist too, just like Trump!" commercials heading into 2020.

And yes, it gets worse for Justin Fairfax today too.

The woman at the center of a sexual assault scandal involving Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is a Stanford University fellow scheduled to appear at a symposium next week on sexual violence and the #MeToo movement.

Professor Vanessa Tyson’s allegations, stemming from an interaction at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, and the explosive political fallout echo those of Christine Blasey Ford, another university professor living in Palo Alto, who last year accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers.

Tyson’s Stanford colleague Jennifer Freyd told the Bay Area News Group on Tuesday that sometime last fall, at the start of their fellowship program, Tyson told Freyd and a couple of other colleagues about the 2004 encounter at the Boston convention. Freyd doesn’t remember whether Tyson named Fairfax, but said that she spoke about it while “illustrating a concept” they were discussing about sexual violence.

“It was not that remarkable in that many times I’ve sat with colleagues and they talked about being victimized and how it fits in with what we are talking about,” said Freyd, a University of Oregon psychology professor who is part of the same Stanford behavioral sciences fellowship program with Tyson.

No, it doesn't make Trump's Racism or misogyny any better.  Fairfax's accuser should not be attacked for trying to bring him down, if she says it wasn't consensual, then it wasn't consensual. But we know Republicans will never hold their politicians accountable for stuff like this, and I'm hoping this isn't the end of the Democrats holding their side accountable either, or the party's in dire trouble.

The Misstatement Of The Union Address

Glenn Kessler and the Washington Post's fact-checking team tackled the Wall of lies in Donald Trump's SOTU speech last night, and it's pretty brutal stuff.  Some low-lights:

Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in half a century. African American, Hispanic American and Asian American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.”

This is all in the past. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that the unemployment rate had increased to 4 percent in January. The unemployment rate in December had no longer been at a 49-year low, but an 18-year low. Now it was merely the best since the beginning of 2018.

The African American unemployment statistic has been in existence for less than 50 years. It reached a low of 5.9 percent in May 2018, but had risen to 6.8 percent in January. The Hispanic American unemployment statistic has been in existence for less than 50 years. It reached a low of 4.4 percent in 2018, but had risen to 4.9 percent in January. The Asian American statistic has been around for less than 20 years. And while it reached a low of 2.1 percent in May 2018, it rose to 3.2 percent rate in January.

And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.”

The United States has exported more energy than it has imported since 2015. Trump overstates the impact of his energy policy. 
The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.

Trump appears to be echoing comments he heard from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Jan. 10, but this claim is wrong.

The El Paso Times, in a fact check, said some form of barrier has existed between El Paso and Ciudad Ju├írez for decades, though Trump appeared to be referring to fencing that was completed in mid-2009: “Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by [President George W.] Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.”

The city had the third-lowest violent crime rate among 35 U.S. cities with a population over 500,000 in 2005, 2006 and 2007 — before construction of a 57-mile-long fence started in mid-2008
"We have spent more than $7 trillion dollars in the Middle East.”

Trump started making a version of this claim shortly after taking office, first saying $6 trillion but then quickly elevating it to $7 trillion. Trump acts as if the money has been spent, but he is referring to a Brown University study that included estimates of future obligations through 2056 for veterans’ care. The study combines data for both George W. Bush’s war in Iraq (2003) and the war in Afghanistan (2001), which is in Central/South Asia, not the Middle East. The cost of the combined wars will probably surpass $7 trillion by 2056, when interest on the debt is considered, almost four decades from now.

The guy actually managed to lie more this year than last.

Hopefully we won't have to hear from him again in January 2020, but there was never any chance of Trump actually practicing the "unity" he screamed about in his address when he spent the entire day attacking the Democrats before his televised rant.

For public consumption, President Trump planned to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to appeal for bipartisan unity. But at a private lunch for television anchors earlier in the day, he offered searing assessments of a host of Democrats.

Mr. Trump dismissed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as “dumb,” called Senator Chuck Schumer of New York a “nasty son of a bitch” and mocked Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, who he said “choked like a dog” at a news conference where he tried to explain a racist yearbook photo, according to multiple people in the room.

I'm so tired of this racist, misogynist buffoon. I'm even more tired of the people who voted for and enable him.

The Democratic party response from Stacey Abrams was much better.

In a brief speech lauded by Democrats, Abrams succeeded in elevating an event that is often awkward and anticlimactic by nature. With a measured tone and her trademark working-class anecdotes, Abrams outlined a raft of policy measures, from the potential of Medicaid expansion in combating infant mortality to the importance of gun control and immigration reform. But the high point of the speech was her strong and vocal stance on protecting voting rights. As the national face of the party for a few minutes on Tuesday, Abrams pushed the issue of the franchise closer to the heart of Democratic politics, and gave Democrats another rhetorical weapon against the Republican Party.

Abrams appeared on air shortly after President Donald Trump, who during his address to Congress appeared at times to seek bipartisan praise, while also sticking to his familiar stances on law enforcement, immigration, abortion, and foreign policy. During key moments when Trump talked about women’s suffrage, criminal justice reform, and cancer research, members of both parties cheered. But for much of his speech, he sounded like the president who staged countless political rallies last summer and fall. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” he said, admonishing Democrats for not agreeing to his demands for a border wall that led to the longest government shutdown in history. “Meanwhile, working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal immigration.”

While the president defended his border wall and recited stories of kidnapping and rape along the border, he made no reference to the financial pain suffered by federal employees during the government shutdown. In the moment, he seemed eager for applause and conciliation.

Abrams, by contrast, zeroed in on the workers’ pain. She recalled the time she spent distributing meals from food pantries to furloughed federal workers. Abrams called the impasse “a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people—but our values.”

She also called the White House’s response to rampant gun violence “timid,” a barb that seemed designed to irritate Trump. Abrams lamented the lack of any new immigration reform, and promoted Medicaid expansion as a way to reduce overall mortality among vulnerable groups. She called for action on climate change, criticized the 2017 Republican tax cuts, and hoped for the appointment of “fair-minded judges.”

Still, it was Abrams’s call for a renewed focus on voting rights that seemed to distinguish her rebuttal. “None of these ambitions are possible without the bedrock guarantee of our right to vote,” she said.

And it is this right that Trump threatens the most.  Never forget that.


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