Monday, September 9, 2019

Last Call For May Lightning Strike If I'm Wrong, He Said

We're at the point where in order to keep from embarrassing Dear Leader Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross openly threatened to fire NOAA forecasters who dared to contradict the fact that Hurricane Dorian wasn't headed for Alabama when Trump said it was.

The Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

That threat led to an unusual, unsigned statement later that Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disavowing the office’s own position that Alabama was not at risk. The reversal caused widespread anger within the agency and drew criticism from the scientific community that NOAA, a division of the Commerce Department, had been bent to political purposes.

Officials at the White House and the Commerce Department declined to comment.

The actions by the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., are the latest developments in a political imbroglio that began more than a week ago, when Dorian was bearing down on the Bahamas and Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that Alabama would be hit “harder than anticipated.” A few minutes later, the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala., posted on Twitter that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.”

Mr. Trump persisted in saying that Alabama was at risk and a few days later, on Sept. 4, he displayed a NOAA map that appeared to have been altered with a black sharpie to include Alabama in the area potentially affected by Dorian.

Mr. Ross, the Commerce Secretary, intervened two days later, early last Friday, according to the three people familiar with his actions. Mr. Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode. Unlike career government employees, political staff are appointed by the administration. They usually include a handful of top officials, such as Dr. Jacobs, and their aides. 
However, a senior administration official who asked not to be identified when discussing internal deliberations said that the Birmingham office had been wrong and that NOAA had simply done the responsible thing and corrected the record.

That official suggested the Twitter post by the Birmingham forecasters had been motivated by a desire to embarrass the president more than concern for the safety of people in Alabama. The official provided no evidence to support that conclusion.

On Monday, Craig N. McLean, NOAA’s acting chief scientist, sent an email to staff members notifying the agency that he was looking into “potential violations” in the agency’s decision to ultimately back Mr. Trump’s statements rather than those of its own scientists. He called the agency’s action “a danger to public health and safety.”

Dr. Jacobs is scheduled to speak Tuesday at a weather industry conference in Huntsville, Ala.

On Monday, the National Weather Service director, Louis W. Uccellini, got a standing ovation from conference attendees when he praised the work of the Birmingham office and said staff members there had acted “with one thing in mind, public safety” when they contradicted Mr. Trump’s claim that Alabama was at risk.

I mean look at this.  Wilbur Ross was going to fire NOAA officials over contradicting an idiot, an idiot who put people in danger and then refused, like a petulant baby, to admit he was wrong. 

This is Day 8 of this stupid scandal.

Science and weather now means whatever Trump says it means, and that infuriates me.

Spies Like Us, Con't

When Donald Trump went after musician John Legend and his wife, model and activist Chrissy Teigen, on Twitter last night, it was a dead giveaway that some news outlet called the White House late last night for a comment on a story being run today, putting the Narcissist-in-Chief in a lousy mood and leading to his latest lash-out to try to cover-up coming bad news.

This afternoon we know what that story was: CNN is reporting that in 2017, the CIA yanked a high-level covert spy from Russia's government because then-director Mike Pompeo was worried that Trump was going to blow the source's cover.

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN. 
A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy. 
The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel
The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter. 
At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or "exfiltration" as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger. 
A US official said before the secret operation there was media speculation about the existence of such a covert source, and such coverage or public speculation poses risks to the safety of anyone a foreign government suspects may be involved. This official did not identify any public reporting to that effect at the time of this decision and CNN could not find any related reference in media reports. 
Asked for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs, told CNN: "CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President's handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate." 
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger."

Now the White House is screaming at CNN right now about "putting lives in danger", but that only tells me the story is true.  Trump opened his mouth and blew the cover of the CIA's top asset in Moscow, or came close enough to it by revealing information that the US should not have had to Sergey Lavrov, that the CIA made the decision to pull the plug on the mission and exfiltrate the source.

And this of course was a massive loss for our intelligence, a massive loss to Russia, another in a string of catastrophic, generational losses to Putin in the last few years that began with Snowden and has hollowed out the CIA's Russia desk ever since.

Hotel, Motel, Trumpaday Inn

With renewed interest over why so many GOP lawmakers and government employees are staying at Trump properties around the world (in obvious violation of that whole Constitution thing) even the US Air Force is feeling like they should maybe take a look at setting some ground rules for airmen.

The U.S. Air Force has ordered a world-wide review of how it chooses overnight accommodations on long flights following revelations that air crews had occasionally stayed at President Donald Trump's Scotland resort while refueling at a small commercial airport nearby.

The review comes as news outlets including POLITICO uncover additional instances of military personnel staying at Trump properties. And the C-17 crew’s overnight stay at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland earlier this year, first reported by Politico on Friday, was was not an isolated incident.

In September 2018, on its way back to the U.S. from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a unit of the Maine Air National Guard landed at Prestwick Airport, the airport closest to Trump’s luxury waterfront resort. The crew and their passengers then spent the night at his hotel, according to one person who was present, an Instagram post and a voucher detailing the crew’s itinerary reviewed by POLITICO.

The Air Force did not immediately respond to questions about that September stay, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas, the chief spokesman, told POLITICO in a statement that “initial reviews indicate that aircrew transiting through Scotland adhered to all guidance and procedures."

He acknowledged, however, that U.S. service members “lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable. Therefore, we are reviewing all associated guidance."

He added: “Even when USAF aircrews follow all directives and guidance, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that might be created through the appearance of aircrew staying at such locations."

No fooling, huh?

The most corrupt government in history keeps churning out the hits, I swear.  Daily violation of the Emoluments Clause doesn't even rate more than a blip these days.

We all exist to enrich Trump.


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