Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Dark Twisted Failure of Devin Nunes
"Someday, when Hollywood starts making movies and episodic dramas about this bizarre epoch in American history – that time when Russia installed a fat, orange-tinted fourth-grader in the White House, and "conservatives" cheered and plotted to keep him there – there will be a whole dog-kennel's worth of knaves to fill out any plot, from sweaty international man-of-mystery Paul Manafort to rosy-cheeked son-of-a-felon Jared Kushner. Screenwriters will be forced to pick and choose their villains; there will be far too many to pack into a script. But when it comes to comic relief, the choices (beyond Donald Trump himself) will be easy and universal: Failed-academic-in-a-Gilligan-hat Carter Page is guaranteed to become a stock character in the saga, as the eager stooge too dumb to be a spy. And Devin Nunes, the climate-denying mediocrity from Tulare, California, will take his place in the mythology as Trump and Putin's most useful idiot on Capitol Hill."

The Plot Against America
"All of Manafort’s hopes, of course, proved to be pure fantasy. Instead of becoming the biggest player in Donald Trump’s Washington, he has emerged as a central villain in its central scandal. An ever-growing pile of circumstantial evidence suggests that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to turn the 2016 presidential election in its favor. Given Manafort’s long relationship with close Kremlin allies including Yanukovych and Deripaska, and in particular his indebtedness to the latter, it is hard to imagine him as either a naive or passive actor in such a scheme—although Deripaska denies knowledge of any plan by Manafort to get back into his good graces. Manafort was in the room with Donald Trump Jr. when a Russian lawyer and lobbyist descended on Trump Tower in the summer of 2016, promising incriminating material on Hillary Clinton. That same summer, the Trump campaign, with Manafort as its manager, successfully changed the GOP’s platform, watering down support for Ukraine’s pro-Western, post-Yanukovych government, a change welcomed by Russia and previously anathema to Republicans. When the Department of Justice indicted Paul Manafort in October—for failing to register as a foreign agent, for hiding money abroad—its portrait of the man depicted both avarice and desperation, someone who traffics in dark money and dark causes. It seems inevitable, in retrospect, that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, would treat Manafort’s banking practices while in Ukraine as his first subject of public scrutiny, the obvious starting point for his investigation."

Mueller Has the Goods Now, and Trump Knows It
"Oh, they’re smart fellers, they are. The indictments were rolled out perfectly. It is now absolutely impossible for the president* to fire either Rosenstein or Mueller without the worst possible political consequences. By basing the indictments on federal election law, Mueller has framed the case so as also to include anyone who accepted this criminal help."

How much did Paul Ryan know about Russia's election interference and when did he know it?
"Paul Ryan knew in 2016, before the election, that Russia was interfering and he knew very well the dangers that posed to our democracy. And right now, Ryan is doing his level best to help Nunes cover it up."

Robert Mueller Surprises Again, Indicts Russians For Election Intrusion

How much did Mitch McConnell know about Russian interference and when did he know it?
"Now seems like a good time to revisit how Republican leadership in Congress knew about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the summer and fall of that year. Specifically, the part about how intelligence officials briefed leadership about their knowledge of Russia's efforts to help Donald Trump, and how Senate Leader Mitch McConnell actively suppressed that information before the election."

Cracking the Shell
"A foreign power can exploit systemic vulnerabilities—such as gaps in money laundering regulations, lack of corporate transparency, and insufficient anti-corruption controls—to undermine democratic institutions and influence elections anywhere around the world, including in the United States. Corroding a system from within through corruption and financial leverage has been a central part of the Kremlin playbook in Europe and in post-Soviet states. The 2016 U.S. presidential election is a useful lens through which to analyze how such methods could be deployed in the United States. Given the Kremlin’s preference for then-candidate Donald Trump, as determined in the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) assessment, it is imperative to consider how Trump’s longstanding business ties with a bevy of figures from Russia and the former Soviet Union could have been exploited in the context of the campaign. Since his rise to power nearly two decades ago, President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to exercise control over Russia’s oligarchs, using their wealth and strategic enterprises to advance Russia’s national interests abroad. Over a similar period, Trump and the Trump Organization have become heavily intertwined with some of the same government-linked Russian business elites. There is evidence of vast amounts of Russian money tied up in Trump’s assets, money that has proven vital for Trump as he and his businesses have been shunned by conventional banks following multiple bankruptcies.3 Trump’s financial distress, coupled with his well-documented dubious approach to business partnerships, could have made him a compelling target for Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election. This report shows how otherwise prosaic business connections evolved during the presidential campaign and transition as figures representing the Kremlin’s interests sought to gauge the willingness of various Trump associates to work with them."

Ex-Watergate Prosecutor: More Indictments Are Coming

'Follow the money': Ex-US Attorney reveals how Mueller's Russia indictments now lead to Trump's tax returns

'Follow the money': Ex-US Attorney reveals how Mueller's Russia indictments now lead to Trump's tax returns:

"Speaking with New Day host Victor Blackwell, ex-prosecutor Michael Moore, who served as a U.S. Attorney in Georgia, stated upfront the “key” to everything is money. “The key is we need to follow the money, follow the money, follow the money,” Moore explained. ‘I think at some point we’ll find out — that we look back and see that there was a reason that Russia wanted to have Trump elected president. I think that’s one of the reasons we don’t have his tax returns, he’s been holding that very tightly.” “I think that [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper is right, probably that Mueller has that information and knows there’s a money trail that leads back from Russia to some folks very high up in the Trump administration,” he continued. “It’s likely that there are other things to drop,” Moore stated. “It’s not a complete story of the investigation. It only produces the evidence that is needed to charge these defendants with the crimes"."

The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump
"When the president states publicly that his political opponents have committed a treasonous act -- one that is punishable by death -- because they refused to offer up sycophantic praise, the plague of fascism is not far away. His call for unity takes a dark turn under such circumstances and emulates a fascist past in which the call for political unity transforms quickly into the use of force and exclusionary violence to impose the authority of a tyrannical regime. In Trump's world, the authoritarian mindset has been resurrected, bent on exhibiting a contempt for the truth, ethics and alleged human weakness. For Trump, success amounts to acting with impunity, using government power to sell or to license his brand, hawking the allure of power and wealth, and finding pleasure in producing a culture of impunity, selfishness and state-sanctioned violence. Trump is a master of performance as a form of mass entertainment. This approach to politics echoes the merging of the spectacle with an ethical abandonment reminiscent of past fascist regimes. As Naomi Klein rightly argues in No Is Not Enough, Trump "approaches everything as a spectacle" and edits "reality to fit his narrative." As the bully-in-chief, he militarizes speech while producing a culture meant to embrace his brand of authoritarianism. This project is most evident in his speeches and policies, which pit white working- and middle-class males against people of color, men against women, and white nationalists against various ethnic, immigrant and religious groups. Trump is a master of theater and diversion, and the mainstream press furthers this attack on critical exchange by glossing over his massive assault on the planet and enactment of policies, such as the GOP tax cuts, which are willfully designed to redistribute wealth upward to his fellow super-rich billionaires. Trump's alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels garners far more headlines than his deregulation of oil and gas industries and his dismantling of environment protections."

Lawrence: Donald Trump's Fears About What Vladimir Putin Knows

Ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal based on what he told Mueller: report

Ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal based on what he told Mueller: report:

"A former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is finalizing a plea deal and likely cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. CNN reported Thursday evening that Rick Gates, who was also a close business associate of one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort, will become the third person known to cooperate with Mueller. Gates has reportedly been in plea negotiations with prosecutors for roughly a month, and has had his “Queen for a Day” interview “in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed"."

All The White Supremacists Running For Office In 2018
"Plus candidates who’ve said white supremacist things, hung out with white supremacists, or talked to anti-Semitic publications."

Lawrence: Robert Mueller Likely Has A Third Cooperating Witness

Trump is silent on the flu. Ebola? That was Obama's fault.
"During the deadly 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Donald Trump tweeted around 50 times in October alone that the spread of the disease showcased President Barack Obama’s failings. “Obama’s fault,” he said in one post. “Nothing works in our once great country anymore,” he fumed in another. He raged that Obama’s decision to send U.S. troops to Africa was “morally unfair.” He regularly denounced his predecessor’s refusal to impose a blanket ban on flights from the afflicted countries and mocked the official in charge of running the U.S. government response. He even managed swipes at Obama’s golfing and the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s website. Trump’s outspoken, grab-bag response to the Ebola outbreak that year — which infected 11 Americans and killed just two — stands in contrast to the president’s mute response this year to a severe flu epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that one out of 10 Americans who died last week succumbed to influenza or pneumonia (a common complication of the flu), a total of about 4,000. And 63 kids have died from influenza thus far this season, the agency says. Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat told reporters that the intensity of this flu season to this point matches that of the 2009 outbreak that sickened some 60.8 million people in the United States, sent 274,000 of them to the hospital and claimed 12,469 lives."

GOP Takes Another Ruthless Step to Control Federal Courts @alternet

GOP Takes Another Ruthless Step to Control Federal Courts @alternet:

"Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans ended a century-old tradition Thursday that will accelerate the appointment of right-wing federal judges in purple and blue states, where they will preside over thousands of cases that will never reach the Supreme Court. The move, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa, was the most egregious partisan intervention in the judiciary since Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked 2016 hearings on President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, which would have given the court a center-left majority. (After the 2016 election, conservative Neil Gorsuch was appointed and confirmed.)"

Donald Trump Administration Giving Russia What It Wants On Sanctions

Voting Rights Roundup: GOP plots to destroy Arizona's independent redistricting commission yet again
"Republican legislators just won't give up in their fight gain the ability to engage in partisan gerrymandering by dismantling Arizona's independent redistricting commission. They recently advanced a proposed state constitutional amendment out of a state Senate committee that would dramatically reorganize the commission in a way that would render it toothless. If the voters approve this in a November ballot referendum, the commission would effectively be neutralized, giving the GOP-majority legislature the power to pass its own gerrymanders. This isn't the first time that Arizona Republicans have gone to extremes to fight for the ability to gerrymander, which we'll explain below.​ Back in 2000, voters approved a ballot initiative to create the commision itself after legislators gerrymandered decade after decade. This commission has two Republicans and two Democrats, who then pick a fifth unaffiliated tiebreaker. Most importantly, legislators and party officials themselves don't get to nominate who can serve on the commission, making this one of the very few in the country that can truly be deemed independent of legislative dominance. Independence from legislative control is critical because even when states create commissions where legislative leaders of both parties select an equal number of partisans, those commissioners are far more likely to engage in bipartisan incumbent-protection gerrymandering, while regular citizens often favor more competitive lines."

Election Security in All 50 States
"Confirmation that votes were correctly counted cannot be provided unless a reliable auditable paper trail exists that can be checked against the official election outcome. Paper ballots that are tabulated by optical scanning machines and voter-verified paper records produced by DRE machines offer a record of voter intent, which will exist even if voting machines are attacked and data are altered."

Globe Columnist Asks: 'What The Hell Happened To John Kelly?'

GOP Adviser: There Are NO Circumstances In Which GOP House Impeaches Trump

GOP Adviser: There Are NO Circumstances In Which GOP House Impeaches Trump:

"Emoluments Clause? psshhhht Being a Russian Operative? yawn Sharing intelligence with hostile nations? shrug Think about that. Without cringing, without apology, without acknowledgment of how incredibly democracy-destroying this is, a GOP adviser admits that the Republican Party will NEVER--under any circumstance--put the country over their party."

This Trump tweet disproves Nunes’ claim that Papadopoulos never met the president
"According to Papadopoulos’ guilty plea for lying to the FBI, during that meeting, he told the group — including Trump — that he had ongoing communications with Russians that would allow him to facilitate a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. The meeting is even described in Papadopoulos’ indictment"

The Rich Want To Keep You Dumb

The 20 Big Promises to Trump Voters That He's Broken in Just One Year
"1. He told you he’d cut your taxes, and that the super-rich like him would pay more. You bought it. But his new tax law does the opposite. By 2027, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the richest 1 percent will have got 83 percent of the tax cut and the richest 0.1 percent, 60 percent of it. But more than half of all Americans — 53 percent — will pay more in taxes. As Trump told his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago just days after the tax bill became law, “You all just got a lot richer.” 2. He promised to close “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors but unfair to American workers,” especially the notorious “carried interest” loophole for private-equity, hedge fund, and real estate partners. You bought it. But the new tax law keeps the “carried interest” loophole. 3. He told you he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “beautiful.” You bought it. But he didn’t repeal and he didn’t replace. (Just as well: His plan would have knocked at least 23 million Americans off health insurance, including many of you.) Instead, he’s doing what he can to cut it back and replace it with nothing. The new tax law will result in 13 million people losing health coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office."

Letter from Carter Page undercuts central thesis of Nunes memo
"The same year, Page has acknowledged a relationship with Victor Podobnyy, who was later charged with working as a Russian intelligence agent under diplomatic cover. In response to reports about Podobnyy’s activities he defended the alleged Russian spy and criticized Obama for prosecuting him. He even expressed sympathy for Podobnyy, the spy— whom he described as a “junior Russian diplomat.” In an email to the Guardian, Page complained that Obama had persecuted Podobnyy… and him “in accordance with Cold War traditions.” FBI surveillance of Page began, on and off, in 2013 — long before the Steele dossier and the 2016 presidential campaign."

Republicans Are Losing Their Religion On Deficits

Devin Nunes’ Pathetic Memo Equates to Nothing More Than Breitbart-Style Trash
"This is an official memo from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, approved by Republicans, containing cherry-picked classified information that paints a misleading picture of events. It was specifically written as nothing more than a hyper-partisan piece of propaganda meant to slander U.S. intelligence and the FBI for no other purpose than to cover for a “president” who could very well be a criminal and a traitor."

Paul Ryan deletes tax bill tweet after being dragged for not understanding math
"In a tweet posted Saturday morning, Ryan praised the new tax law spearheaded by the Republican party. The Speaker of the House shared the story of a secretary at a Pennsylvania public high school who was “pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week.” The total comes to $78 a year in savings and she told the Associated Press the savings will allow her to pay for an annual Costco membership. Ryan proudly shared this story on Twitter — only to be met with outrage and amusement. He deleted the tweet less than 3 hours later."

Rob Porter Access To Classified Info Raises Huge Legal Question

Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes Are Betraying the Constitution in the Service of Donald Trump
"Ryan’s dereliction of duty is the more serious matter, as it betrays the most fundamental tenets of the Constitution. When the speaker chose to facilitate this bungling effort by Nunes to smear the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on Trump’s behalf, the Wisconsin Republican signaled a willingness to make the House of Representatives an appendage of the White House. In so doing, Ryan abandoned the solemn oath he swore “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” Paul Ryan is not supporting the Constitution. He is shredding it. It is grotesque for the speaker to claim that he is aiding and abetting Nunes because “that brings us accountability, that brings us transparency, that helps us clean up any problem we have with [the Justice Department] and FBI”—as Ryan did Thursday in a crudely defensive and wildly dishonest attempt to deny his true intentions. Make no mistake: Paul Ryan has zero interest in accountability, transparency, or cleaning up problems with law-enforcement agencies and the investigative process. He has shown no interest in legitimate and necessary oversight of intelligence agencies. He has never been identified with the cause of civil liberties or with the defense of privacy rights. What Paul Ryan has been identified with is extreme partisanship and with the determination of congressional Republicans to defend Donald Trump—even if that defense comes at the cost of a system of checks and balances that was established 231 years ago to guard against precisely the abuses that are now occurring."

The Nunes Memo Doesn't Reveal an Abuse of Power. It Is One.
"Trump has demanded loyalty from Department officials and asked who they voted for. He fired FBI Director James Comey on false pretenses, after Comey ignored his requests to drop an investigation into former Trump advisor Michael Flynn. He ordered Mueller’s firing (although he later backed down). He expressed fury at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, and pressured him to resign. And he has expressed bewilderment that he can’t direct the investigations conducted by, in his words, the “Trump Department of Justice.” The White House also surreptitiously enlisted Nunes in a previous attempt to discredit intelligence officials (remember the short-lived “unmasking” scandal?). In short, there is every indication that the Nunes memo was designed to present a misleading picture that can serve as a pretext to end the Mueller investigation. This is simultaneously an abuse of the classification system, a betrayal of the public trust, a violation of longstanding norms shielding the Justice Department from political forces and — quite possibly — attempted obstruction of justice."

GOP Redistricting Trick, Threats To Impeach Judges Amid Blue Wave

Trump’s All-Out Attack on the Rule of Law
"This is part of a broader pattern. Since taking office, Trump has targeted investigators, and other law-enforcement officials. He fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who had informed him of Gen. Mike Flynn’s vulnerability to potential Russian blackmail. He ousted US Attorney Preet Bharara in New York (along with all the other Obama-appointed US Attorneys), who had overseen New York real-estate fraud and money-laundering investigations. He demanded FBI Director James Comey’s political loyalty, asked Comey to go easy on Flynn, and then fired Comey over, as Trump famously said on national television, “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.” He made inappropriate requests of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and NSA Director Mike Rogers, seeking their help in winding down the FBI investigation. He pressured his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, not to recuse himself from the Russia inquiry, sharply criticized Sessions when he did, and then repeatedly slammed Sessions via Twitter and in media interviews, at one point indicating that he wanted Sessions gone. He repeatedly attacked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen the Russia inquiry since Sessions’s recusal. Last week, reports surfaced that Trump wants to get rid of Rosenstein, too. And Trump has explicitly attacked the entire FBI, saying that it’s “in tatters”—which received strong pushback from the man Trump himself appointed to lead the bureau, Director Christopher Wray. Wray himself threatened to resign over Trump’s uncalled-for attacks against the now-departed Deputy Director McCabe. To most observers, Trump’s actions amount to a massive campaign to obstruct justice, one of the counts that Mueller is charged with looking into."

Republican: 'Staggering' GOP 'Cowardice' Enables Donald Trump

Why Devin Nunes's Memo Would Never Hold Up in Court
"Don’t forget, Page was under surveillance in 2013, three years before the events at the heart of the Nunes memo. Earlier this week Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent, wrote at Just Security that she wanted to see five basic questions answered by the Nunes memo. The document, I suspect she will say, goes 0-5. It does not tell us what other evidence the feds have or had against Page. It doesn’t tell us anything about the circumstances that drew federal attention to Page to begin with. It doesn’t tell us that Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein was involved in 2016 in some vast conspiracy with other law enforcement officials to subvert the election chances of Donald Trump or improperly undermine his presidency. And it doesn’t tell us boo about Robert Mueller, the special counsel. If this is the best Trump and Nunes can come up with to derail the special counsel, I suspect they’ve failed. Good news for those of us hoping that someone, somewhere, pushes through Congressional obstruction and presidential obfuscation to get to the heart of what all of these Trump people were doing so often in the company of all those Russians. Another thing the Nunes memo doesn’t do? It didn’t accuse any federal law enforcement officials of breaking any laws or rules or procedures. The big winner in all of this, of course, is Vladimir Putin. What a week for him! On Monday, his man in Washington, Donald Trump, refused to impose those sanctions Congress voted overwhelmingly to impose on the Russians as punishment for their interference in our elections. And today the White House and Congressional Republicans made this reckless move to undermine the credibility of America’s intelligence and law enforcement communities. As Sen. John McCain, the ailing Republican from Arizona just put it, “if we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s work for him.” Indeed, Donald Trump and Devin Nunes are doing just that."

How the Conspiracy-Nut Wing of the Republican Party Finally Took Over
"Looking back at that Republican history, it’s clear that the party’s reality-based Establishment was in charge from the 1960s through the ’80s, exploiting but marginalizing its useful idiots. It wasn’t until the age of right-wing talk radio and Fox News and Breitbart that the Establishment lost control, as crackpot habits of mind achieved dominance. Indeed, more and more of the reckless, hysterical conspiracist language of Trump’s frenzied defenders in the mainstream resembles that of the lunatic, fringe right from a half-century ago."

Trump's Deficit-Bursting Budget Revealed

President Trump and Concealing Evidence in the Russia Probe
"Specifically, these new revelations show the President’s direct engagement with efforts to provide a false narrative about his campaign’s interactions with the Russians. In establishing Trump’s intent, it will be important to show what he knew when he asked FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn, when he asked senior intelligence officials to get Comey to drop the case, and when he later fired Comey. Trump might very well claim that as a presidential candidate and now President, he operates at such a high altitude and cannot be aware of all of the details of his campaign, the investigation, and the actions of his staff. These new revelations show, however, that when the President was literally flying at 30,000 feet, he was very much involved in the details of drafting a false statement about the particularities of a meeting between his campaign and the Russians."

'Nothingburger' Doesn't Do This Memo Justice
"This Memo, Devin, isn’t even a good try. You and your staff have to be the laziest alleged obstructors of justice that I’ve ever seen. All it appears to be is a lame-ass defense of a self-important goofball Russophile named Carter Page. That’s all you got? This is a guy that got on the FBI radar in 2013, when the president* was still firing celebrities on his television show. The FBI found that Page had been actively cultivated by Russian intelligence as a possible asset. And now, your whole argument is that the FISA warrants were prompted by the Steele dossier and that Steele is a shtunk who was biased against the president*? For this, you needed a memo? For this, you needed a month’s worth of drama? For this, you needed to demolish the good faith between the intelligence community and the congressional committees designed to conduct oversight of that community? You couldn’t even get the date of David Corn’s breakthrough story in Mother Jones right. Hell, you could have saved us all the trouble and just done a couple of nights on Hannity to make that case. You’d have reached every single American that currently buys what you’re peddling. This is threadbare. This is shabby. This reveals absolutely nothing. All it does is damage."

Top Trump Aide Resigns After Abuse Allegations

The Russia Cover Up and Conspiring to Lie to Federal Authorities
"The Trump team long engaged in a concerted effort to lie about campaign contacts with Russians during the 2016 election. Of this all reasonable observers know. Even some Trump supporters bemoan such a strategy ever took place, but it happened. The term for it is a cover up. Senior Trump campaign officials did not just lie to the media and the public. They also lied to federal authorities or risked doing so. At least they were “chancing a very high risk for a perjury situation,” as White House counsel John Dean put it to President Richard Nixon in plotting the Watergate cover up. The list of associates who apparently took this path includes, in chronological order: Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, K. T. McFarland, and Donald Trump Jr. That list is just based on current public information, and may grow. (I’m also excluding from the list Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who have been indicted for lying to federal authorities about their connections with Kremlin-linked Ukrainian parties). If you closely examine the record, the puzzle is whether the decision of so many of Trump campaign officials to chance a very high risk of perjury in covering up Russian contacts involved a tacit or explicit understanding on their parts to do so, and encouragement by the others—potentially including encouragement by the president himself. In a piece in the New York Times on Thursday, I put together the pieces of the puzzle, based on what we can infer from the circumstances and conduct of the relevant actors. Some points here to accompany that analysis: First, it is not just a crime to lie to federal authorities, but also a crime to encourage others to do so. The technical term is “suborning perjury.” If such actions involved a conspiracy, it would likely strengthen prosecutors’ tactical advantages."

Paul Ryan’s Dem Challenger Dismantles The Speaker For Being Trump’s Spineless Lapdog
"Ryan and his colleagues will do anything to shield this president from accountability so long as it means he can continue to check off his anti-middle class agenda items. First, it was tax cuts for the wealthy. Soon, they will wage war on social programs in order to pay for those handouts. Paul Ryan has made a choice that his corporate agenda is more important than protecting the republic from an out-of-control president."

Republicans Respond To Rob Porter Scandal

How They Spin: Every Lie Matt Schlapp Told About The Memo Ahead Of Its Release Is Now Exposed

How They Spin: Every Lie Matt Schlapp Told About The Memo Ahead Of Its Release Is Now Exposed:

"his early morning appearance is a stellar illustration of how Republicans lied to everyone ahead of the actual release of the Nunes Nothingburger Memo."

Trump’s mental health affects us all: “Pathology attracts pathology”
"Donald Trump is a petit-fascist and aspiring despot. His desire for total control and power requires that he subvert democratic norms and procedures. Unfortunately, the American people have already become numb to Trump's assault on democracy."

Cyber Security Head: Russia Hacked Elections In 21 States

Over 7,000 lobbyists pressured Congress on taxes in 2017
"It's not exactly a surprise, then, that Republicans were hell-bent on passing new tax laws benefiting corporate interests"

Trump puts public, workers at risk as he tries again to eliminate nation’s chemical safety agency
"The agency is charged with investigating major chemical fires, explosions, leaks, and other accidents."

Uncle Sam Borrowing Trillions To Pay For GOP Tax Plan

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Kremlin Is Back, and U.S. Elections Aren’t Ready

The Kremlin Is Back, and U.S. Elections Aren’t Ready:

"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson already sees signs that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2018 midterms, he told Fox News this week. Tillerson’s disclosure came on the heels of an equally bleak assessment from CIA Director Mike Pompeo last month. Asked by the BBC whether Russia would target the U.S. midterms, Pompeo replied: “Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that.” One might expect such high-level warnings to spur action on Capitol Hill, where foreign election interference has historically alarmed both parties. Instead, Republicans have become so consumed with protecting Trump from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe that they’ve effectively scuttled several common-sense bills that would help secure the nation’s elections."

Nunes Steps In A Big Pile Of Papadopoulos

Trump Turns GOP Into a Conspiracy of Dunces
"Secret societies, government agents of dubious loyalties, dark cabals who work from shadowy bureaucracies seeking to overthrow the president of the United States, sinister masterminds exercising fell powers to serve a diabolical conspiracy, occult powers that shift the levers of control in mysterious ways—no, it’s not X-Files fan fiction or some modern-day Lovecraft reboot. It’s today’s GOP. The Republican Party’s head-first dive into breathless conspiratorial fantasies in defense of Donald Trump is a brand-defining moment as the Party of Lincoln morphs into the Party of LaRouche. Listening as members of Congress, the Fox News/talk-radio world and the constellation of batsh*t-crazy people drawn to Esoteric Trumpism adopt increasingly baroque theories to protect The Donald isn’t just depressing; it’s tragic. A diseased slurry of fake news, post-Truth Trumpism, and Russkie agitprop infects the Republican Party. It’s an ebola of wild-eyed MK-ULTRA paranoiac raving, spreading to every organ of the Republican body politic."

The White House copied its assigned homework on Russia from the Kremlin website
"For months, Russian higher-ups had been shaken by the prospect of being named by the U.S. as a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As stipulated by the unwieldy 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the Trump administration had some 180 days to detail those voices who held sway with the Kremlin – and who would suddenly face the prospect of individual sanctions. And all of them, according to the Moscow Times, were “doing everything possible to keep their names off the list.” The deadline for the White House’s findings came yesterday – as did, late at night, the administration’s final list of politicians, oligarchs, and industrialists deemed of importance. But instead of any concern rippling through Moscow, there now seems, at first blush, a sense of relief. Because while there are some 114 officials and 96 business figures named, it appears that the administration put little research into their list, and effectively outsourced their work to both Forbes and the Kremlin website. According to the released list – a separate, related memo remains classified – U.S. officials determined who would be on the list “based on objective criteria related to individuals’ official position in the case of senior political figures, or a net worth of $1 billion or more for oligarchs.” But as a Treasury Department official told BuzzFeed, the unclassified list stemmed directly from Forbes’ ranking of the richest businessmen in Russia. And per the Washington Post, the list of officials “appears copy-pasted from … the Kremlin directory of officials available on its English-language website"."

Report: Robert Mueller ‘Zeros In’ On Donald Trump Tower Meeting Story

Trump, Russia, Election. Quid, Pro, Quo.
"On Monday, when President* Trump was fitting the employees of the Department of Justice for their armbands, he also was supposed to sign a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia"

Breaking, shocker, but no surprise: Trump refuses to enforce Russia sanctions
"Interesting that this happened on the same day Andrew McCabe was forced out. It’s basically throwing down the gauntlet to Congress. “I don’t have to follow your orders even if you vote 98-2… how you gonna make me?” It seems we have a constitutional crisis and not even on only one front. Nunes & gang on the House Intelligence Committee have voted to release the Nunes-authored memo (and of course keep the Dem side silenced) to give cover to Trump shutting down the Mueller investigation. If the Senate wants to maintain any power in the face of Trump’s powermongering, it had better draw a line in the sand right now."

Donald Trump Lawyers Worry He'd Perjure Himself In Russia Probe

Year one of the Trump administration: Normalizing itself by working for the top 1 percent

Year one of the Trump administration: Normalizing itself by working for the top 1 percent

"Protecting Wall Street is a common theme in the first year of the Trump presidency. Besides his Fed picks, Trump has also installed Mick Mulvaney as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Mulvaney is a long-time enemy of the CFPB, and has already rolled back regulations protecting borrowers from the worst abuses of payday lenders. As a congressman from South Carolina, Mulvaney ranked ninth among all his peers in how much money he raised from the payday lending industry. Their investment has paid off well. Besides the regulatory rollbacks, Mulvaney also released a memo to CFPB staff informing them that the Bureau exists to “serve” these and other financial institutions. The attack on regulations that bolster the economic security of working Americans is another common theme in the first year of the Trump presidency. His administration has, for example, delayed key provisions of the fiduciary rule and signaled its intention to weaken it further. While “fiduciary rule” sounds wonkish, it’s not. It’s a rule that simply states that financial advisors are not allowed to cheat their clients by doing things like steering their money into vehicles that provide low rates of return to the clients but high fees to the advisors. It is the rock-bottom lowest standard that one could imagine for an industry that exists to help working Americans manage their financial decisions. Conflicted advice that steered money to financial vehicles that generated high fees for advisors rather than high returns for savers costs Americans about $17 billion each year. This is $17 billion transferred directly from working Americans to Wall Street firms. The fiduciary rule was designed to stop this transfer, but the Trump administration is working hard to make sure it continues. Aside from the fiduciary rule, the Trump administration has also made clear its intention to undermine the improved threshold defining who is automatically entitled to overtime pay."

Devin Nunes Memo Stunt Blows Up In GOP's Face

Workers’ health, safety, and pay are among the casualties of Trump’s war on regulations: A deregulation year in review

Workers’ health, safety, and pay are among the casualties of Trump’s war on regulations: A deregulation year in review:

"Regulations establish the rules of the game and assure important protections for working people. Corporations and wealthy special interests have demonstrated that—if there’s nothing stopping them—they will do what they can to squeeze out more profits for themselves, even if it means jeopardizing workers’ health and safety and retirement funds. The Great Recession is proof that it is dangerous to assume that corporations and Wall Street will police themselves. American workers deserve a fair system—with rules that serve their interests as opposed to deregulating to rig the system so that corporate interests can rake in ever-larger profits at the expense of workers. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have spent an enormous amount of time and political capital in their first year in control doing exactly that—by painting regulations as the “problem.” It is time to end this deception and return to defending the rules that protect workers, consumers, and public health."

Nance: President Trump’s FBI And DOJ Attacks “From The Dictator’s Playbook”

How many ways will Trump obstruct justice before Republicans admit he's hellbent on obstruction?
"Trump's all-out assault on the rule of law is as stunning as it is scary. He fired Comey over the Russia investigation. He ordered Comey's replacement fired. When he couldn't get that, he began a campaign to systematically oust the people standing in his way—the top three law enforcement officials in the country, two of whom are Republicans and his very own appointees. Trump has now succeeded in forcing out the third (who was longer heading the FBI) and looks to be knocking down the door of the second in command so he can finally appoint someone who will be amenable to axing the special counsel he began railing against on the very day he was appointed. Republicans are responding in one of two ways—they're either doing Trump's bidding on unseating Rosenstein or expressing close-to-zero urgency about passing legislation to protect Mueller's appointment. The zero-urgency crowd—like GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins—better wake up and smell the coffee. How many more ways does Trump have to obstruct justice before they admit that he's deliberately trying to obstruct justice? By the time Trump succeeds in ousting Mueller, their present-day passivity will prove complicit in the collapse of our nation’s rule of law. And the United States will truly find itself locked in the jaws of a tyrant."

Republicans Are Using The "Secret Memo" To Cynically Manipulate Frightened Trump Voters
"In other words, Republicans are building a case for the removal of Rod Rosenstein so his replacement (chosen by Trump, of course) will either shut down or hamstring the Russia probe that threatens to end Trump's presidency. Remember, Jeff Sessions can't do it because he's recused himself from anything having to do with the Russia probe and neither he nor Trump can fire Rosenstein without opening themselves to obstruction of justice charges. Trump, in turn, can't fire Sessions because he's doing everything Trump's white nationalist base could ever dream of as America's first Neo-Confederate Attorney General. Therefore, a case against Rosenstein has to be fabricated. But, knowing that any such case would collapse upon the most cursory of examinations, Republicans are laying the necessary groundwork for their easily manipulated followers to accept any "evidence" no matter how transparently fake. After all, once they "know" for a fact that Rosenstein is guilty of...something, they'll never actually have to even see the evidence. If you think this is hyperbole, you're wildly overestimating the mental fortitude of white Republican voters. Millions of them still literally believe Hillary Clinton personally ordered the military to stand down in Benghazi and even reports from Republicans themselves saying that never happened cannot dissuade them. By dangling this "Secret Memo" in front of white Republican voters, the GOP is giving the propaganda machine of the right time to get them used to the idea of Trump firing Rosenstein to shield himself from investigation. By triggering their Pavlovian persecution response, they will believe literally anything they're told as long as it conforms their belief that they're the victim of liberal dirty tricks. It's a deeply cynical manipulation of a political movement eager to be manipulated. The worst part is that's it's not even clear that if white Republicans voters understood they were being manipulated in such a crass and obvious fashion that they would even care."

Devin Nunes Admits His Memo Was Based On Lies, He’s Just Mad About FBI’s Font Size

Who Has More to Gain by Lying: Trump or Mueller?
"When it comes to obstruction of justice and lying, we are sailing again into unchartered waters. And that’s not just because we don’t yet know precisely where Mueller and company are going to land when their investigation is done. Alan Dershowitz aside, earnest professors and practitioners who have spent their careers studying the intersection of law and politics are struggling for clarity today because no administration, not even the Harding administration, has ever been as manifestly corrupt as this one. And not just corrupt, but corrupt without evident remorse. What’s happening is new. And new things mean old precedents may or may not apply. We don’t need to wait for Mueller’s report for proof of this. There is plenty already in the public record to support such a conclusion. The president lies so much, in such reckless ways, about so many material things, and we uneasily joke about it. His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has ginned up so many different stories about his Russian contacts that he might be a more suitable candidate for an obstruction charge than his boss. Jared Kushner? Donald Trump, Jr.? They may end up being indicted for misconduct that has nothing to do with the Trump team’s Russian collusion. If Mueller were to write a report that focused only on the financial and ethical conflicts swirling through the White House, it might be enough to sustain criminal charges or even impeachment proceedings. In normal circumstances, these people would have been fired or forced to resign for the ways in which they have sullied the credibility of their administration. Instead, the White House remains publicly defiant even as it crumbles from within. In its simplest form, the story from here comes down to these simple questions: Who are you going to believe, who is more likely to act with honor and integrity, who has more to gain by lying, Donald Trump or Robert Mueller?"

Striving for 'Best Plutocracy Money Can Buy,' Koch Brothers Plan to Dump $400M in 2018 Midterms
"Fresh off the passage of tax legislation that could net them over a billion dollars a year in additional profits, the oil moguls Charles and David Koch have now set their sights on the 2018 midterms, during which they are reportedly planning to spend around $400 million promoting right-wing candidates and priorities. The news came as the Kochs and others within their sprawling network of deep-pocketed donors and politicians were preparing to gather for a secretive weekend conference in Indian Wells, California."

Devin Nunes Challenger: He Is “Donald Trump’s Stooge”

The Power Behind the Throne Is ‘Fox & Friends
"Future historians will summarize what happened to early-21st-century America simply by noting that the Cardinal Richelieu of our time is Steve Doocy. It is bad enough that the president of the United States, with limitless access to expertise and the institutional knowledge of a vast bureaucracy at his disposal, chooses instead to turn to cable news. Morning shows are a necessary evil. Viewers need the news sugarcoated in a way that will not lead to despair. So it is, at its best, news with the edges polished. The delivery is caffeinated, unbearably upbeat, and rapid. It is news for people who can’t handle the news quite so early in the day. But Trump doesn’t just watch any morning cable; he turns to Fox & Friends, the “News for Dummies” show on a news network already substantially oriented toward dummies. For the unfamiliar, Fox & Friends is the morning show for the authoritarian-follower personality type that runs daily at 6 am Eastern time. It combines chirpiness with the endless reserves of anger and perceived victimhood that defines the Fox News brand. The hosts—Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Ainsley Earhardt—are, to put it mildly, not quite the McLaughlin Group. Doocy exists in a state of permanent, total exasperation. Think of Chandler on Friends at his most overwrought, and that is Steve Doocy, always. Kilmeade’s schtick is a jockish “regular Joe” who just doesn’t understand and makes constant appeals to “common sense.” His résumé includes a stint in the early 1990s as a commentator for the UFC, back when UFC matches could be held only in certain jurisdictions and resembled human cockfights. Earhardt knows not to talk when the men are talking. Her role is to be the homecoming queen who married the quarterback (both literally true in her case), but doesn’t let that stop her from feeling marginalized, victimized, and, unceasingly, vituperatively angry. These people have substantial influence over the president’s policy agenda and day-to-day priorities."

Sometimes, White House Staff Have a Legal Duty to Disobey the President
"Last June, Donald Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to the New York Times. McGahn threatened to resign rather than fire Mueller, so Trump backed down. Trump had given McGahn an illegal order. The president was asking the White House Counsel to conspire with him to obstruct justice. McGahn knew he had a legal duty to refuse an illegal order, even if it was the president doing the ordering."

FBI Insider On What The Devin Nunes Memo Tells America's Enemies

"The Art of the Lie": New Report Details Trump's Year Bereft of Integrity, Accountability
"Describing the president as "a nonstop, habitual, and compulsive liar," the report cites a Washington Post analysis that found Trump made an average of 5.9 false or misleading claims a day during his first year at the White House. With his year-long display of disregard for the truth, the report says, Trump "has undermined the right of citizens to know what their government is doing and to work from a common base of information. He has subverted our nation's credibility and effectiveness on the world stage." Further, his "insistence on repeatedly telling lies and his inability to distinguish between truth and fiction has endangered our constitutional system of government," it adds. Another example of failures in term of his administration's integrity and accountability are his web of conflicts of interests. "Because Trump remains the financial beneficiary of his business operations, his conflicts of interest as president are pervasive," the report notes. Problematic conflicts of interests extend also to Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom have White House positions. Like Donald, "Kushner and Ivanka Trump have also failed to fully divest from their respective business interests," the report states. Such problems are manifested in the president's cabinet as well. In fact, it is "rife with ethics problems and conflicts of interests," the report says. It notes, for example, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's potential conflicts of interests from his continued role as president of Steven T. Mnuchin, Inc, which manages some of his investments. The public is in the dark because his investments have not been disclosed, the publication notes. Another problem with the cabinet heads is that they "are methodically deconstructing the agencies" they run. EPA head Scott Pruitt is a prime example, though Betsy DeVos seems to be on similar mission of government destruction, the report argues."

New emails reveal Scott Pruitt was personally involved in erasing climate data from EPA website
"Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was personally involved in the purging of information from the agency’s website in the early months of the Trump administration, according to documents obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)."