Tuesday, March 28, 2017

So why is the Trump administration so afraid of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates?

Courtesy of the Washington Post:  

The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, The Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry. 

According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). 

Yates was the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration, and served as the acting attorney general in the first days of the Trump administration.

Well gee that seems suspicious.

Why would the Trump administration not want the American people to hear what Sally Yates had to say?  

Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.

Ooooh.

For their part the White House is denying all of this.

Courtesy of TPM: 

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in an emailed statement to TPM, called the Post’s story “entirely false.” 

“The White House has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible,” he continued.

And boy we know how dedicated to the truth old Spicey is, don't we? 

Okay well now I want to hear what Yates has to say more than ever.

Time to start applying the pressure.

Democrats seem united in their calls for Devin Nunes to step down as the lead in the Trump/Russia investigation.

Courtesy of CNN: 

Key House Democrats are calling on Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from an investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, widening a stunning partisan split over the probe. 

"The Chair of the House Intelligence has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the country," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement to CNN Monday evening. "Chairman Nunes' discredited behavior has tarnished that office. (House) Speaker (Paul) Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue." 

Her request came a little more than an hour after Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's top Democrat, requested Nunes' recusal. 

"We've reached the point, after the events of this week, where it would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself from matters involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team of which he was a member," Schiff told CNN on Monday.

Rep. Jackie Speier, also on the Intelligence Committee, said this:  

"Through his bizarre and partisan actions over the last week, Chairman Nunes has demonstrated to the entire nation why he is unfit to lead our critical investigation into ties between President Trump's administration and Moscow," she said.

And  Eric Swalwell, another member of the committee, added this as well: 

In the Senate, chairman Richard Burr has sometimes appeared to be working as a part-time committee leader and part-time publicist for the White House, batting away reported Trump-Russia connections at the behest of the White House. In the House, our chairman and Trump transition team member Devin Nunes seems to be running his own intelligence service, receiving classified information regarding our investigation and exclusively briefing it to the president. And now he has cancelled Tuesday’s open hearing – where witnesses had already submitted testimony to the committee – proposing instead to have future hearings conducted in secret.

The Democrats usually have very little power to effect change over who will head these investigations, but if they keep applying pressure, and rally the people to call their Representatives to express no confidence in the ability of Nunes to lead this investigation, Paul Ryan may decide that he has no choice.

Like Dick Cheney said, what Russia did was an act of war, and we need Congress to treat it as such. And punish those who worked in collusion with them.

Dick Cheney thinks that Russian meddling in our election could be an act of war. And I agree with him.

Courtesy of Business Insider:  

In a wide-ranging speech at the Economic Times' Global Business Summit on Monday, former US Vice President Dick Cheney spoke unequivocally about Russia's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

......

"There's no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes," Cheney said. 

"In some quarters, that could be considered an act of war. "I would not underestimate the weight that we as Americans assign to Russian attempts to interfere with our process," Cheney concluded.

Now I think we all know that Dick Cheney is a warmonger's warmonger, and would likely start World War 3 over somebody taking his parking place, but he is not wrong here. 

Now I am not suggesting that we need to start bombing Moscow, but I am suggesting that America's policy toward Russia be one of dealing with a hostile nation bent on undermining our democracy.

Trump's talk of unilaterally working to improve our relationship with Russia should be seen as treasonous in light of what they did during the 2016 election.

Before we can start rebuilding any kind of trust with Russia we need to first punish them for what they did in 2016 by issuing the kinds of sanctions that will make the people rise up against Putin and retake their country from the oligarchs who are oppressing them and stealing their wealth.

That is the kind of financial warfare which seems appropriate here.

And in fact we are already starting to see those protests taking place.

Now if you will excuse me I have to wash my mind out with soap for agreeing with Dick "Shot him right in the face" Cheney.

Trump takes to Twitter to ask why the House Intelligence Committee is not investigating Bill and Hillary instead of his ties to Russia, and to bitch about losing that healthcare vote.


Okay well first off neither Bill or Hillary Clinton are politicians anymore, so the priority for investigating them would be low.

Secondly that Uranium scandal is a Right Wing conspiracy theory that has already been debunked.

This is just another simple minded attempt by Trump to distract from his own scandalous behaviors.
If the Affordable Care Act were to "fold" that would suddenly leave millions of Americans without healthcare and possible kill hundreds, if not thousands, of them.

This is NOT how a president talks about the people he was elected to protect.

There are a number of ways to improve Obamacare that the Democrats would gladly support and that would help it to cover more people more effectively.

Hell Trump could even take credit for "fixing" the law if his ego demands it, neither the Democrats or even President Obama would care, just so long as it helped the American people.

THAT is all that true leaders and public servants care about.

Trump's son-in-law is scheduled to face questions by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ruh Roh!

Remember to come to my room tonight and tell me stories about having sex with my daughter. I love those!
Courtesy of Philly.com: 

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump, will be questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of the panel's investigation into Russia’s interference during the 2016 election. 

"Mr. Kushner has volunteered to be interviewed as part of the committee's investigation into the Russian activities surrounding the 2016 election," senators Richard Burr (R, N.C.) and Mark Warner (D, Va.), the committee's chairman and vice chairman, told the New York Times in a statement. 

According to the Times, the questions for Kushner will focus on two meetings he had with Russian agents in December, prior to his father-in-law's inauguration as president. 

The first took place with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak alongside ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn at Trump Tower. 

The second was a previously undisclosed meeting between Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned Vnesheconombank, which has been under sanctions since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Apparently the White House had failed to mention that second meeting, but don't worry because the White House spokesperson said that the meeting "went nowhere" and is certainly not something that anybody needs to probe into more deeply.

Seriously, stop looking!

Here is my prediction of what is going to happen during this questioning.

Kushner is going to lie.

And if he gets caught lying, he is going to lie again.

I know this like I know that Donald Trump has not seen his penis without the help of a series of mirrors for several years now.

This is what these people do, and so the only questions remaining are what will the Senate Intelligence Committee do about it when they discover the lie? And how will that affect Kushner's new job as the head of a "fix the government" SWAT team?


Vladimir Putin prepares to pounce as America's power in the world diminishes.

Courtesy of Newsweek: 

The opportunities that Moscow is eager to seize beyond Russia’s border are openings or cracks in the world order. The ability to ferret out opportunity, developed during the 1980s and 1990s, is helping Moscow’s rulers detect such chances now. 

Both Ukraine and Syria, each one in its own way, are such cracks. They fall between “world orders” if we accept Henry Kissinger’s description of the evolving international orders as being American, European, Chinese and Islamic (see also an interesting piece by Niall Ferguson on the Russian Question.) 

The “imperial” power of the collective West is shrinking. Under the new administration, Washington is proclaiming out loud what had previously been implied or mentioned quietly to America’s allies: the U.S. is not willing to serve as the world’s preeminent “imperialist” power indefinitely. It wants to be paid for its services or it will withdraw. 

President Donald Trump’s proposed deep cuts in the State Department’s funding and sharp hikes in military spending could be taken as a plan to relinquish America’s remaining soft power and concentrate on its hard power to protect whatever interests it chooses to keep.

In many ways Trump is the perfect puppet for Putin. He is an unsophisticated megalomaniac who lacks the vision to understand what America means to the world at large, and instead only cares about those who will hold rallies celebrating his isolationist agenda.

With Trump distracted by shiny objects Putin, and others, are free to take advantage of the opportunities for power and influence that slip from between Cheeto Hitler's chubby orange fingers.

And the cost for this country, and for our allies, will be vast and potentially irreversible.

Good Morning. It's Tuesday and Donald Trump's approval ratings are now at 36%.

Courtesy of Gallup: 

President Donald Trump's job approval rating fell to 36% for the three-day period of March 24-26, following Republican House leaders' failed effort to pass a new healthcare bill that would have replaced the Affordable Care Act. 

Trump's three-day reading prior to Friday's events was 41%. His previous low point was 37%, recorded March 16-18. His highest reading was 46% in the week following his Jan. 20 inauguration, and he has averaged 42% for his term to date. 

Trump's current 36% is two percentage points below Barack Obama's low point of 38%, recorded in 2011 and 2014. Trump has also edged below Bill Clinton's all-time low of 37%, recorded in the summer of 1993.

Who thinks this is just the beginning of a downward trend?

I wonder if Donald Trump is tired of winning yet?

Monday, March 27, 2017

The night that Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee disappeared he later turned up on White House property for a clandestine rendezvous. Update!


Remember when we reported that the night before Devin Nunes ran to the White House to spill his guts he had received a phone call and suddenly disappeared into the night?

Well as it turns out we now know where he went.

Courtesy of the New York Times:

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, met on the White House grounds with a source who showed him secret American intelligence reports a day before he revealed that President Trump or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

Wait. So the night before he ran to the White House to tell Donald Trump this disturbing news, he first went to the White House to learn it himself?

Uh...WTF?

Well here was Nunes' supposed explanation courtesy of CNN: 

The California Republican confirmed to CNN in a phone interview Monday he was on the White House grounds that day -- but he said he was not in the White House itself. (Other buildings, including the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, are on the same grounds.)

Nunes went to the building because he needed a secure area to view the information, he told CNN. He said he didn't believe the President nor any of his West Wing team were aware he was there, and the White House said Monday it learned of Nunes' visit through media reports and directed any questions to the congressman.

Uh...okay.

So Nunes HAD to visit the White House grounds in order to view the confidential information in a "secure room." However as many pundits have pointed out there are secure rooms all over Washington including in the Capitol building where Nunes works.

CNN also reports that a government official said Nunes was seen Tuesday night at the National Security Council offices of the Eisenhower building, which has a secure room, and that he arrived and left alone.

So doesn't that mean that whoever gave him this "information" was already IN the Eisenhower building? And did no one see that person arrive or leave? (Update: I just saw Nunes on CNN again and he is now claiming that he had this information for quite awhile, and did not just receive it the night in question. A statement that literally just makes all of this even more confusing.)

CNN further reports that members of Congress, like the general public, must be cleared and escorted into facilities on White House grounds.

Which of course immediately brings up the question, "Who the fuck let Nunes onto the White House grounds? And how could Trump or any of his staff NOT know he was there?"

What does that Cheshire cat always say? "Curiouser and curiouser?"

By the way with these new revelations House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is demanding that Nunes be removed from this investigation.

And Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is saying the same.

Actually I think that at this point this is not enough and that the FBI should subpoena his ass and get to the bottom of all of this cloak and dagger bullshit. Something is WAY off about all of this.

Update: I think we all saw this coming.

Just because the Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare does not mean they are finished trying to screw it up.

Courtesy of Yahoo News:  

Republicans may have failed to overthrow Obamacare this week, but there are plenty of ways they can chip away at it. 

The Trump administration has already begun using its regulatory authority to water down less prominent aspects of the 2010 healthcare law. 

Earlier this week, newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price stalled the rollout of mandatory Medicare payment reform programs for heart attack treatment, bypass surgery and joint replacements finalized by the Obama administration in December. 

The delays offer a glimpse at how President Donald Trump can use his administrative power to undercut aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion that Republicans had sought to overturn. 

The Republicans' failure to repeal Obamacare, at least for now, means it remains federal law. Price's power resides in how to interpret that law, and which programs to emphasize and fund.

Bastards!

However Trump and the Republicans are not going to be able to do this in the shadows.

People are paying attention.

Courtesy of HuffPo: 

The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general has launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to pull ads encouraging people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act during the enrollment period. By shutting down such outreach, the action could be seen as a stealth way to starve the health plan without legislative authority, critics say. 

President Donald Trump’s administration said the ads were a waste of money, but Democrats have characterized the action as sabotage. 

In response to a request to investigate the actions from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the inspector general said his office is conducting a “fact-finding” review, the Hill reported. 

The office will examine exactly what was done and when by the administration, and its effect on enrollment in the health plan, according to a letter written to the senators Thursday. Dwindling numbers of consumers enrolled in any insurance undermines an affordable risk pool.

And this is what needs to be done right down the line.

Senate and House Democrats need to identify and attempt to stall the various forms of sabotage to the Affordable Care Act while the media reports on what the Republicans are doing and the effects it is having on the already insured and those seeking insurance.

Americans also should be reminded on a daily basis that virtually ALL of the problems that ACA is currently having are related to GOP sabotage from the very beginning of its implementation.

From Republican governors refusing to expand Medicaid or allow the health care exchanges in their states, to the constant flood of disinformation that comes from their mouths, the GOP has created the very problems that they now blame on Obama and the Democrats.

The facts are that the Republicans NEVER wanted to help the American people get affordable health care, and the only way Obamacare will be preserved and improved is with more Democrats in office working to make that happen.

Remember this?

I think you already know the punchline to this joke.

Courtesy of CNN: 

President Donald Trump headed to one of his golf courses again Sunday, marking his 13th visit to one since taking office and the eighth consecutive weekend he has spent at properties bearing his name. 

While the President hasn't played golf on every visit, sometimes attending to presidential business, the trips underscore a break with his insistence on the campaign trail that he wouldn't spend his time golfing because of how hard he would be working.

Yep the guy who said he would be too busy to do any more golfing, has spent more time at golf resorts than any other president before him.


Personally I have to say that I prefer Trump out golfing instead of sitting in the Oval Office sabotaging the country.


Reports say that White House officials are purging their electronic devices in reaction to possible subpoenas coming their way.

Courtesy of the Independent:  

White House officials and members of Donald Trump’s transition team are reportedly “purging” their electronic devices to avoid being compromised by subpoenas, it has been claimed. 

 The accusation comes just weeks after government lawyers ordered the President’s aides to preserve any materials that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

One legal expert told MSNBC - the channel that first reported the allegations based on testimony from an inside source - there could be “legal ramifications” for staff who destroyed crucial evidence relating to ongoing investigations. 

I remember when Rachel Maddow broke this news a few days ago, and also saw Andrea Mitchell ask that legal expert what would happen if staffers did this after receiving direction to preserve their communications.

I believe prison was the answer.

But this is another of those things that you kind of already know is already happening even though the White House staff has been told directly not to.

Donald Trump simply does not believe in playing by the rules. And when you are working for somebody who is ethically challenged it becomes easy to follow their example.

I actually wonder if the cell phones and tablets had not already been purged back in February when Sean Spicer was conducting random checks to find the White House leakers.

However if these staffers actually think this will keep them out of the hot seat, or that it will stall the investigation, well then they don't understand Congressional subpoena power.

The phone company has a record of every call they have made, and as we know computer data bases are rarely ever completely wiped clean.

So if these people have actually done this they are only making things harder for themselves in the long run.

Donald Trump actually handed Chancellor Angela Merkel a 300 billion dollar bill that he claimed Germany owed NATO.

Courtesy of The Sunday Times:  

Donald Trump handed the German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill — thought to be for more than £300bn — for money her country “owed” Nato for defending it when they met last weekend, German government sources have revealed. 

The bill — handed over during private talks in Washington — was described as “outrageous” by one German minister. 

“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.

So I guess Trump was full of shit yet again when he tweeted this:
This guy is a national embarrassment now.

Good job Trump voters!

Mother Jones assembles a lengthy timeline of the Trump/Russia scandal.

You really do need to read the whole thing, but here is just what has happened in the last five days or so:

March 20:  

The House intelligence committee holds its first public hearing on its investigation into Russia's interference in the US election. Responding to the committee's questioning, FBI Director James Comey confirms that the bureau has since July been "investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts." Both Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers dismiss Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped him during the election. 

- In response to questions from Mother Jones' David Corn, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House intelligence committee, tells reporters he has never heard of key figures connected to the Trump-Russia scandal, including Carter Page and Roger Stone. 

 - Spicer tells reporters that Paul Manafort, who ran Trump's campaign from April 2016 to August 2016, "played a limited role" on the campaign "for a very limited amount of time." 

March 22: 

The Associated Press reports that, starting in the mid-2000s, Manafort worked on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to "influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government." The news service quotes a 2005 strategy memo authored by Manafort, who writes, "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success." Manafort denies working on behalf of Russian interests. 

- Mother Jones reports that Manafort tried to help Deripaska secure a visa to the United States. The aluminum magnate had been denied entry to the United States at various points because of suspected ties to the Russian mafia. 

- Rep. Devin Nunes, without briefing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), his Democratic counterpart on the intelligence committee, or other members of the panel, calls a surprise press conference, announcing that he has seen evidence that the intelligence community "incidentally" picked up communications by Trump transition officials in the course of lawful surveillance on foreign parties. He claims that the names of Trump officials were "unmasked" and that "none of this surveillance was related to Russia." 

- In a remarkable departure from intelligence committee norms, Nunes visits the White House to brief Trump on his findings. The president later says he feels "somewhat" vindicated by the information Nunes shared. 

- Schiff releases a statement expressing "grave concerns" about Nunes' actions and casting doubt about whether a "credible investigation" can be conducted under these circumstances. 

- Schiff tells MSNBC's Chuck Todd that there is "more than circumstantial evidence now" of potential collusion between Trump officials and Russian operatives. - CNN, citing "US officials," reports that the "FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign." 

March 23: 

The Associated Press reports that US Treasury Department agents have obtained records of "offshore financial transactions" by Paul Manafort, in conjunction into an ongoing anti-corruption investigation into his work in Eastern Europe. According to the new service, "As part of their investigation, U.S. officials were expected to look into millions of dollars' worth of wire transfers to Manafort. In one case, the AP found that a Manafort-linked company received a $1 million payment in October 2009 from a mysterious firm through the Bank of Cyprus. The $1 million payment left the account the same day—split in two, roughly $500,000 disbursements to accounts with no obvious owner." 

- Rep. Nunes apologizes to Democratic members of the intelligence committee for failing to brief them on the new information he obtained and instead taking it straight to the White House, but he won't explain why he took this unusual action. 

 March 24: 

Rep. Devin Nunes holds a press conference, where he announces that Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify before the House intelligence committee. 

What is not mentioned in this timeline, but equally important, is that Devin Nunes has now backtracked on his claim that Trump and associates were incidentally monitored by US Intelligence agencies.

I swear even though we have all just lived through all of this, seeing it laid out like this is jaw dropping.

At this point you would have to be an idiot, ie Trump voter, not to see that Donald Trump is in deep, deep trouble here.

I can only imagine what new damaging information this week will reveal.

Pizzagate protests prove that you really can fool some of the people all of the time.

And look they actually brought their children!
Courtesy of WaPo: 

Several dozen people assembled outside the White House Saturday to demand an investigation into the unfounded Internet rumor known as “Pizzagate.” 

Wearing T-shirts and holding banners defending the conspiracy theory — which falsely linked Hillary Clinton to an alleged child-sex-trafficking ring operating out of a D.C. pizza parlor — protesters took turns climbing onto an elevated stage in Lafayette Square to demand politicians and mainstream news media take their claims seriously. 

“I don’t have any doubt that Pizzagate is real,” said Kori Hayes, a corrections officer who drove with his wife and three kids to Washington from Middleburg, Fla., on Friday night for the event. “But nothing is being said about it.”

This of course comes after the Pizzagate shooter, Edgar Welch, agreed that he was motivated by  "unfounded rumors about a child sex-trafficking ring."

And after Alex Jones, one of the biggest promoters of this conspiracy theory,  said this: 

"I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees. We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be construed as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing."

God there are SO MANY dumb people in this country. 

Is it any wonder that the Russians were able to get Donald Trump elected president?