Thursday, July 20, 2017

Despite threats from The Donald, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump family finances.

Let's see, what else does Donald Trump not want me to investigate?
Courtesy of Bloomberg:

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. 

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. 

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that he was unaware of the inquiry into Trump’s businesses by the two-months-old investigation and considered it beyond the scope of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be examining. 

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he wrote in an email.

The MINUTE I read that New York Times article, where Trump essentially threatened the Special Counselor, I HOPED that Mueller was going to aggressively go after the Trump family finances, and lo and behold he is.

I am sort of torn between hoping that Trump DOES NOT fire Mueller so that he can continue to do his investigations without interruption, and hoping that he DOES find a way to get rid of Mueller so that we can witness the devastating fallout that it will surely trigger.

All I know for certain is that Donald Trump's problems are really only just beginning.

Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort are all scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Courtesy of the Independent:  

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in relation to a meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised to provide incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. 

The meeting has come under intense scrutiny as part of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible collusion on the part of the Trump campaign. 

Mr Trump Jr and Mr Manafort are to appear in front of the committee on July 26, but Mr Kushner is due to appear on July 24 in a closed session.

Mr Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell said his client is voluntarily cooperating with the congressional probes into the now notorious meeting. 

In addition, Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who organised the meeting with Mr Trump Jr, has also said she would be happy to testify.

Oh I am DEFINITELY clearing my calendar to watch this.

I just wish that Kushner's was an open door testimony as well.

Maybe he is just afraid that people will mock his little boy voice if he appears on television.

But don't worry he is certainly not out of the woods yet.

Courtesy of Newsweek: 

The Congressional oversight body that holds U.S. employees accountable and exposes government fraud and abuse voted unanimously Wednesday to investigate why senior Trump administration officials have been granted security clearances. 

Senior advisors to the president, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were all given security clearances after “omitting significant information about foreign contacts from their applications,” said a statement from Illinois House Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi.

And the noose gets a little bit tighter.

P.S. After I wrote this I saw a few talking heads on TV suggesting that Junior and Manafort would be idiots to agree to show up for this hearing, and I got a little worried.

But then Senator Dianne Feinstein came along to put those concerns to rest:  

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Thursday she isn't concerned about Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort agreeing to testify before a Senate panel, because if they don't "they'll be subpoenaed." 

"Am I concerned? No, I'm not concerned, because if they don't they'll be subpoenaed," Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters.

And there you have it.

Junior and Manafort might TRY to avoid testifying next week, but they will ultimately testify one way or the other. 

The guy in charge of the new voter integrity commission is not sure just who won the last election.

Courtesy of CNN: 

The vice chair of President Donald Trump's voter integrity commission said Wednesday he isn't sure if Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.

"We may never know the answer," Kobach said. 

Kobach repeated this claim when pressed, later conceding that, "Based on the data, you could make some very educated guesses." 

He applied a similar skepticism to the votes cast in favor of Trump, which Kobach said were "absolutely" in doubt as well.

Wait, so we have no idea who won the last election for sure?

Well there is really only one appropriate response to that kind of doubt, a do over.

Yep, let's hold the whole election over again and may the best woman win.

Here is some of that absolutely incredible interview that the New York Times conducted with Donald Trump. (Including audio.)

Here are some excerpts courtesy of the New York Times:

President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.


“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”


Why is he talking about himself in the third person?

It should be noted here that Sessions recused himself only after it was revealed that he lied about meeting with Russians during his confirmation hearing.

The real question for Trump should be why did he choose an Attorney General with ties to Russia, and then extrapolate that out further to ask why virtually EVERYBODY working on his campaign and now within his administration have ties to Russia?

Speaking of Russia this is how Trump characterized his meeting with Putin during the G20 Summit: 

Describing a newly disclosed informal conversation he had with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a dinner of world leaders in Germany this month, Mr. Trump said they talked for about 15 minutes, mostly about “pleasantries.” But Mr. Trump did say that they talked “about adoption.” Mr. Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children in 2012 after the United States enacted sanctions on Russians accused of human rights abuses, an issue that remains a sore point in relations with Moscow.

Mr. Trump acknowledged that it was “interesting” that adoptions came up since his son, Donald Trump Jr., said that was the topic of a meeting he had with several Russians with ties to the Kremlin during last year’s campaign. Even though emails show that the session had been set up to pass along incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, the president said he did not need such material from Russia about Mrs. Clinton last year because he already had more than enough.

Of course as we know "adoptions" is code for "sanctions," and I am amazed that Trump is actually using Russian talking points so blatantly since everybody knows for a fact what that meeting between Junior and the Russians was all about.

It is almost as if he assumes that nobody reads.

Then the subject turned to James Comey:  

Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The F.B.I. has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier. 

In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believed Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,” Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.” 

The president dismissed the assertions in the dossier: “When he brought it to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about any of it. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal.”

Wait, did Trump just accuse the former head of the FBI with threatening to blackmail him?

He does realize that President Obama was also told about that dossier as well, right?

Trump also disputed Comey's testimony under oath that he asked people to leave the room so that they could talk in private about ending the investigation into Michael Flynn:

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?” 

He expressed no second thoughts about firing Mr. Comey, saying, “I did a great thing for the American people.”

Oh, well you just know the Senate Intelligence agency is going to want to talk to about that.

Trump also went after Special Counsel Robert Mueller: 

Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.

“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

And then there was this thinly veiled threat:

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

Holy shit!

So to be clear in this one interview Trump has admitted that he would not have hired Jeff Sessions if he knew he would not protect him from these Russian investigations, suggested that the former FBI chief was threatening to blackmail him, and insinuated that the Special Counsel might lose his job if he investigates the Trump family finances.

That is in only ONE interview.

Damn, no wonder Trump hates the media.

They keep reporting on the things that he says and does, so that people know about them.

Must be so frustrating. 

The US Military is paying $130,000 a month to stay in Trump Tower and protect a president who is never there.

Courtesy of CNBC:

The United States government is paying more than $130,000 a month to rent a space in Trump Tower for a military office that supports the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. 

Lease documents obtained by the Journal showed the government agreed to pay $2.39 million for a 3,475 square foot space from April 11, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 — above market rate for similarly sized high rise luxury apartments, the report said. 

A spokeswoman at the General Services Administration said the space is owned by someone not affiliated with the Trump Organization, suggesting the rent money isn't going to President Donald Trump, according to the report. 

The GSA is the agency that negotiates office space agreements for the government. 

An office like the one in Trump Tower is used by the U.S. military to provide services that need to be close to the president at all times. That includes medical, food, transportation, communications and a briefcase that allows the president to authorize a nuclear attack, the Journal said.

But here's the kicker.  

The president, however, hasn't spent a night at the skyscraper since taking office, it added.

So to be clear, the American taxpayers are paying Donald Trump for the services needed to protect Donald Trump, which he never actually needs because the taxpayers are also paying to protect Donald Trump on one of Donald Trump's many golf course.

Which are also being paid to house those protective services. 

Does that about sum this up?

Dallas Morning News lists outline of Trump's "achievements."

Courtesy of the Dallas Morning News: 

President Donald Trump's first six months have been defined by his often angry and tasteless tweets, his ham-handed efforts to denigrate and undercut the multiple investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election and the stalemated legislative battle to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The News then goes on to list a number of things that Trump has achieved.

Here is a sampling:

FOREIGN POLICY 

-Embraced autocrats in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Egypt and abandoned longtime U.S leadership in seeking to enhance democracy and human rights. 

-Insulted U.S. allies in Europe, especially Germany, and undercut longstanding U.S. treaty commitments. 

-Compromised Israel's intelligence sources. -Spurred more divisiveness in an already divided Middle East by setting off a squabble between Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. ally, and Qatar, home of the region's biggest U.S. military base.

(Trust me there's more.)

DOMESTIC POLICY 

-Proposed a budget with massive cuts that would shred the social safety net and cripple longstanding governmental functions. 

-Created uncertainty in the nation's health care system by sending inconsistent administrative signals and supporting legislation that could deprive millions of people health insurance coverage, undermine Medicaid health support for lower income Americans and give wealthy taxpayers a massive tax cut. 

-Mismanaged the federal government by failing to fill many top spots and installing an inexperienced, dysfunctional White House staff.

(Yep, there's more.)  

INSTITUTIONAL DAMAGE: 

-Committed potentially impeachable offenses of obstructing justice that prompted appointment of a Special Counsel by firing FBI Director James Comey, because of his probe into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia, and urging other intelligence officials to pressure Comey to halt the probe. 

-Undermined the courts with denunciations of judges and their decisions affecting his administration's policies, especially those curbing his hastily issued ban on Muslim travel from certain countries.

 -Without evidence, accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping his phones. -Repeatedly misrepresented his administration's policies and trashed officials with whom he has disagreements, calling the ousted Comey "a nut job," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer the "head clown" and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi an "incompetent."

(And yes there is more. So much more.)

But that gives a fairly accurate overview of Trump's accomplishments thus far.

Hell if he accomplishes any more America will soon be a smoldering crater in the ground.

I guess this is what the Trumpsters meant by the term MAGA.

While all of that news was breaking on Tuesday about that second meeting between Trump and Putin, THIS was what Fox News was focused on.

I imagine that the next breaking story will be about Hillary's unpaid parking tickets, or a book she did not return on time to the library.

When people ask me if I believe in alternate realities, my response is "What? You've never heard of Fox News?"

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Courtesy of The Hill: 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with brain cancer, the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix said Wednesday. 

The tumor was discovered after the senior Arizona senator underwent a minor procedure last week to remove a blood clot from above his left eye. 

"Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," the hospital said in a statement. 

“The Senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation." 

I just heard a doctor on MSNBC saying that this is very bad news, and that once you receive a diagnosis like this it is typically terminal with only between 14 months and three years left before it takes your life.

I have been a strong critic of John McCain's for years now, but right now my heart goes out him and his family.

P.S. I think this helps to explain why McCain was babbling during the Comey Senate hearings.

Now that Putin's puppet is in place America is busy jumping through Russia's hoops.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials. 

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later. Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. 

The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.

Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If that were not troubling enough, we also have this bit of troubling news, courtesy of Bloomberg: 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is shutting down an office that coordinates cyber issues with other countries, according to two people familiar with the plan, in a move that critics said will diminish the U.S. voice in confronting hackers. 

The Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, established under President Barack Obama in 2011, will be folded into the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, according to the people, who asked not to be identified in advance of an announcement. The coordinator will no longer report directly to the secretary of state, going instead through the bureau’s chain of command as Tillerson pushes ahead with a department-wide reorganization, they said. 

“It’s taking an issue that’s preeminent and putting it inside a backwater within the State Department,” said Robert Knake, a senior fellow for cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington who was director of cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council under Obama. “Position to power matters both within the U.S. government and within the international community.”

If somebody actually believe this move will help protect us from the next cyber attack, or that it is NOT playing right into the hands of the Kremlin, then they have not been paying attention at all.

As far as I am concerned Tillerson is likely just as compromised as Donald Trump and allowing him oversight of this crucial government department is like putting the fox in charge of guarding the door to the hen house.

These are of course only a few of the things that Putin clearly demanded of Trump, and the Russian government has now become so used to getting their way in Washington that when there is a hiccup they get pissed off.

Courtesy of the LA Times:  

Russia said Tuesday that it is losing patience over the return of properties that the United States seized as penalty for Moscow's election interference, as tense talks between the two countries have yielded no resolution. 

In Moscow, officials threatened to take "retaliatory measures" if the United States continued to "hinder" their government's diplomatic mission, and the spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin's patience "is expiring." 

"We are still counting on the reasonableness of our American counterparts to at least bring the situation into the legal framework in accordance with the international law," said the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

To be clear the Russian government has done NOTHING to deserve the return of these compounds, which were taken from them in response to their very aggressive interference in our last presidential election, for which they have not yet even admitted responsibility, and yet they feel empowered to make threats? 

Let's face it if America were one of Trump's casinos the roulette wheel would be rigged to land on whatever number Putin picked and the slot machine would pay off for every Russian's pull of handle.

Donald Trump brings Republican Senators together for lunch, threatens the reelection of one, and then lies to the public about what is in the Senate Health Care bill.

Courtesy of Slate:

President Donald Trump invited the Republican Senate caucus to lunch to talk about health care on Wednesday. The goal of the lunch was kind of a mystery, considering that enough Republican Senators have already come forward to torpedo both Trump’s signature effort to repeal and replace Obamacare with a program that would cost tens of millions of people their insurance, as well as his back up plan of just repealing it outright in a way that would cost more than 30 million people their insurance. 

It turned out that Trump had brought them to the White House to try to browbeat and harangue recalcitrant Senators into changing their mind. The most emphatic example of this attempted bullying came with Trump's treatment of Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. The seating arrangements conveniently placed Heller, one of the earliest Senators to come out publicly and vociferously against the initial Senate health care bill, next to the president. This offered the insult comic in chief the opportunity to come up with a singularly awkward gibe. 

As it turns out Heller's seat is especially vulnerable, so Trump putting a target on his back should be especially troubling to Mitch McConnell and the GOP.

Besides Heller was not one of the Republican Senators who actually torpedoed the health care plan:

What's especially fun about this is that Heller wasn't even one of the Senators to come out and kill the revised version of the bill, nor did he kill the backup plan of repealing Obamacare without a replacement. That was Sens. Susan Collins, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Jerry Moran in the first instance, and Sens. Collins, Shelley Moore Capito, and Lisa Murkowski in the latter. 

Murkowski, by the way, was sitting several seats over on Trump's left, looking decidedly uncomfortable and completely unconvinced by his pathetic sales pitch.

And what a pitch it was. When Trump was not threatening or shaming the Republican Senators he was outright lying to the American people.

Trump listed off a number of bald faced lies about a bill that it is clear he has never read, including that it will cover more Americans, bring insurance costs down, and still cover all preexisting conditions.

The bill will do none of that, however it will will gut $772 billion in Medicaid funding over the next ten years which will imperil health care for millions of Americans including 5 million special needs children. And it will also kick tens of millions off of their health care plans.

 Perhaps Donald Trump should try selling THAT to the American people?

So I guess it's time to address this Kid Rock thing.

That was from the folks at Breitbart which is why it probably made you want to hurl red, and white, and blue vomit all over your shoes.

I have an old Google alert for Sarah Palin, so I have been receiving almost constant updates on Kid Rock's supposed run for the Senate.

At first I ignored it as simply a play for attention, which may explain why they came up in Google alerts for Sarah Palin, but they just keep coming.

And now it appears that this idiot might be serious.
If the election of Donald Trump has taught us anything it is that there are ungodly amounts of stupid people in this country.

And unfortunately stupid people are just educated well enough to vote for idiots like Donald Trump and Kid Rock.

Apparently this knuckle dragger would be going up against Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who has held that seat since 2001.

Could he win?

Hell yes he could win.

And then we will have yet one more incredibly unqualified moron in office helping to screw up the country.

It's a day ending with a "Y" so here is today's Trump Twitter tantrum.

My favorite part of being president is that bring me trucks to sit in.
Trump continues to believe that passing complicated legislation is like a business deal that can be hashed out over a meal.

And how is this THEIR promise to America?

Does he not remember promising this?  

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

And now he is simply deflecting blame and vilifying the Democrats.
Okay first off that's a crazy tweet, even by Trumpian standards.

And second that screaming he hears is NOT the Democrats, those are the voices of American voters who are watching their healthcare being undermined by this orange tinged fraud.

Keep in mind that the Republicans now control the White House, the Senate, and the Congress.

If they cannot pass a healthcare bill with all of that going for them, it is because they know it is political suicide to do so.

During G20 Summit there was a second, hour long meeting, between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that nobody had heard about.

Courtesy of the New York Times: 

Hours into a dinner with world leaders who had gathered for the Group of 20 summit meeting, President Trump left his chair at the sprawling banquet table and headed to where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was seated. 

The two presidents had met earlier in the day for the first time and, as the White House put it, had developed a rapport even as they talked about Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 elections. 

The July 7 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, was the single most scrutinized of the Trump presidency. But it turned out there was another encounter: a one-on-one discussion over dinner that lasted as long as an hour and relied solely on a Kremlin-provided interpreter. 

No presidential relationship has been more dissected than the one between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, a dynamic only heightened by the swirl of investigations into whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to sway the election in his favor. Nevertheless, the meeting was confirmed by the White House only on Tuesday, after reports surfaced that some of the guests had been surprised that it occurred. 

The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.

What was significant about this impromptu meeting, that TRUMP clearly sought out, is that it was not reported by the White House, Trump had no similar interactions with other world leaders, and no American official was involved.

Oh, and it was also weird: 

“Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm, who said he had heard directly from attendees. “They were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled.”

We also know that the reporting of this made Trump very defensive. 
Pretty sure it the press knew, WE would have known much sooner.
I am not sure what is "fake news" about this since the White House has confirmed that it did indeed happen.

You know for a meeting that was supposedly no big deal, this seems to have really triggered Orange Hitler. 

A higher percentage of Americans want Trump impeached than wanted to impeach Richard Nixon.

Courtesy of The Hill: 

Impeaching President Trump is more popular now than impeaching President Richard Nixon was at the start of the Watergate scandal, according to a Monmouth University poll. 

The poll, released Monday, found 41 percent of Americans support impeachment for Trump. In comparison, 26 percent supported Nixon’s impeachment six months into his second term, as the Watergate scandal was breaking. 

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said the higher percentage of Americans wanting impeachment is caused by “the current epidemic of hyper-partisanship that was simply not prevalent forty years ago.”

Yeah right.

Or it could simply be that Richard Nixon was at least qualified for the job, while more Americans agree that Trump is too unqualified, unprincipled, and undisciplined to carry out the responsibilities of president.  

I'll just leave this here.

I keep hearing that the Democrats need to come up with a reason for Americans to vote for their candidates.

I can't think of a reason they wouldn't.

We actually get things done, we make things better, and we do it without breaking the law.