It's hard to go a week here in the "newly insane state of North Carolina"* without someone in elected office (as a patient in D.C. puts is) seeing somebody in court over something. Since the NCGOP took state government by the throat in 2013, that something has frequently involved matters Republicans euphemistically refer to as "election integrity," known in less deranged climes as voter suppression.
With Democrat Roy Cooper in the governor's mansion and Democrat Josh Stein as Cooper's replacement as NC attorney general, power in Raleigh has shifted somewhat. How much will depend on what courts do with the legal messes left over from One-term Pat McCrory's tenure.
Yesterday afternoon, Stein tweeted:
The right to vote is our most fundamental. Today, I moved to dismiss the pending petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on the 2013 voting law. pic.twitter.com/K7Rn4ginr3
In his final days in office, McCrory had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the state's appeal of the case it lost in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last July. The point here is for the new Democratic electeds to pull the plug on the appeal of the Republican voter suppression law before a new Justice Gorsuch turns a 4-4 Supreme Court into a 5-4 conservative one. Withdrawing the appeal would allow the lower court ruling to stand. As Rick Hasen at Election Law Blognotes, Stein's pointing out the potential for saving NC taxpayers up to $12 million in attorney’s fees for dropping the case is a nice touch. Plaintiffs included the League of Women Voters, individual plaintiffs, and the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.
Not so fast, say Republicans. A spokeswoman for Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger claims Cooper and Stein cannot fire the attorneys for the state:
"Roy Cooper’s and Josh Stein’s desperate and politically motivated stunt to derail North Carolina’s voter ID law is not only illegal, it also raises serious questions about whether they’ve allowed their own personal and political prejudices and conflicts of interest to cloud their professional judgment," Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement.
Yes, they really do talk like that, and they legislate in similar tones.
Thomas Farr, a Raleigh attorney who has represented the lawmakers for several years in the elections law case, sent a letter to William McKinney, Cooper’s general counsel, arguing that neither the governor nor Stein have the authority to discharge him and others at his firm from the case and that he and others plan to continue in the case.
If the request by Cooper and Stein to withdraw the appeal is granted, the State Board of Elections, its individual members and its executive director will not immediately be withdrawn from the case. They would have to make similar requests.
Rick Hasen writes, "I’ve gone into the morass before trying to figure out who can control NC litigation in these circumstances and I will have to leave this to NC law gurus." Or maybe to the exorcists?
Some Republican lawmakers have offered amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that would remove a provision prohibiting the state's secession ...
Another amendment "focuses on language stating a citizen owes paramount allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and U.S. government. That proposal would eliminate the reference to the government."
Perhaps the Tar Heel state could rebrand as Freistaat Trump? I hear South Carolina has a lightly used flag it doesn't know what to do with.
In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America's "steadfast and enduring" commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.
Bannon, these people said, signalled to Germany's ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favoured conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.
Three people who were briefed on the meeting spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The German government and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the talks.
A White House official who checked with Bannon in response to a Reuters query confirmed the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. "They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello," the official said.
The sources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.
In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favourably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who "don't believe in this kind of pan-European Union."
Western Europe, he said at the time, was built on a foundation of "strong nationalist movements", adding: "I think it's what can see us forward".
The encounter unsettled people in the German government, in part because some officials had been holding out hope that Bannon might temper his views once in government and offer a more nuanced message on Europe in private.
One source briefed on the meeting said it had confirmed the view that Germany and its European partners must prepare for a policy of "hostility towards the EU".
A second source expressed concern, based on his contacts with the administration, that there was no appreciation for the EU's role in ensuring peace and prosperity in post-war Europe.
"There appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unravelling of the EU would have grave consequences," the source said.
The White House said there was no transcript of the conversation. The sources who had been briefed on it described it as polite and stressed there was no evidence Trump was prepared to go beyond his rhetorical attacks on the EU - he has repeatedly praised Britain's decision to leave - and take concrete steps to destabilise the bloc.
But anxiety over the White House stance led French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, to issue unusual calls last week for Pence to affirm during his visit to Europe that the U.S. was not aiming to break up the EU.
Pence obliged on Monday in Brussels, pledging strong ties between the United States and the EU, and making clear his message was shared by the president.
"President Trump and I look forward to working together with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership," he said.
But the message did not end the concerns in European capitals.
"We are worried and we should be worried," Thomas Matussek, senior adviser at Flint Global and a former German ambassador to the Britain and the United Nations, told Reuters.
"No one knows anything at the moment about what sort of decisions will be coming out of Washington. But it is clear that the man on top and the people closest to him feel that it's the nation state that creates identity and not what they see as an amorphous group of countries like the EU."
Everyone knows that Pence is not as important as Bannon. That was proven when they all sat there and let Pence go on TV and lie for Flynn. (That's assuming Pence didn't know, in which case he's just as untrustworthy as Trump and Bannon.)
So, there is a credibility gap with this White House the size of the Grand Canyon and it's getting bigger. Nobody knows who speaks for the administration, not even the president. Everyone is assumed to be liars because they lie constantly.
Steve Bannon is an unqualified, white nationalist lunatic who has no more business being at the highest level of the US Government than Justin Bieber does. Yet he's speaking to foreign leaders and apparently saying whatever he wants to say.
Furious about national security adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation, Alex Jones posted a video commentary this morning warning about the threats President Trump is facing from what Jones described as a demonic conspiracy out to destroy him.
While railing against a Foreign Policy article (which he misattributed to Foreign Affairs) about the Russian government’s view of Trump, Jones said that there is a plot to sabotage both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin over their efforts to stop globalism.
Among the plotters, according to Jones, is Barack Obama, whom he accused of living in a “bunker” in Washington, D.C., where Jones believes he is personally directing and “recruiting with [George] Soros an army for a Bolshevik-style revolution.”
He warned that the Foreign Policy article is a sign that globalists are getting ready to “execute really horrible devastation: starting huge wars, setting a nuke off in D.C., anything, talking about ‘time to kill Trump.’”
“There was a coup over America under globalism by stealth, there was a counter-coup with Trump, and they’re launching a counter-counter-coup right now,” Jones said. He added that Trump is trying to “empower humanity” and bring down the demonic systems that secretly run the world.
When former President Barack Obama said he was “heartened” by anti-Trump protests, he was sending a message of approval to his troops. Troops? Yes, Obama has an army of agitators — numbering more than 30,000 — who will fight his Republican successor at every turn of his historic presidency. And Obama will command them from a bunker less than two miles from the White House.
In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.
He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.
And yes, Trump's favorite fake news outlet is ON IT:
Some extremist groups (and Fox, of course) think Obama is setting up a "shadow government" in an act of sedition. pic.twitter.com/1KMldwdtFJ
I have little doubt that this will become an article of faith on the right within a matter of weeks. And there's nothing unusual in that. But now that we have conspiracy freaks actually running the country it becomes a slightly more important issue. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times reported today:
Way back on Friday, President Donald Trump declared that several news organizations — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times — were “the enemy of the American people.” You know who’s not the enemy, in his book?
Jones, in case you aren’t aware, is the conspiracy-theorizing, flame-throwing nationalistic radio and internet star who’s best known for suggesting that Sept. 11 was an inside job, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was “completely fake” and that the phony Clinton child-sex trafficking scandal known as Pizzagate warranted serious investigation (which one Facebook fan took upon himself to do, armed with an AR-15).
Jones, 43, has been around for a while. Like every media outfit in the Trump era, his platforms have gotten record traffic and, he told me last week, seen increases in revenue, with ads for water purification systems and for supplements to enhance “brain force” and virility.
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But he is apparently taking on a new role as occasional information source and validator for the president of the United States, with whom, Jones says, he sometimes speaks on the phone.
Millions of listeners and viewers tune in to Jones on his websites (Infowars chief among them), on Facebook and through old-fashioned radio, and their loyalty partly explains how Trump maintains a hard-core faithful who don’t believe a word they read about him in a newspaper like this one.
His audience, Jones told me, is “the teeth of the Trump organization on the ground — the information-warfare, organic internal resistance.” Sure enough, on Saturday the journalist McKay Coppins of The Atlantic tweeted from Florida, “Spotted at Trump rally: More than one InfoWars t-shirt.”
Where Jones’ content fits in Trump’s broad media diet isn’t clear. White House officials declined to talk about it in detail. (Hey, Mr. President, I’m trying.) But as Trump pushes full steam ahead on his effort to delegitimize U.S. journalism, he is lending credence to a number of out-there Jonesisms, adding yet another “pinch yourself, this is happening” element to our national journey into the upside-down.
You can look no further than Trump’s description of the press as “the enemy of the American people” Friday, which was reminiscent of Jones’ use of the same phrase in 2015, as Jones noted Sunday on Twitter.
Two weeks ago, Trump’s quickly debunked allegation that the news media covered up terrorism by Islamic extremists echoed reports on Infowars, including one headline that blared: “Scandal: Mass Media Covers Up Terrorism to Protect Islam.”
Before that, there was Trump’s false claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, which Infowars had asserted in November and then repeated, giving “oxygen to the lies,” as CNN put it then. Then again, others in the right-leaning internet ecosystem had forwarded the illegal voting report, too.
Jones’ influence could be seen more directly last spring when Trump told a crowd in California that “there is no drought” — oh, yes, there was — and suggested that reports of one were part of a plot to protect a “3-inch fish.” It was very similar to reports in Infowars suggesting the drought was manufactured and promoting the fish theory.
Jones demurred when it came to his influence on Trump, which he said the “MSM” (mainstream media) overstated to undermine the president. “MSM tries to say Alex Jones is an eight-headed kook with all these warts and Trump’s copying everything he says,” Jones told me. “It’s just not true.”
For instance, he said, when he urged Trump to address illegal voting allegations during one phone conversation, “he said, ‘I already know, I’m making a speech in two days.’” (Trump, he said, “was an Infowarrior before I was born.”) Jones said that conversation had taken place earlier in the campaign, not on the phone call immediately after the election that my colleague Maggie Haberman reported on, in which Jones said the president had thanked him for his support. Jones told me that he had spoken with Trump since that call, though an aide to the president, communicating on the condition of anonymity, played down the frequency of their contact.
Either way, Jones is hoping his organization will qualify for a coveted White House press credential. He says it’s not something he’s pining for or needs, but he doesn’t see why Infowars shouldn’t get one when “Trump’s calling CNN fake.”
The White House said it had yet to receive a proper application from Infowars and therefore could not comment on whether it would get one. Jones said the delay might be related to a bureaucratic snag. “They say it’s going to get rectified,” he said.
One ally in his corner is Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and informal adviser to Trump, whose matchmaking brought them together and led to the 2015 Infowars interview during which Trump told Jones that “you have an amazing reputation.”
Stone said in an interview, “They are reaching millions of people, and these people are steadfast and loyal Trump supporters.”
Two of the major internet tracking companies, Quantcast and Alexa, reported that in January Infowars had an average of around 8 million (Quantcast) or 8.7 million (Alexa) global visitors, who viewed its pages nearly 50 million times. As of Sunday, Quantcast ranked its traffic above that of the fact-checking site Politifact.com.
Those numbers miss the audiences for his national radio show and his team’s videos on YouTube, where the biggest of his 18 channels has 1.2 billion views, and on Facebook, where they draw many millions of views. (One, by his editor at large, Paul Joseph Watson, lists 18.1 million views.)
Jones’ growth has astounded those who have followed a progression that began on cable access in Austin, Texas, in the early 1990s, moved to radio and then to the bigger national footprint he began building online.
“When I was first dealing with Alex, he had a staff of three people and was broadcasting his apocalyptic messages from” a spare bedroom “with choo-choo wallpaper,” said the author Jon Ronson, who wrote about Jones in his 2002 book, “Them,” and revisited him in “The Elephant in the Room” last year. “In the summer, he had a staff of between 50 and 75 people in this huge industrial space as big as a mainstream TV network.”
Jones says it’s hardly CNN-size (and, for the record, he says, he believes Sandy Hook may have happened).
Last week, Jones’ conspiracy workshop was busy making the case that the leaks that forced Michael T. Flynn’s resignation as Trump’s national security adviser were part of a “counter coup” by what he has called “criminal, corporate elements inside the CIA” working “ to basically overthrow Trump.”
It’s the sort of message that resonates with his segment of Trump voters because, Jones said, “the public doesn’t have any trust in the system.”
“They believe the social contract is broken,” he continued, “and they’re able to interact with the new diverse pantheon of the internet-based media.” In other words, with people like him.
It makes you wonder: If Watergate had broken in this media environment, would President Richard Nixon have had to resign? Would enough people have believed it?
I put the question to Bob Woodward, who broke that scandal for The Washington Post with Carl Bernstein. He said it would have turned out the same. “The evidence was so strong, because of the tapes — these things turn on the facts,” he said. “It would be: Can you get information and sources and testimony from witnesses and documents that show what happened.”
Given that no alternative reality was strong enough to save Flynn’s job, for instance, I’d have to agree. That said, if you live in Jones’ world, Flynn’s ouster would seem to be the height of injustice, delivered by the news media on behalf of those “criminal, corporate elements inside the CIA.” So, yes, you would see the press as the enemy.
I'm ecstatic! It's a breath of fresh air," Judy Griffin exclaimed when I asked her about the nascent Trump presidency. "The country was going on a near-death experience collision. Political correctness was about to strangle us all." ...
Griffin, formerly the director of development for a Christian school, described herself as "very conservative" and "very pro-life." She said she wants Trump to take on ISIS because "you have to confront evil." She also wants him to rebuild the military, reduce the national debt and bring back jobs -- things she criticized former President Barack Obama for failing to do...
[Gail] Francioli offered a substantial list of subjects on which she agrees with Trump. "He's going to increase the military, going to protect this country, build a wall, border control, Obamacare," she said. "He's bringing jobs back." A regular participant in church-led marches outside an abortion clinic, she added that she expects Trump to place further restrictions on the procedure....
[David Searles] favors Trump's push to roll back regulations that Searles said have "stifled" businesses, including the software company that hasn't been stable enough to give him a raise in 10 years.
Internationally, Searles said he is optimistic that the US will "have a stronger presence on the world stage." He appreciates Trump's tough talk.
"I felt that the Obama administration was preoccupied with not offending people..."
And they too believe the media is the enemy:
Like many Trump supporters, Housel is not troubled by negative news reports about Trump. In fact, she shares his assessment that journalists are not always honest (though she said she felt sheepish about saying that to an actual journalist).
"I was raised as a young girl not to trust the media," she said. Housel told me that her father, an Army veteran, offered this cold counsel: "If you're ever in a wartime situation, shoot the guy with the camera and then the enemy."
What a nice lady.
All of this is contrary to the latest scold coming from certain quarters of the media (and, unfortunately, certain quarters of the left as well) that says it's the protests and furious resistance that are driving otherwise lovely, decent people into the arms of Trump. Republican voted for him because they like him and they agree with his policies. They think that Democrats are "politically correct" with all their "identity politics" and even if we were all nice boys and girls and didn't raise a fuss about the cretinous imbecile in the White House, they would feel exactly the same way.
These people voted for and still support Trump because they agree with him. It's not complicated.
This is going to cost the taxpayers billions and will result in nothing positive for our country and untold misery for many people. But it will make bigots have an orgasm and that's what really matters in America these days. They will surely enjoy the sight of Latino families being torn apart. They hate them that much:
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday released a set of documents translating President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and border security into policy, bringing a major shift in the way the agency enforces the nation’s immigration laws. Under the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes were the priority for removal. Now, immigration agents, customs officers and border patrol agents have been directed to remove anyone convicted of any criminal offense.
That includes people convicted of fraud in any official matter before a governmental agency and people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”
The policy also calls for an expansion of expedited removals, allowing Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to deport more people immediately. Under the Obama administration, expedited removal was used only within 100 miles of the border for people who had been in the country no more than 14 days. Now it will include those who have been in the country for up to two years, and located anywhere in the nation.
The change in enforcement priorities will require a considerable increase in resources. With an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, the government has long had to set narrower priorities, given the constraints on staffing and money.
In the so-called guidance documents released on Tuesday, the department is directed to begin the process of hiring 10,000 new immigration and customs agents, expanding the number of detention facilities and creating an office within Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help families of those killed by undocumented immigrants. Mr. Trump had some of those relatives address his rallies in the campaign, and several were present when he signed an executive order on immigration last month at the Department of Homeland Security.
The directives would also instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, to begin reviving a program that recruits local police officers and sheriff’s deputies to help with deportation, effectively making them de facto immigration agents. The effort, called the 287(g) program, was scaled back during the Obama administration.
There’s a joke going around about President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to the effect that he has the dubious distinction of having been fired by both Democratic and Republican administrations. But that’s not really very funny when you consider that he was fired by one for his erratic behavior and from the other because he was implicated in a scandal concerning possible connections to the Russian government.
Something has gone very wrong with our system that such a person could come so close to high levels of power in two administrations. But Flynn did. His short tenure and the circumstances of his departure have brought all the questions about Russian involvement in the campaign to the White House’s doorstep, where they cannot be ignored any longer.
I always had tended to believe that Trump probably didn’t really have any personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. Trump is such a serial exaggerator that his allusions to one struck me as hype. His great pleasure in being stroked with Putin’s compliments indicated that Trump didn’t actually know him. It’s also obvious that he truly admires Putin’s strongman leadership style and that’s disturbing enough.
Still, there has been the nagging sense for some time that there’s something off about the way Trump speaks about Putin. It’s obsequious and submissive, which is very uncharacteristic of his normal style and one cannot help but wonder why that is. Trump is not servile toward anyone in this world — except Vladimir Putin. It would be one thing if we could chalk it up as another one of Trump’s weird psychological tics and hope that he isn’t so subject to flattery that he decides to help the Russian leader carve up Europe just to keep his approval. But it seems there’s more to it than that.
The Russian story has been bubbling under the surface for months, of course. The hiring of Paul Manafort, best known in recent years for his career as a lobbyist for pro-Russian Ukraine politicians — and a stranger to American politics since the 1980s — has seemed odd. Still, there has been no reason for serious suspicion since Manafort had once been partners with Trump’s good friend Roger Stone and had lived in Trump Tower at one time. Anyway, the world of political consultants is very small. So no big deal.
When the word came down that the Democratic National Committee had determined it had been hacked by what its security firm said were foreign actors associated with the Russian government, I don’t think anyone saw an immediate connection. But then came that weird incident at the Republican National Convention in July, when Trump representatives intervened to soften the GOP’s official policy on Ukraine. Again, by itself this would not be a huge deal. But when combined with Trump’s strangely passive attitude toward Putin and the hiring of a man who had spent years working in politics in the region, people started to wonder.
It was only a few days later that Trump made his shocking public invitation to the Russian government to “find” Hillary Clinton’s personal emails and deliver them to the media. He suggested afterward that he had only been joking. Maybe so.
Since that time suspicions have only grown. The U.S. government verified that the Russians had hacked the files of various people and institutions in the presidential campaign, the WikiLeaks dumps happened and we have learned that the FBI had been investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government since last spring.
Members of the mainstream media finally revealed that, except for Mother Jones, they had been sitting on an explosive dossier compiled by a credible opposition researcher with deep ties to Russia that suggested members of the Trump campaign, including his handpicked national security adviser, were in touch with Russian officials and that the Russians had some compromising material (or kompromat) on Trump himself. The infamous details of the kompromat have not been verified but other elements of the dossier appear to have some basis in truth.
Since Flynn was prompted to resign due to an inappropriate conversation with the Russian ambassador related to sanctions, one can no longer avoid asking whether Trump was personally involved. After all, those sanctions that Flynn apparently assured the ambassador would be revisited after Trump took office were imposed precisely because Russia had apparently interfered in the election on Trump’s behalf.
So here we are, with members of the GOP-led Congress finally rousing themselves to open a serious investigation. They sent around a memo telling the White House to keep all records pertaining to Russia, which is a start. Over the weekend, a startling new report appeared in The New York Times:
A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia. Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
This report was characterized by Michael Weiss, senior editor of the Daily Beast, this way:
Jesus. Trump's lawyer, a mobster and a Manafort-minted Ukrainian pol are trying to blackmail Poroshenko. https://t.co/loTQd8cuWH
Both Manafort and Cohen were among those said to be under investigation by the government. The Trump business associate, Felix Sater, is the Russian-born “mobster” (and convicted felon) who has apparently also been a CIA and FBI informant for years. As Josh Marshall laid out in a Talking Points Memo piece, Sater’s story is bizarre and incredible — but no more so than the fact that the president of the United States has been financially connected with him for years.
We don’t have enough information to come to any conclusions about any of this yet. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias pointed out, however, there is a long list of questions that must be addressed. This growing scandal makes more clear than ever how unacceptable it is that we have a president who won’t properly divest himself of his business dealings around the world and refuses to even reveal what they are. It’s untenable. Trump cannot govern under these circumstances.
When police first found a hunting guide and his client bleeding from gunshot wounds on a south Texas ranch in early January, everyone on the scene had their stories straight.
The hunters told police they suspected the shooters were undocumented immigrants they had seen on the ranch earlier in their trip. Their story soon jumped into online right-wing circles, thanks in part to Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and Donald Trump ally Sid Miller.
But it was a lie, according to police and, now, a grand jury. Investigators determined that guides Walker Daughetry and Michael Bryant in fact shot at one another by accident, striking Daughetry and hunter Edwin Roberts in the process. Daughetry and Bryant were indicted for third-degree felonies last Wednesday.
Miller, who previously courted online infamy with a vulgar tweet about Hillary Clinton during last year’s election campaign, deleted his initial Facebook post about the incident after news broke that police were suspicious of the hunters’ story. But his leap to promote the hunters’ story in the immediate wake of the shootings was more labor-intensive than simply sharing a news report.
Miller’s initial post included two pictures of Daugherty, including one showing him in his hospital bed hooked up to medical machinery. “The aliendswere ambushing the RV that Walker and his wife. He was shot while trying to protect his hunters from the attack. Walker is a man of God and is now a hero,” Miller wrote (sic).
“This is why we need the wall and to secure our borders,” he wrote. (You can see the deleted post for yourself here.)[...]
The actual incident, police say, occurred because Walker Daughetry got it into his head that border-crossers “were inside the RV that Edwin and his wife were in, in an attempt to kidnap them. Instead of announcing himself, Walker allegedly tried opening the RV,” the local CBS news channel reports, prompting Roberts to fire a shot at the door.
Miller was reportedly being considered as a finalist to head Trump’s Department of Agriculture, up until the president nominated Georgia Republican Sonny Perdue for the job.
These morons thought that immigrants were trying to kidnap someone in an RV. And such idiotic nonsense is celebrated by Republican politicians. Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause.
It's absolutely Rovian. Undercut an adversary by attacking his strongest point. Openness is both democracy's greatest strength and its Achilles heel. The spread of fake news (with a little help from Donald Trump's friends) is doing that without requiring expensive conventional weapons. Plus, these attacks leave no bomb parts to trace back to their origin. According to an item in this morning's New York Times, it is a problem allies across the Atlantic are also struggling to combat:
In their open-plan office overlooking a major thoroughfare in Brussels, an 11-person team known as East Stratcom, serves as Europe’s front line against this onslaught of fake news.
Created by the European Union to address “Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns,” the team — composed of diplomats, bureaucrats and former journalists — tracks down reports to determine whether they are fake. Then, it debunks the stories for hapless readers. In the 16 months since the team has been on the job, it has discredited 2,500 stories, many with links to Russia.
In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people’s trust in institutions.
It is easier today than when at the height of the Cold War the principle vectors for spreading false stories were limited numbers of print newspapers and television. And it's not just the Russians. Today the East Stratcom team admits it is "outgunned."
“There are concerns shared by many governments that fake news could become weaponized,” said Damian Collins, a British politician in charge of a new parliamentary investigation examining the phenomenon. “The spread of this type of material could eventually undermine our democratic institutions.”
It already has. Not to go Ginsberg on you (the other one), but during last year's presidential election I saw the many of the best minds of a generation virtually destroyed by fake news spread via social media. It was very ugly. The November results were even uglier. Just because there is no shrapnel doesn't mean there's no fallout. Attacking "the very idea that there is a true version of events" is no longer just Kremlin geoplolitical strategy. It is Trump White House policy.
This is such a small thing but it really illustrates how reflexively dishonest these people are. From Steve Benen:
For the third consecutive weekend, Donald Trump has headed south, spending time at his private club in South Florida, where the president appears to enjoy golfing. And while that ordinarily wouldn’t be especially notable – just about every modern president has enjoyed hitting the links – with Trump, nothing is ever easy.
Because Trump complained bitterly for years about President Obama’s golfing, the Republican’s aides are a little touchy about the subject, to the point that they’ve begun shading the truth a bit. Politico reported this afternoon:
After initially saying Trump had only played a few holes, the White House reversed itself Monday after professional golfer Rory McIlroy posted on his website that he had played 18 holes with the president.
“As stated yesterday the President played golf. He intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said Monday.
I’ll gladly concede that this White House’s falsehoods are so numerous, giving deceptive information about the president’s golf game hardly registers. For that matter, the president’s own lies are often so serious, it’s hard to get too worked up about this latest misstep.
But even with those caveats in mind, it’s an odd thing to lie about. Have we really reached the point at which Trump World is so accustomed to pushing bogus and misleading information that even the president’s golfing is fair game?
Part of the problem, of course, is Trump’s preoccupation with Obama’s downtime. The Trump Twitter Archive points to Trump whining about his predecessor’s golfing over and over and over and over and over again. As the Republican put it before his own election, Americans should perceive Obama as lazy and easily distracted because of his preferred form of recreation during his personal downtime.
Indeed, Trump said a year ago he’d be a very different kind of president. At an event in New Hampshire in Feb. 2016, while again complaining about Obama golfing, Trump declared that if he were in office, “I’d want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.”
In Nov. 2016, Trump moved the goal posts, saying he might golf a bit, but only as part of his presidential duties. “Golf is fine,” he said the day before the election. “But always play with leaders of countries and people that can help us!”
Now, as the Huffington Post noted, Trump’s whole perspective has changed.
Since becoming president, Trump has played a lot of golf. Specifically, he has made six trips to the golf course in 30 days. This has caused some people to suggest Trump might be a hypocrite. The White House, which seems sensitive to those allegations, has responded by keeping the press and the public in the dark about Trump’s golfing – sometimes literally, like on Feb. 11, when administration officials made an AP reporter wait in a room with black plastic over the windows while the president played golf.
Trump’s golfing this weekend was similarly secret. Late Sunday afternoon, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a top White House press aide, told reporters Trump had played “a couple of holes” Saturday and Sunday.
It was more than a couple, and it wasn’t at all with world leaders:
Even today, the White House only conceded its original statement was wrong after the facts emerged from those Trump played with.
To be clear, I’m not criticizing Trump for wanting to go golfing. It’s a tough job, and presidents should unwind however they want. It’s not something the public should get too worked up about.
That said, Trump spent years arguing the exact opposite: he was convinced presidential golfing was a very big deal, it was worthy of incessant and whiny complaints; and it was a credible metric for evaluating a president’s diligence and productivity.
There are roughly 1,000 things Trump has done wrong that are more substantively ridiculous than this, but when it comes to combining hypocrisy, dishonesty, and viewing Obama through a fresh lens, this golfing flap nevertheless resonates for a reason.
It sure does. He's entirely full of shit and anyone who couldn't see that before surely should be able to see it now. And yet 40% of the American people still think he's just terrific.
Donald Trump state visit: MPs of all parties call for US President's trip to Britain to be cancelled
A cross-party group of MPs has called on Theresa May to rescind an invitation for Donald Trump to attend a state visit to the UK later this year.
MPs branded the US President “disgusting” and “immoral” as they criticised the Prime Minister for appearing to act in “desperation” by extending the offer to Mr Trump just seven days after he entered the White House.
The debate was triggered after a petition to block Mr Trump’s state visit reached almost two million signatories. A separate petition, defending the state visit, which attracted more than 300,000 signatures, also formed part of the debate.
Calling on the Government to reconsider its offer, Labour's Paul Flynn compared the US President's behaviour to a "petulant child", while fellow Labour MP Daniel Zeichner branded him “a disgusting and immoral man” who “represents the very opposite of the values we hold”.
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said Ms May was left looking “desperate and craven” while Labour’s Dawn Butler said the US had a “pretty nasty virus, and it’s important that virus doesn’t spread”.
Green MP Caroline Lucas attacked Mr Trump’s “effrontery to basic climate science” and the SNP’s Alex Salmond suggested there was “desperation for a trade deal” driving Ms May’s Government.
They clashed with several Conservative MPs who insisted Ms May was right to prioritise Britain’s national interest by fostering good relations with its historic ally.
Tory Nigel Evans said he had seen no evidence from the first four weeks of the Trump administration to suggest that the President was “racist”.
"When we stand up in this country and condemn him for being racist, and I have seen no evidence of that, I have seen no evidence of him being racist, we are actually attacking the American people,” he said.
Much of the debate centred on the timing of the offer, coming just a week after Mr Trump was inaugurated and during a hastily-arranged visit to Washington by Ms May.
Barack Obama only received an invitation after 758 days, while his predecessor, George W Bush, waited 978 days before he was offered a state visit.
Tory MP Crispin Blunt said he was not opposed to a state visit but said it should be delayed until 2020 – the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower.
However, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said Mr Trump's state visit to the UK "should happen and will happen".
He told MPs in the Westminster Hall debate: "This is a special moment for the special relationship. The visit should happen, the visit will happen and when it does I trust the United Kingdom will extend a polite and generous welcome to president Donald Trump."
The debate over the US President’s impending trip took place against the backdrop of protests across the UK against the state visit.
You can't help but be proud to be an American.
Remember this welcome in Europe for our last president?
And we're supposed to believe that the monstrous imbecile Trump will bring about more favorable relationships with the world? Really?
"[Trump] needs to drain the swamp of judges, too. I don't care what he does. I'm behind him 100 percent. Put it this way: If he became a dictator, and they said, 'We want him in forever,' he's my man. He's in. I'll never vote against him ... I love his power ... It's the power that does something to me."
There's a lot of ugliness in this report from the Florida Rally on Saturday, but this is just ... sadly typical.
Traffic was still backed up as people passed by the scrum of protesters and supporters and walked off through the flickering lights. The young Muslim girl in hijab was still there. She was from Orlando and had protested circa Occupy, and she conceded she wasn't prepared for the reception she'd gotten that afternoon, one that darkened as the day faded and made her want to withhold her name, for fear the night would stretch on forever online.
During the speech, she'd stood among the Trump supporters who watched on the big screen and listened through the loudspeaker. After, she'd moved together with the bloc of protesters who converged to greet the Trump supporters leaving the speech. Her head covering was noticeable, even in the crowd.
Later that night, she texted me a video of people walking in parallel to her, yelling, just a few blocks away outside Keiser University. She said they'd followed her from the rally, and their clothes and conversation suggest as much. The people looked familiar, in the same way that a composite does, in that way that all white people yelling racist things have a sneer that verges on archetype.
"Leave," a woman shouted on the video, flipping her off. "You don't like America, get the fuck out ... You are a disgrace to America," the man walking next to her said.
They mocked her camera. "You can jack off to that later, the man drawled. "I've got a big ol' white American redneck dick."
The woman in the hijab told him where to stick it.
"I can put it up your little tight ass," he countered, "and I won't be hittin' that clit, 'cause it already got removed."
All the allegedly "good" Trump voters seem to be fine with this sort of thing. They never say a word about it.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump compared himself to “Abraham Lincoln and many of our greatest presidents.” On his inauguration, Trump chose to be sworn in on the so-called “Lincoln bible” — the same one Honest Abe was sworn in on — because he was “inspired by Lincoln’s words,” Quartz reported.
On Presidents’ Day, though, it’s worth remembering that Trump is the anti-Lincoln (and anti-Washington). Indeed, he is not just the demagogue Founding Fathers like Alexander Hamilton warned us about. He is exactly the demagogue Lincoln himself warned us about.
At Gettysburg in 1863, Abraham Lincoln famously asked whether a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal … can long endure.”
But Lincoln’s concern about the fate of the Republic — and the danger of a demagogue just like Trump — dates much earlier. Way back in 1838, a 28-year-old Lincoln gave a talk to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” Although it’s one of his earliest published speeches, its prescience and timeliness make it a must read today.
Lincoln was trying to imagine what danger or threat could destroy this great nation — and “by what means shall we fortify against it.”
He dismissed the threat of “some transatlantic military giant” and argued that “the approach of danger to be expected … if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad.” He warned that “if destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
Lincoln was worried about what “an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon” might do to this country.
“It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them.”
The most ambitious men during the birth of our nation who “sought celebrity and fame, and distinction … expected to find them in the success of that experiment.” But that time has passed. “The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot.”
Such a man “sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others,” but rather “thirsts and burns for distinction.”
“Distinction will be his paramount object, and [with] nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.”
Lincoln understood the psychology of those who have great ambition to lead, in part because he was one of them. Fortunately for us, Lincoln directed his enormous talent and ambition toward building up the country and preserving the Union.
Trump, sadly, is a man who wants to pull down the unity of the nation — and indeed the unity of the West. In a thinly-veiled attack on Trump, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Friday that the founders of the Munich conference he was attending, “would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism” and even more, that many people “including in my own country, are giving up on the West, that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without.”
Trump is a disuniter, the anti-Lincoln.
During the revolution, Lincoln explained, “the passions of the people” were given focus — “establishing and maintaining civil and religious liberty.” This meant that “the deep-rooted principles of hate, and the powerful motive of revenge, instead of being turned against each other, were directed exclusively against the British nation.”
But, he warned “this state of feeling must fade, is fading, has faded, with the circumstances that produced it.”
And remember, Lincoln was worried about the fading memory of George Washington’s spirit just a few decades after the Revolutionary War. Now we are over two centuries removed from that war.
Lincoln noted of “that struggle, nearly every adult male had been a participator.” He believed that their “indubitable testimonies … in the scars of wounds received, in the midst of the very scenes related … were a fortress of strength” against any challenge to our liberty, such as a a fame-seeking demagogue.
“They were the pillars of the temple of liberty,” he argued “and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason.”
His speech ended with these powerful and prescient words:
Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence. — Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his [Washington’s] name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our Washington.
The last sentence is a reference to the Bible, which Lincoln loved to quote.
The “last trump” is from 1 Corinthians: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible [imperishable], and we shall be changed.”
The last trump is sounded on the Day of Judgment to raise the dead, including George Washington. Lincoln was figuratively expressing hope, before Judgement Day, that Washington would never be disturbed or awoken by a “hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place.”
Tragically, we now have a Trump that is desecrating everything that Washington fought for and that the Founders stood for. Lincoln’s words are as true today as they were nearly two centuries ago.
This is America’s day of judgment. The only way to stop this desecrating demagogue before he goes too far is through “unimpassioned reason” and “a reverence for the constitution and laws.”
Has it really only been a month? We wish we could say that Trump surprised us, but from the minute he took the oath of office one month ago today, he hasn’t: This has been the worst, most unsettling start of a new president in modern memory. This period is supposed to be the honeymoon. Yet there has been so much churn and breaking news it’s hard to keep up. While the drama has provided plenty of fodder for the readers (and writers) of Shadow Government, it has been very damaging to the country. But how much? It’s important to step back and reflect on the top ten things we have learned in recent weeks — and what this means for the future.
1. Process, process, process. Washington wonks love to talk about process, but the sloppy and rushed way in which the administration rolled out its Executive Order on immigration makes the best case for why process really matters. On the merits, we think the EO is a terrible, self-defeating policy to address a phony threat. As Michael Morell pointed out, there is little evidence that refugees or immigrants are terrorist threat to the United States — the real risk is homegrown radicalization, which the discriminatory EO may contribute to. The suspension of legal migration from seven Muslim-majority nations also risks complicating cooperation with counterterrorism partners across the Muslim world (with Iraq being a notable case in point).
But even for those sympathetic to Trump’s actions, the EO could have been met with far more applause among Republicans if the administration had shown basic competence — taking the time to include the interagency, brief Capitol Hill, line up its surrogates, and ensure that organizations like Customs and Border Control had a clear understanding of how the order would be implemented in practice, particularly in regards to Green Card holders. Beyond the EO debacle, other failures of process include the green lighting of the Jan. 8 Yemen raid (in which one U.S. Navy Seal and numerous civilians were killed) over dinner without interagency deliberation, and the absence of any clear process to review responses to early provocations by Russia and North Korea. (The frantic review of documents on the North Korea missile launch by cell phone light at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort doesn’t count).
2. Who is speaking for whom? The administration continues to present two sides to every story — one presented by the White House (often in the form of a presidential tweet) and another presented by cabinet officials like Secretary of Defense Mattis. The mixed messages are making it hard for anyone — Trump supporters, the press, or our allies — to get the ground truth on U.S. policy on Russia, North Korea, the Islamic State, alliances like NATO, and Iran. One month in, what’s striking is that aside from all the noise and bluster, U.S. policy on these issues has not changed much from the Obama approach. The outcome may or may not be good (depending on your perspective), but the confusion and contradiction is dangerous. It befuddles allies and emboldens adversaries.
3. Staffing gaps are a YE-HUGE problem. Trump prides himself on the speed with which his administration has made cabinet picks (which in reality was an average pace). But his team has been setting records for the slowest appointment of second and third tier political appointments — the folks who actually make the machinery of government run. Four weeks in, not a single foreign policy official has been named below the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.
Partly this reflects a reluctance of many qualified candidates to be associated with this administration (such as retired Navy Vice Admiral Bob Harward, who passed on the National Security Adviser job); partly it reflects Trump’s own vindictiveness toward anyone who criticized him during the election (as the torpedoing of Elliot Abrams demonstrates); and partly it reflects the disorganization and total lack of preparation to govern on display during the transition that persists today. And even if they start naming deputy, under, and assistant secretaries soon, this problem will go on for several months given the time it takes to get nominees confirmed.
The NSC staff, meanwhile, is in a full tailspin. Professional NSC staff have been marginalized from the outset, and many of the political appointees who had been hired at the senior director level were Mike Flynn people not well known to the Trump team or the foreign policy establishment. With Flynn gone, their futures are very much in doubt.
4. Kremlingate isn’t going away. Given Flynn’s unceremonious departure over his calls to the Russian Ambassador during the transition and his supposed misrepresentation of those calls to his own colleagues (including Vice President Pence), the story about Trump’s ties to Russia can’t simply be swept under the rug (as both the administration and some Republicans in Congress hope). There are too many unanswered questions: Why would Flynn reassure the Russians that their interference in the U.S. election could be smoothed over? Did Trump know about Flynn’s engagements ahead of time (given that Trump clearly approved of the outcome — Russian restraint in the face of Obama’s sanctions — after the fact)? Was there collusion between those in the Trump campaign and Russian officials involved in passing hacked information to WikiLeaks? These are only some of the questions likely to dog — and potentially consume — the administration in the coming months. The demands to launch a bipartisan investigation — or, potentially, a 9/11-style commission — into what Russia did during the election last fall and the connections between Trump campaign officials and Russia are only getting louder.
5. Competing centers of gravity at the White House only bring dysfunction. At present, the U.S. government and our friends and allies have to navigate three separate centers of power inside the White House: the NSC, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s newly minted Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG), and Jared Kushner. We’ve heard that key ambassadors are being told to engage with Kushner, not the NSC staff. In addition to creating real uncertainty about who is in charge, those three centers of power are raising serious questions about the decision-making process more broadly. And as the vacuum and dysfunction at the NSC persists (see problem 3), the influence of parallel national security structures that involve no interagency input — especially the SIG — will likely grow (worsening problem 1).
6. For all the big talk, major shifts in national security policy have yet to be seen. Trump’s rhetoric, early-morning tweets, erratic personality, and scratchy phone calls have unsettled many of our closest allies and partners, and left many around the world worried about the course Trump plans to set. Yet despite expectations that the Trump team would shred the Iran deal, cut a grand bargain with Russia (starting by lifting sanctions), launch a new plan on defeating the Islamic State, move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and push back on China from an economic and trade perspective, the world has seen little in terms of major changes in policy. Maybe this is because of incompetence, lack of bandwidth, or White House infighting (see 1, 3, and 5) — or maybe it is because like so much else,
Trump just talked his way into these policies without any real desire to follow through. Trump just talked his way into these policies without any real desire to follow through. We hope it is the latter, because actually following through with Trump’s foreign policy agenda would create massive problems for U.S. national security.
7. Mattis is becoming too big to fail. Allies and many across Washington (including some of us) regularly cite Secretary of Defense Mattis as the guy that will save us by injecting sanity into the administration. His stature has only grown in the last month, as he has been sent abroad to sooth allies in Asia and Europe (and soon the Middle East), and by the fact that Trump says he would defer to his favorite Mad Dog on issues like torture and the campaign against the Islamic State. Senator John McCain is putting it all on Mattis as well, almost encouraging him to just pretend the White House doesn’t exist. So Mattis is quickly becoming too big to fail: Just imagine how the press, the Washington community, and the world would react if rumors started speading that Mattis was ready to walk because he couldn’t work with the Trump White House.
But Mattis’s job is not going to get any easier: His comments in Brussels this week about European defense spending — in which he tried to reassure NATO of America’s commitment, while suggesting that commitment may be “moderated” if NATO allies to pay more for their own defense — show how challenging his tightrope walk will be. What will happen when Trump overrules Mattis on an issue that could fundamentally compromise U.S. security or American values? And what will happen if the gap between what Mattis and the president believe — and what Mattis does contrary to White House desires — grows over time?
8. Trump will not change. Last year, all of Trump’s opponents — in the Republican primary, and Obama and Clinton during the general election — agreed on one thing: that he is temperamentally (and many would drop the “temper”) unfit to be leader of the free world.
Trump is erratic, self-absorbed, intellectually un-curious, and vindictive.
Trump is erratic, self-absorbed, intellectually un-curious, and vindictive. And he lacks two of the most important traits a successful president must have: humility and empathy. Even the most talented team managing the most rigorous, well-run process can’t make up for the fact that Trump is Trump; he will not change. Remember all those folks who thought that once in the White House, Trump would become more normal? Sad!
9. Checks and balances sort of working? Despite all the drama, we’ve also seen early signs that, despite all the fears of creeping authoritarianism under Trump, elements of America’s democratic system are pushing back. Civil society has mobilized enormous protests and marches across the country. Courts have blocked the immigration EO (for now). The professional bureaucracy is raising concerns, and bringing them to light (the State Department dissent cable on the EO, signed by more than 1,000 diplomats, is a good example). And the media (not to mention every late night talk show, led by Saturday Night Live) is calling out Trump and speaking truth to power (the Flynn resignation is an early sign of impact). So far, the one institution doing little to rein in Trump’s abuses is Congress. Democrats in the Senate have doggedly grilled Trump nominees, and support is building on both sides of the aisle for a thorough investigation into Kremlingate. But the big question remains: when Trump’s actions compromise our security and shared values, will the GOP leadership in Congress step up?
10. Strap yourselves in, because the real test is still coming. Trump likes to claim that he inherited a mess at home and abroad that he alone can fix. But what’s remarkable is how every part of this month of perpetual crisis has been self-created: The world has not thrown him many curveballs — the closest one was the North Korea missile test that will forever be remembered for christening the Mar-a-Lago SitRoom. Trump has brought all of this on himself. And in a weird way, he’s been lucky: Unlike Obama in 2009, Trump inherited a situation at home and abroad that was relatively good (the United States is not in the midst of an economic meltdown and does not have 170,000 troops in combat).
So this brings us to the scary part: There is nothing we have seen in the last month to suggest Trump or his team will handle a crisis well. In fact, there are ominous signs to expect the opposite. When there is an Orlando-style attack; or a North Korea ICBM test; or a meltdown in Venezuela that sparks a refugee crisis in our hemisphere; or a natural disaster like the 2010 Haiti earthquake; or something we’re not thinking of (one of the scarier scenarios is a terrorist attack on a Trump hotel abroad), we have to expect that Trump and his team will not only act with incompetence, but use such events to justify all sorts of policies at home and abroad that will only further undermine America’s position in the world — and test our constitutional system.
I dread the day the inevitable crisis hits. I just don't know what will happen.
A mental health break and back to the spy business
by Tom Sullivan
A few of my colleagues here are already so dizzy from riding the President 45 merry-go-round that they are taking needed down time. It's easy to find this fight too much to handle. It's going to be a long march. So take a mental health break before you stab someone in the face with the stem of a margarita glass, okay?
Josh Marshall linked yesterday to his September 2015 post about relaxing by hand-building a small sailboat with his son. It brought back a story about the value of working with your hands. First, Josh Marshall:
I cannot think of the last time I had what I would call a hobby. At first my hobby was history but it was also my profession. Then there were years hustling to find some footing in journalism and a name for myself as a writer. I have never been able to work at something I didn't love or was driven to do. So hobbies and avocations and work were all the same thing. Then there was TPM. And for a decade and a half TPM has been both my work, my hobby, my living, in a word, my everything. As work, it is all words and symbols. I love it. In some ways I am it. But there’s nothing physical or tactile or concrete about it. Woodworking was filling some void in me that I hadn’t known existed.
Marshall walked his readers through the whole project. Once done, he had to learn to sail it.
Several of my old roommates are now priests and ministers. One (the Presbyterian) shared a similar story. He received a gift from his wife one summer: a class of his choosing at the John C. Campbell Folk School. The arts school was founded in 1925 at Brasstown, NC deep in the mountains west of here:
From Basketry to Writing, you can choose from over 860 weeklong and weekend classes each year in a broad variety of areas. Your creative learning vacation is enhanced by knowledgeable instructors and small classes.
He told me that for his vacation he'd taken a class in coopering.
"You made barrels?" I asked.
"Well, I made a wooden bucket," he said, smiling.
It wasn't much to look at, he admitted, but it was his creation.
He'd made friends with a woman police officer from Chicago who came each year for blacksmithing. She had her own forge and shop at her home in Illinois.
It was funny, reverend roommate said, many of those he'd met in Brasstown, like her, were in "people" professions. They spent their days interacting with people and their problems rather than concrete objects. Like Josh Marshall, they found doing something tactile relaxing. Working with their hands was therapeutic.
"You know," he said, "I can counsel a parishioner for years and then one night he can go home and put a bullet in his head. And what have I got to show for it?"
"But I made this potholder," I laughed, holding up an imaginary one.
Right after Marshall's tweet about boat building, it was back to business:
A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
The president's personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, delivered the proposal. The backstory is "amazingly byzantine," says Marshall:
Having spent some time studying the matter, the biggest red flags about Donald Trump's ties to Russia and businessmen around Vladimir Putin have always been tied to the Trump SoHo building project in Lower Manhattan, from the first decade of this century. I base my knowledge of this on this rather cursory but still quite good April 2016 article from the Times and my own limited snooping around the Outer Boroughs Russian and Ukrainian emigre press. (I summarized the most salient details of the earlier Times article in Item #3 of this post.) This was a key project, perhaps the key project in the post-bankruptcy era in which Trump appeared heavily reliant on Russian funds to finance his projects. Sater was at the center of that project. The details only came to light after the project got bogged down in a complicated series of lawsuits.
After the lawyers got involved, Trump said he barely knew who Sater was. But there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years. Sater is also a multiple felon and at least a one-time FBI informant. Bayrock Capital, where he worked was located in Trump Tower and he himself worked as a special advisor to Trump. Again, read the Timesarticle to get a flavor of his ties to Trump, the Trump SoHo project and Russia. For my money there's no better place to start to understand the Trump/Russia issue.
A Russian-born, mafia-linked businessman whose ties to both Donald Trump and loyalists of Russian President Vladimir Putin have sparked scrutiny, visited Trump Tower last month for undisclosed business, he told POLITICO.
The businessman, Felix Sater, also donated the maximum allowable contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign, according to the campaign’s most recent FEC filing.
Sater, whose firm co-developed a major Trump project in New York and who was later hired by Trump to drum up business in the former USSR, has said that he closely associated with Trump and his family, while Trump has suggested he wouldn’t even recognize Sater.
The Russian-born businessman had already done a stint in prison for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass, and he was now awaiting sentencing for his role in a Mafia-orchestrated stock fraud scheme — all the while serving as a government informant on the mob and mysterious matters of national security.
Marshall has an update here that suggests Sater has "ties to at least certain elements of US law enforcement and intelligence." He had a hand in Trump's failed Trump Tower Fort Lauderdale and appears to be someone who "works with a bewildering cast of characters in the interests of saving his own neck."
Trump knows all the best people. Top, top people.
David Burbach, Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College, tweeted, "We're in full spy novel territory."