The Trump Presidency (2)

The Trump Presidency (1)

77 Responses to “The Trump Presidency (2)”


  1. Reid

    I Can’t Shake the Feeling that Trump Is Itching to Consolidate Power/Create a Police State

    In the previous thread, I mentioned Trump’s comments about sending Feds to help Chicago crime. (I just read that some Federal representatives are already there.) The violence gives him a cheap excuse to expand his powers.

    Well, now there’s also recent executive orders banning people from some Muslim countries (although not all the ones that terrorists have come from–e.g., Saudi Arabia). And then there’s a
    draft of Executive Order to reconsider torture. (Thankfully, Republicans seem to be opposing this rather vehemently.) both moves will only create the appearance that we’re fighting against all Muslims–against Islam. This is perfect for the narrative and propaganda for groups like ISIS.

    Now, I know what I’m about to say is crazy, but I can’t help but feel this is another way for Trump to expand his power–that is, he wouldn’t mind if an attack occurred, because that would provide a perfect opportunity to expand his powers. Yes, it’s really going off on the deep end.

  2. Reid

    More evidence that something is not right

    The interview and transcript of the interview with David Muir on ABC. Man. I’m not sure where to begin. His hang up over the crowd size and losing the popular vote is disturbing at this point, and this is one of the things that gives the impression that something isn’t right, mentally. The POTUS shouldn’t be fixated on this–there’s so many other bigger issues. It’s crazy. The impression I get is of someone who doesn’t have a good grip on reality–who is delusional, and also very ignorant.

    Besides the fact that something seems wrong psychologically, he also made some rather dark comments. For example, with regard to torture, here’s what he said:

    When they’re shooting — when they’re chopping off the heads of our people and other people, when they’re chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since Medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?

    As far as I’m concerned we have to fight fire with fire. Now, with that being said I’m going with General Mattis. I’m going with my secretary because I think Pompeo’s gonna be phenomenal. I’m gonna go with what they say.

    I left in the last line, where the President basically says he’ll defer to Mattis and Pompeo to be fair. However, look at what he says before that, especially the line, “As far as I’m concerned we have to fight fire with fire.” The implication is that he’s willing to be as savage (chopping of heads?) as ISIS. He’s willing to revert to Medieval approach. (Here, I recall him also praising the Duterte’s extra-judicial, brutal war on drugs.)

    Later in the interview, he’s still fixated on the crowd size of the inauguration:

    Addendum
    Something else occurred to me. In the interview, Trump praises Fox News several times, for the way they cover him. If Fox News enables Trump, they are also guilty of putting our country at risk, when they should know that the president isn’t well, and he’s unfit.

    (If you guys watch/read the interview, let me know if you think I’m wrong and/or going too far.)

  3. Reid

    WaPo: The State Department’s Entire Senior Management Team Just Resigned

    “It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

    Later,

    “Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death,” he said. “The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”

    Not good.

  4. Reid

    Trying to Destroy the Credibility of the Free Press

    New York Times article about Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist. The Trump administration is trying to destroy the credibility of the press. For example,

    “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call.

    “I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

    I believe the description below describes what the Trump administration is trying to do:

    They’re shooting for #3, except let modify it a bit:

    Group A: People that basically trust the media (and will seek the media for information);
    Group B: People that mistrust the media (dismiss media, will believe Trump no matter what);
    Group C: People that are unsure–and just never try to learn anything.

    My feeling is that our democracy depends on how big Groups B and C get. If they both get really big, we will be close to losing our democracy in my view. It almost doesn’t matter what Trump does at that point. And this is pretty much the only way Trump can survive his presidency.

    Imagine if the intelligence community produces a report that says Trump and Russia were working together to defeat Clinton–and they have proof. Trump’s presidency would be doomed…unless, their administration can successfully discredit the IC and the press. If they can do this–if enough people begin to have doubts about the credibility of the IC and the press–the Trump administration can survive.

    The scary thing is that there is already a lot of people who either hate the press or are in a state of confusion, not knowing who to really believe.

    This is what makes Bannon’s comments so alarming and objectionable. All Americans–Republicans, Democrats, the press and citizens should really push back on this.

    My hope is that people can take enough time to just listen to Trump for themselves–and that that alone will help them see that he is the one that is untrustworthy and not credible.

    Something Steve Bannon said in the past:

    Addendum:

    Yep

    Addenum 2

    What Jake Tapper and Evan McMullin are suggesting about what the POTUS is trying to do–i.e., be the only source of information and truth–is crazy. But I hope people take time to investigate this matter for themselves; for I think we can all agree that if it’s true, then Americans–Republicans and Democrats–have to really oppose Trump. Starting now.

  5. Reid
  6. Reid

    We are now living in an incredible movie–of the spy-political variety

    Actually, it’s more like a TV series–and it’s going to make for a really good one one day.

  7. Mitchell

    What’s FSB?

  8. Reid

    FSB is the what the KGB has changed into. I believe the English translation is the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. (I believe the “FSB” refers to Russian words.)

    Edit: Here’s a discussion from To the Point program with Warren Olney with some people with national security backgrounds, discussing President Trump’s relationship with the IC.

    One of the guests, Daniel Benjamin (who worked in the State Department and White House of previous administrations) said that spys who are working for us in Russia may now be worried about their safety, as well as questioning whether their work is even worth it. (The discussion occurred yesterday.)

  9. Reid

    I really like and agree with this

    I don’t know who Radley is, but I agree–he’s got the right spirit and right idea in my mind.

  10. Reid

    GOP Discussing Trump’s “Emotional Stability, Maturity”

    Hope they do something before it’s too late.

    Edit: (2/9/2017)

    Rick Wilson, conservative:

  11. Reid

    Gross Negligence With Regard to National Security

    If this Lawfare post about President Trump’s use of a highly insecure phone is accurate, I don’t know how this doesn’t constitute gross negligence of national security. Indeed, I can’t believe the article is accurate–there’s no way he would be allowed to use the phone.

    Here’s some quotes:

    Once compromised, the phone becomes a bug—even more catastrophic than Great Seal—able to record everything around it and transmit the information once it reattaches to the network.

    and

    Based on the available information, the working assumption should be that Trump’s phone is compromised by at least one—probably multiple—hostile foreign intelligence services and is actively being exploited. This would be exponentially more dangerous if he were carrying this phone into especially secure places. Security experts were rightly aghast to learn that Secretary Clinton kept her BlackBerry in her secure office in the State Department. This is far worse.

    This is disturbing in light of recent news that Russians arrested people that were supposedly giving information to the U.S.

  12. Mitchell

    I don’t know if this is the right place for this comment, but something worth keeping in mind is that the press and the establishment are supposed to be adversaries. We’re used to establishments that (generally) cooperate with the press because they are concerned about how they appear in the press, and (giving them the benefit of the doubt) because they understand and believe in the powerful, important role the press plays.

    I bring this up because this basic piece of the picture — the relationship between the establishment and the press — isn’t the troubling thing. In fact, I think it could be super interesting to see a face-off between the press and the presidency, to test how resolved the press is in its mission. So far, I’ve appreciated the NYT and the Washington Post in some of their aggressive pushbacks (like the NYT actually using the word “lies” in a headline about the White House inauguration attendance claims). The press didn’t push back hard enough on going into Iraq, and Capitol Hill basically walked us right into war.

    The White House’s repeated and obvious attempts to discredit the press are troubling, for sure, and if the press cannot convince us that what it prints in its pages (or broadcasts on its air) is credible, relevant, and important, we’re probably going down and we probably deserve it. Maybe it’s about time we had a knock-down, drag-out fight between the government and the press. We should have had one before Iraq, or at many other times between then and now.

    I’m still not thawed out, so if anyone responds to this, I might not see it for some time. But I thought it was important to keep in mind that the press and the president were never meant to be friends.

  13. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I really think it’s important to distinguish an appropriate adversarial relationship, which is consistent with the existing American tradition and norms, from an attempt by the WH to completely destroy the public’s trust in the press’s ability to report accurately–in which Evan McMullin, in his interview with Jake Tapper, suggests, Trump is attempting to be the sole source of truth. This is not normal–it’s authoritarian and un-American. The WH and the press should not be engaged a knock-down, drag-out fight over this issue.

    What scares me is that Trump really could win this war–and I disagree that it would be our (the public’s) fault.

  14. Reid

    Is Trump’s Immigration Ban Making Us Safer or Is it Making Us Less Safe?

    I think these are key questions to ask.

    Here are some responses:

    Max Boot, a conservative, believes it does not.

    (If you guys find any links that provides a case for the ban, let me know.)

    Immigration Ban and Trump’s Conflict of Interests

    On a related note, Trump’s executive order bans immigration from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. According to this Bloomberg article, the ban excludes countries that Trump has business ties to (Egypt, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia–most of the 9-11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia as well).

    Coincidence? I’m not sure. What I’d like to know is, if and how a ban would hurt his businesses. Also, are there other plausible reasons for not banning immigration from those countries? For example, Saudi Arabia is an ally. Still, if you can show how banning immigration would hurt Trump’s businesses, that alone would lead to questions of Trump’s motivation. If banning immigration does keep us safe, by not banning immigration from those four countries, is Trump making us less safe because he’s protecting his businesses?

    Edit: Anne Applebaum thread on Seven Country Ban:

    Some oddities about this 7-country ban: it leaves out many Muslim countries, including some of the largest (Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi). It doesn’t include some of the countries which have been worst source of terrorism and terrorists (Saudi again). It seems to exclude countries where Trump owns hotels or has investments, but I don’t know enough details.

    Perhaps the point is really and truly just to create chaos, “annoy liberals” and excite the Breitbart base, which is indeed very excited. This doesn’t feel like a foreign policy or strategy – certainly nothing to do with counter-terrorism. Feels like domestic politics. Hate to keep bringing this up, but this is a Putin tactic: When he wants to create an impact at home, he does something aggressive abroad. Impact on people’s lives, US reputation, future ability to work with allies – doesn’t matter to leader who cares only about fanbase.

    Also, this was designed to radicalize people: US didn’t have open borders before, and no one was saying it should…. Now, people angry about chaotic ban will demand open borders, will be dismissed as irresponsible. partisan gap grows. center vanishes.

    Edit2:

    Edit 3

    I’m worried about this:

    Edit4:

    Mother Jones speculates that the EO–specifically, the last-minute provision to prevent people with green cards from entering the country–was intentionally created to create an uproar and reaction from the press and Trump opposition:

    In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.

    Liberals think the same thing. All the protests, the court judgments, the press coverage: this is something that will make middle America understand just what Trump is really all about. And once they figure it out, they’ll turn on him.

    In other words, both sides think that maximum exposure is good for them. Liberals think middle America will be appalled at Trump’s callousness. Bannon thinks middle America will be appalled that lefties and the elite media are taking the side of terrorists. After a week of skirmishes, this is finally a hill that both sides are willing to die for. Who’s going to win?

    This sounds right to me, and it makes me nervous because it’s completely unclear to me who will win this.

    But let’s pause here for a moment. If this analysis is correct think about what Bannon is trying to do: he’s intentionally trying to polarize the country–the opposite of leadership. Like Putin, he’s trying to manipulate and divide the country–because (in my view) this is the only way they can remain in power. This would mean that the EO has little to do with protecting the country–indeed, I’m wondering if Bannon wants to rile up terrorists. It’s a crazy, crazy notion to even contemplate, but there are reasons for this–a) if a terrorist attack occurs soon, this will make those opposing the EO look bad in eyes of Americans–i.e., “Those whimpy Liberals care more about immigrants and their liberal values and not enough about protecting America!” b) a terrorist attack would provide the opportunity for Trump to remove Constitutional checks and consolidate power–and he might get a lot of support to do this from the public.

    Yes, this speculation is crazy, but where’s the evidence that the Trump administration is genuinely trying to unify and lead the nation? Where’s the Trump speech or spokespeople explaining these controversial moves to the public, making an attempt to address concerns and sooth outrage? That’s what an administration interested in leading the country would do. Mike Pence, Reince Preibus–or even Steve Bannon–or not so incompetent that they don’t realize this.

    And, as the article points, out there’s this:

    Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.

    The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US.

    (emphasis in the original article)

    Why overrule the DHS on this point?

    Edit5

    Another thing to consider: what is being hidden by the this news event? Trump spoke to Putin today. There were also changes to who would attend the National Security Council meetings (Joint Chief of Staff is out; Dept. of Energy, which handles nuclear weapons–are out; Steve Bannon, in.) I don’t fully understand the significance of these moves, but I’ve seen react strongly and negatively to this. Something else?

    Edit6: (1/30/2017)

    This is one of the best analyses of the immigration EO–which looks at the facts, then suggests some motives, and Steve Bannon’s role behind it.

  15. Reid

    Seems Like Sound Advice About How to Think About the Trump’s Executive Orders and What to do About Them

    From

    If the President freaks you out with Executive Order, here are some questions to ask.

    1. is this EO actually enforceable?
    2. is it likely to face a legal challenge?
    3. Does it require Congress to give it money?
    4. Does it require positive or negative action?(Positive: go do something; Negative: don’t enforce) EX: Obama DACA EO was negative.
    5. Can Congress actually overturn it?

    All of these matter. Most EOs aren’t as powerful as you think; many get challenges. EOs can cause real harm; this is likely one that will cause chaos and a mess. But ZOMG POLICE STATE doesn’t help you to oppose it. So, if you oppose something this or any President has done, here’s your checklist:

    1. your member of Congress.
    2. is there an organization that exists as an advocacy group for this issue? (Spoiler: yes, always). Contact them. Volunteer.
    3. tailor your objections SPECIFICALLY to things that are achievable and hit specific weaknesses of the policy you don’t like.

    It’s not much to say “OMG AN EO LIMITING REFUGEES!” Obama did one of those, too. Speak to the part you want pushed back. You’d be surprised how much citizens, when speaking CALMLY, can get action on badly written EOs. Just ask Obama about GTMO.

    Also, remember that EOs only last until rescinded by the original or a successive POTUS – or legislated around by Congress. You have *so many options* for opposing policies you don’t like, as long as you don’t – freak out – alienate people who otherwise agree. Educate yourselves. Have at least one day of patience before you flip. Think through the many options. This is Democracy 101.

    Now, what do you do if you object to Trump’s authoritarian behavior?

  16. Reid

    More Crazy Spy Stuff

    Former KGB General Found Dead in the Back of His Car

    One speculation is that he was the source for dossier put together by MI6 agent.

  17. Reid

    President Trump is Playing us by Polarizing and Radicalizing the Nation with his Seven Country Ban

    I agree with what Anne Applebaum said in her threaded tweet.

    1. The ban doesn’t seem to keep us safer–and probably makes us less safe as it helps public relations and narrative of terrorist groups.

    2. It energizes Trump supporters, while enraging the Left. Put those two things together, and we have significant polarization–inflaming Culture Wars. This is going to help Trump stay in power–this isn’t about keeping us safer.

    If I’m right, the GOP, Congress has to stop this before things get out of hand.

    Those who oppose Trump really have to be careful–not to exacerbate the polarization.

    Also: the really crucial people in all the citizens who are neutral, who aren’t really interested in politics. Will they be confused and just sit out? Will they side with Trump? If either happens, our country is in big trouble. It’s important that these individuals have a clear idea of what’s going on–not siding with Trump or remaining confused and give up.

    (On a side note: if you’re not a news junkie following all of this on a regular basis, I can totally understand why some would feel confusion and uncertainty about what to believe. I think a significant part of this stems from the constant discrediting of the media, specifically the liberal bias accusations. I think these create uncertainty for those who aren’t really political. This is a really big problem–leading to the non-news junkies to be in the dark and uncertain. I wish there were a way to change that.)

    Edit: Seeing some people refer to the EO banning people from seven countries listed as “Muslimban.” I think this is a bit of a mistake. This isn’t entirely accurate–and the Trump administration can say so, discrediting the people who say this (especially in the eyes of Americans sitting on the sidelines). The term isn’t totally inaccurate, but the point is that using it provides a way for the Trump administration to discredit those opposing him.

    Also, I think opponents of Trump should focus on whether the ban actually makes us safe or not. Yes, the fact that the ban goes against our values is important, but I don’t think that will be compelling to Trump supporters. On the other hand, whether the ban actually keeps us safe or not will be something that resonates with Trump supporters. If it becomes clear that the policy actually doesn’t make us safer–and it actually makes us less safe–then that could erode support for Trump. We should be hearing from Republicans and terrorist experts about this question. This is where more of the emphasis should be in my view.

    Edit2:

    From WaPo:

    Both former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had defined the enemy in significantly narrower terms while in office, eager to avoid any moves that might make it appear as if the United States was at war with Islam.

    Again, why won’t President Trump explain this EO–clarifying that we’re not at war with Islam? Let’s see if he does this in the next few days. Later,

    The executive order on immigration and refugees was produced at a “frenetic pace” that included none of the interagency reviews that characterized similar orders in the Bush and Obama administrations, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said.

    “The process was remarkable,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Nobody in the counterterrorism community pushed for this. None of us ever asked for it.”

    (emphasis added)

  18. Reid

    Cool story

    Relevant to the executive order banning people from seven countries. (Don, I think you would think this is cool.)

  19. Reid

    Two Takes on the Executive Order Banning People From Seven Listed Countries

    First, a National Review article by David French. His objective is to “separate fact from hysteria,” which gives you an idea of where he’s coming from.

    Second, from the Lawfare blog, Benjamin Witte’s post, which is more negative.

    I haven’t been able to read both, but I’ll try to do so at a later time.

    Edit (1/31/2017)

    It’s understandable why many view the EO as a “Muslim ban:”

  20. Reid

    Steve Bannon, Trump Administration Chief Strategist

    Steve Bannon Trump’s Top Guy Told Me He Was a Leninist from The Daily Beast.

    Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

    Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

    “Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

    I’m not sure what a Leninist is, to be honest. But based on the article, it sounds like he wants to tear down the entire establishment–Republicans and Republican publications as well. He sounds like an anarchist or nihilist.

    My question is, what is he trying to achieve with this? Why does he want to tear things down? And what does he hope to achieve?

    Edit

    A National Review profile of Steve Bannon.

    One takeaway: Bannon may not be a racist/anti-semite, but

    the problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream.

    From what I understand he’s allowed Brietbart to be a platform for the alt-right–i.e., white nationalists. Two hypotheses on why he’s done this (assuming he’s not a white nationalist, himself):

    1. He’s trying to sow division in the nation–to tear down the established order–as way to consolidate and retain power. That is, the’s trying at usher in an autocracy;

    2. He’s trying to tear down the established order–out of some irrational impulse, like resentment or hatred for the established order–not really having a clear idea of what will replace it. This is similar to how some voters voted for Trump because they were so fed up with the dysfunction in Washington. The frustration spawned a desire to blow everything up. The problem is, these individuals don’t seem to know what will happen after the established order is destroyed.

    Maybe both are partially true, I’m not sure. The first hypothesis makes the most sense to me.

    Edit: (2/1/2017)

    Bannon Explained His Worldview Well Before It Became Official U.S. Policy (Just skimmed it.)

  21. Reid

    More Evidence That Trump Administration Doesn’t Want to Lead, Unify, and Govern; Or More Evidence That Trump White House is an Authoritarian Regime

    Response to Fallows: What if Trump WH is intentionally doing this to polarize and/or distract the nation. What else could it be? How hard is mentioning the Jews when making an announcement about the Holocaust anniversary International Holocaust Remembrance Day? And even if–a very big if–the WH somehow forgot or had a good reason–why couldn’t they later correct this? It makes no sense–they’re not this incompetent and stupid, especially in the context of this:

    Even if the Trump administration is considering this as a way to serve their supporters’ interests, this is incredibly divisive. It’s definitely not unifying.

    All these actions–including the EO on immigration–just feels like really hard trolling of America–attempts to divide us and even incite violence; and maybe even attempts to distract us from things that could really threaten Trump’s presidency–like links to Russia….or…a

    Update (1/31/2017) President Trump hasn’t signed an EO rescinding LGBT rights that were conferred by President Obama, at least for now.

  22. Reid

    Major Changes to National Security Council (NSC)

    The White House Charted Dangerous Course with NSC Machinations is an article by John Schindler, who worked previously for the NSA. I’m pretty sure he’s politically conservative–and at the very least, he’s no fan of Obama (as will be evident in the article).

    The article gives a good overview of the NSC and the changes that Trump seems to be trying to make and why that’s so serious–basically, Trump removing the head of the military and intelligence community from the council. Schindler uses the word “coup.”

    This move happened over the weekend.

    More on this move from The Cipher Brief, which I’ve never heard of, but they offer quotes from experts. For example,

    Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Sunday it was a “big mistake” to only have the the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the DNI attend when, as the memo states, “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”

    “My biggest concern is there are actually, under the law, only two statutory advisers to the National Security Council and that’s the Director of Central Intelligence, or the DNI, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I think pushing them out of the National Security Council meetings, except when their specific issues are at stake, is a big mistake,” Gates said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think that they both bring a perspective and judgment and experience to bear that every president, whether they like it or not, finds useful.”

  23. Reid

    Whatever You Think About Immigration EO–the Roll Out Seems Incredibly Incompetent

    From AP NewsAt least three top national security officials — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department — have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it. Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, according to U.S. officials.

    More later,…

    Edit From this article from the CipherBrief:

    Former Acting Director of the CIA John McLaughlin called the executive order an “amateur move that shows this administration does not know and must soon learn a critical lesson — that its actions have secondary and tertiary consequences, most unintended, that it needs to understand before it pulls the trigger.”

    The only way to do that, he wrote in an email to The Cipher Brief, is “by what they didn’t do: bringing all the expertise to the table — Homeland Security, State, Defense, intelligence — and considering all angles. That’s what makes government hard compared to campaigning.”

    “Otherwise those agencies are left to clean up the mess, which is not what smart people sign on to do. Keep it up and they will bail,” McLaughlin noted.

    As to the effects of the EO, McLaughlin said it is “hard to tell,” but there is no question “that terrorists can pump it into their propaganda machines. Look for it in the next ISIL and al Qaeda recruitment videos.”

    Later,

    James Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, noted that the order is “having a terrible effect in Iraq as it has been put in same category as five failed states and Iran.”

    “Iraq is crucial to defeat ISIS and contain Iran. Had the thing been ‘sold’ better with input from bureaucracy and without the surprise ‘gotcha’ drama at airports, the White House could have pleased its base without the uproar,” Jeffrey wrote in an email. “Muslim populations of the Middle East generally have a low opinion of the U.S. so this won’t do much additional damage. Other than Iraq, all our friends from Pakistan to Morocco [were] spared so they will be fine. The tradecraft of this is the most troubling.”

    Edit2 (1/31/2017)

    This WaPo article doesn’t create an impression of competence in the White House. For example, look at the following quote regarding communication between the WH and Congressional GOP-ers.

    On Capitol Hill, many Republicans close to leadership were frustrated that they received little to no guidance, or advance notice, about Trump’s immigration and refu­gee directive. One top House office said it was able to glean the president’s plan only through unofficial back channels to the Department of Homeland Security.

    Asked if he was consulted in drafting the order, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) replied simply, “I wasn’t” — an echo of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who told reporters Monday that the White House had not briefed him before signing the order.

    The first substantive guidance to congressional Republicans came late Saturday — well after protesters had descended on the nation’s airports — in a two-page memo that offered some details on the policy but, to the chagrin of several Capitol Hill aides, very little political guidance.

  24. Reid

    Jeff Sessions

    WaPo: Jeff Sessions Godfather to Trump’s Hardline Actions.

    This isn’t reassuring. I’d favor opposing Sessions as AG.

  25. Reid

    Good op-ed by Jennifer Rubin, conservative editorialist at WaPo.

    I posted this one before, but it’s also worth reading, regarding the EOs.

  26. Reid

    Russia Attacks in Ukraine

    Edit From Commentary magazine (conservative):

    Rothman goes on to mention that Russia could be testing NATO defenses right now.

  27. Reid

    Are Businesses Realizing the Consequences for Undermining the Rule of Law in the U.S.?

  28. Reid

    Trump Administration’s Credibility Almost at Zero for Me

    There are many examples–the most egregious evidence probably involves the Inauguration crowd size. But here’s another example:

    I don’t care for this sort of thing, because the people doing this will go for laughs, compromising serious treatment of a subject. But I do think this treatment is deserved.

  29. Reid

    Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee: Neil Gorsuch

    Here’s a WaPo write-up (which I haven’t read, yet).

    Let me say this: if he’s qualified, and assuming he wouldn’t politicize the SCOTUS, his views would have to be really outrageous for me to support stonewalling the process. My preference is that the Democrats allow him to be confirmed, if he meets the conditions I described. Elections have consequences, and the Democrats should respect that, as much as they don’t like the consequences.

    What galls me is that McConnell’s stonewalling tactics of Merrick Garland paid off…

    …grrr…but my feeling is that that sort of thing will come back to haunt him and the GOP. I wish the Democrats would respect our democratic system. If Trump messes up our government as bad as I think he will, this would position the Democrats well–at least with centrist like me.

    Senator Mitch McConnell, on my list of all-time repugnant Americans:

  30. Reid

    Democrats and Republicans Balk at White House Making Congressional Staffers Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements When Helping to Craft Immigration EO

    Coordination between the executive branch and Congress is not unusual. White Houses will traditionally consult closely with allies in the House and Senate and their staffs when drafting legislation, policy positions and new regulations. For congressional aides, that can mean long days of being unofficially detailed to the executive branch while they craft language with their counterparts in federal agencies or the White House.
    But, current and former aides said, no matter how involved staff are, their primary role is to “stand in the shoes” of their elected bosses — and to report back to them, even if only on the general contours of discussions. “This is not the same as legislative branch employees collaborating or information-sharing. […] It’s the non-disclosure agreement with a separate branch of government that is chilling,” a Senate Democratic aide said.
    “I view it as not only sandbagging the institution and people you work for, but as a pretty straightforward breach of separation of powers,” said Patrick Eddington, a former Republican House staffer who worked on the Hill for a decade before leaving his gig as a top national security aide in 2014.

    I’m not sure what to make of it, but this doesn’t sound good.

  31. Reid

    Trump’s Call to Australian Prime Minister

    WaPo article on Trump’s call to the Australian Prime Minister and also some information on Trump’s call to the Mexican President.

    Don and Mitchell, if you’re willing to read this, I’m interested in hearing your reaction/impressions.

    I’ll post quotes that stood out for me, and comment on them, later.

    Edit:

    (I figured you guys probably won’t read the article.)

    Here’s what Trump tweeted recently:

    Here are relevant excerpts from the article:

    The issue centers on a population of roughly 2,500 people who sought asylum in Australia but were diverted to facilities off that country’s coast at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Deplorable conditions at those sites prompted intervention from the United Nations and a pledge from the United States to accept about half of those refugees, provided they passed U.S. security screening.

    Many of the refugees came from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, countries now listed in Trump’s order temporarily barring their citizens entry to the United States. A special provision in the Trump order allows for exceptions to honor “a preexisting international agreement,” a line that was inserted to cover the Australia deal.

    But U.S. officials said that Trump continued to fume about the arrangement even after signing the order in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

    “I don’t want these people,” Trump said. He repeatedly misstated the number of refugees called for in the agreement as 2,000 rather than 1,250, and told Turnbull that it was “my intention” to honor the agreement, a phrase designed to leave the U.S. president wiggle room to back out of the deal in the future, according to a senior U.S. official.

    (emphasis added)

    “Thousands”=1,250
    “illegal immigrants”= refugees
    “agreed to take” = they have to pass U.S. screening–i.e., if they don’t pass U.S. screening the U.S. doesn’t “have to take” them in.
    “Why? I will study this dumb deal!” = There was a special provisions put in the EO to specifically accommodate this agreement. If he was fuming after he signed the EO, why’d he sign it? Shouldn’t he have studied the deal before hand? How can he get mad at the Australian Prime Minister, given everything we just learned?

    How can Americans trust what Trump tweets/says? How can we rely on him?

    Apparently, the White House responded with an explanation for the abrupt ending of the phone call. (I understand the Australian PM denied that Trump hung up.)

    Could the WH spokesperson really have said that? If so, that seems really amateurish, no? I’m not a professional politician, but that seems like an awful answer, and I guess it’s worse if it’s actually true! (Let’s hope we don’t have a crisis at the end of a hard day!)

    There’s more to say–I’m not really giving my overall reaction to the article–but I’ll leave it there for now.

  32. Reid

    One of Many Reasons We Need an Independent Commission to Investigate Russian Meddling in Our Elections

  33. Reid

    Failed Raid By Seals in Yemen

    Edit (2/10/2017)

    From NPR: Fact Check: Trump’s Yemen Raid, Winning Mission or Failure; It’s Not So Simple

    The best you could say is that the retrieved intelligence that may prove valuable. However, the impression is that the mission’s main objective was to kill the 3rd most dangerous terrorist, which they failed to do. In the process, innocent lives were lost, including an 8-year old American girl (which is hardly getting any coverage at all).

    Also, the idea that Trump made the decision at dinner, rather than in the Situation Room, with all the key advisers, isn’t a good look.

  34. Reid

    Authoritarian watch

    Trump’s Security’s Use of Force Questioned. I believe he’s still retained them–not a good thing.

  35. Reid

    Flynn Calls Out Iran

    Foreign Policy:

    National Security Advisor Michael Flynn just called out Iran in the White House briefing room. He said that the Barack Obama administration had failed to respond adequately to Iranian actions in the Middle East.

    “Iran is now feeling emboldened,” he said. He said the U.S. government is now putting the Iranian government “on notice.” This is pretty much saying: Try it again, and we will pop you.

  36. Reid

    “So far, Trump WH on Russia:”

    Timeline by Molly McKew.

    — rejects Syria war plan out of hand b/c no plan to coord w/ Russia
    — turns off recording of call w/ Putin
    — all statements & developments on bilateral activities announced by Russia first
    — US sanctions ‘adjustment’ on FSB announced by FSB
    — Russia is shelling eastern Ukraine indiscriminately, killing civilians; WH issues statement that does not mention Russia at all
    — several confirmations that central WH adviser’s role is to coordinate activities w/ pro-Putinist parties in Europe
    EO for new plan on ISIS calls for ‘identification of new partners’ — which apparently has to include Russia
    NSC goes apesh*t on Iran, which is Rus (admittedly disposable but essential) ally in ME; Iranian missile tech made better by Russia
    US military again warns of danger of Rus by announcing NORAD’s realignment to deal w/ Rus incursions in our airspace; no WH comment
    — guys who believe Russia is a threat removed from NSC principals group
    — no response to calls for lethal arms for Ukraine defense
    – no comment on Rus cyberattacks/info ops agst Czechia,France

    /end (more but need whiskey)
    Blind pursuit of Russia deal is agst US interests

  37. Reid

    Trump Administration Gives New Meaning to White House?

    WaPo: Trump Administration is showing White Nationalists It Won’t Fight Them at All

    Edit (2/3/2017)

  38. Reid

    “We’re living in a spy thriller” only we don’t know the outcome yet

    This is an epic summary of the Russian interference in the U.S. elections, and it feels like a spy thriller/police procedural. It starts with the the wikileaks release of the hacked emails, and then describes, point by point, the Christopher Steele dossier, which is probably most known for the sordid “golden showers” anecdote. It’s unfortunate (but predictable) that the dossier is known for that. I say this because all the other information is much more important and alarming.

    I should say right now that no one knows how accurate the dossier is. What seems almost certain, however, is that Steele is a competent and reliable (former) intelligence officer. It’s also incredibly unlikely that he fabricated the material. It’s possible, even likely, that there are errors.

    Having said that, when I read the dossier, I found a lot of it fairly compelling because it seemed to be consistent with events that transpired during the campaign. The writer, Robert Manne, at the end of the piece, tries to tie together actual events with the dossier.

    Who knows what’s true or not true, but I’m confident that there’s enough to warrant a serious investigation. To not thoroughly investigate the matter would be utterly irresponsible.

    By the way, one recent event ties into one the claims made in the dossier:

    A mystery person purchased 19.5% of Rosneft, the Russian oil company, and the GOP wants to roll back a provision in Dodd-Frank that requires oil companies to disclose payments made to foreign companies. Maybe this is a coincidence (I believe Rex Tillerson, the new Sec. of State, lobbied for this when he was the Exxon CEO.) But the recent mystery purchase of the 19% of Rosneft? Oh, here’s the link to the dossier:

    A few days later, in the third week of October (2016/134), Steele sent a more detailed report of Carter Page’s secret meeting with Sechin, the head of Rosneft, that had been provided by one of Sechin’s close associates. The meeting took place on 7 or 8 July. It was claimed that Sechin offered a 19% stake in Rosneft to Page and to Trump’s people in return for the end of sanctions. According to this memo, “Page expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US President, then sanctions would be lifted.”

    Trump has also been suggesting to remove sanctions. (Sanctions were eased recently as well, but some say this was normal; others see this more suspiciously. I’m not sure what to think about this.)

  39. Reid

    This is so wrong

    As much as I think Trump is a danger, I find the above, repugnant.

  40. Reid

    Conflict of Interest Alert: the Trust that Trump Set Up Seems like a Scam

    “I don’t see how this in the slightest bit avoids a conflict of interest,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a trust and estates lawyer from Virginia who examined the documents at the request of The New York Times. “First it is revocable at any time, and it is his son and his chief financial officer who are running it.”

    It is not uncommon for people to place assets in a trust with themselves as beneficiaries for estate-planning purposes. But Mr. Trump’s situation is unprecedented because it involves a wealthy president acting to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.

  41. mitchell

    I didn’t read that article in particular, but a few others about the same thing. I am not in the mood to discuss it.

  42. Reid

    OK, I figured you wouldn’t, but I didn’t want to exclude you, just in case I was wrong.

    Questioning the Legitimacy of the Judge, and by Extension the Judicial Branch


    “So-called.” “Ridiculous” is probably not a good word choice.

    Here’s a more appropriate and Presidential response: “We believe the EO falls within the law. We disagree strongly with this decision. However, we will respect it.”

    Edit: “Budding authoritarianism”

    Edit

    I agree. Trump’s setting up the narrative to blame the courts if something happens later on–and he’ll probably use this to attempt to expand his powers.

    Right now, we should undermining that narrative by talking about how Trump’s policy is making us less safe. I haven’t come across any national security expert who has said this is making us less safe…wait, no, I think General Jack Keane actually supported the move, although he didn’t really say if it made us safer; he didn’t really talk about trade-offs such as alienating allies, helping ISIS recruit and strengthen their narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam.

    (By the way, the sense I’m getting is that Bannon, if not Trump, actually wants a war.)

    Edit2: “What is our country coming to…?

    Trump sounds shocked and appalled that there are checks on his power–which is appalling. He swore to defend the Constitution, but it sound like he doesn’t believe in it, and it’s another bit growing list of evidence that he’s going to try and tear it down.

    Edit3: (2/5/2017)

    No subtlety. I’m going to blame the courts if another terrorist attack occurs, and I’m going to consolidate power.

    Edit (2/7/2017)

    I didn’t read the article yet, but the tweet sounds correct.

  43. Reid

    POTUS Not Doing Well in Terms of How Other Countries Perceive Us

  44. Reid

    This is Not How Presidents Talk About Autocrats Who Are “Killers

    As the leader of our country, who thinks it’s OK that he talks this way about a leader who is a “killer?” It just sounds like he’s excusing Putin’s murders.

    Edit

    Michael McFaul point out that this was a false equivalence–and a rather disgusting one in my view. Where are the GOP leaders? If they don’t repudiate this, then they’re tacitly agreeing to it. Can you imagine if Obama or HRC said the same thing? GOP would be going bonkers.

    Edit2

    really conservative guy who worked at the NSA:

    Edit3

    I don’t know who this is guy is, but I totally agree with what he says:

    Edit4: Reminder–this wasn’t the first time

    Edit5

    Edit (2/6/2017)

  45. Reid

    I think we should seriously consider if Trump is delusional

    Facts–data–don’t matter because Trump is certain that millions voted illegally.

    Edit: At the same time, I do think Trump (Bannon) is “trying to attack credibility itself”

    From the Times: Why No One Cares the President is Lying, an op-ed by Charlie Sykes.

    But discrediting independent sources of information also has two major advantages for Mr. Trump: It helps insulate him from criticism and it allows him to create his own narratives, metrics and “alternative facts.”

    All administrations lie, but what we are seeing here is an attack on credibility itself.

    The Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov drew upon long familiarity with that process when he tweeted: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

    Mr. Kasparov grasps that the real threat is not merely that a large number of Americans have become accustomed to rejecting factual information, or even that they have become habituated to believing hoaxes. The real danger is that, inundated with “alternative facts,” many voters will simply shrug, asking, “What is truth?” — and not wait for an answer.

    In that world, the leader becomes the only reliable source of truth; a familiar phenomenon in an authoritarian state, but a radical departure from the norms of a democratic society. The battle over truth is now central to our politics.

  46. Reid

  47. Reid

  48. Reid

    I didn’t read the op-ed, but if it’s true, this doesn’t sound good. We’re looking at the breaking up of the American-European alliance. I guess the GOP leadership doesn’t take this threat seriously. Or, they have sold their souls. (There’s a chance that McConnell and Ryan are doing something behind the scenes we don’t know about to stop this, but I’m not holding my breath.)

  49. Reid

    How Will This White House Handle a Crisis When It Occurs?

    The reports about this administration–the way they’re running the White House–has sounded real bad. The feeling I got from hearing these reports: what happens if we do get attacked by terrorists, or there’s a incident with China, North Korea, Iran–say, one of these nations accidentally fire upon one of our ships? I don’t even get the sense that people Pence has much control over what’s happening. I gotta think that our enemies are thinking of ways to exploit this.

    And here’s the thing: people like McConnell and Ryan know better, but they’re not saying very much about this. And if they did speak out, I would think it would matter a great deal. Similarly, conservative talk radio show hosts and others in the conservative media know better as well. It would make a great deal of difference if they raised concerns, if not sounded alarm bells. Yes, if they did this, they may pay a heavy price–in terms of being elected, for the former, and profits, for the latter–but they’re putting their careers, party, and profits ahead of the country and maybe even the safety of the world. I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to say.

  50. Reid

    At What Point Does the Media Conclude That the President and His Spokespeople Have Zero Credibility–and Then Treat Them Accordingly?

    If you knew someone like Trump and his spokespeople in your personal life or at work, I think most people would stay away, ignore them, or even treat them with contempt and hostility. You can’t take anything they say seriously, and they’re just playing games, jerking you around. I think that’s what Trump and his spokespeople are doing. I’ve seen enough to feel confident in that judgment.

    What is the appropriate response for the press? I’m not sure, but they seem to keep wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt. If the Trump administration continues to behave in ways that strongly suggest that the press shouldn’t give them the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t they try a different approach? I don’t get this. It’s like they’re trying to reset with the Trump administration over and over again, and the Trump administration still continues to tell outrageous lies. Can they ask them about directly about why they’re lying so often–or why some of the claims are so outrageous? Can they start explicitly mentioning that it’s getting hard to take them seriously? I don’t know what’s the answer, but from my perspective, as a non-journalist, I’m confused and frustrated by the press’s approach.

  51. Reid

    I’m Convinced Trump Will Try to Consolidate Power If We Have Another Terrorist Attack

    The quote doesn’t provide evidence that Trump will try to expand his powers in the event of another terrorist attack. However, it got me to thinking several things:

    1. After a terrorist attack–especially a really serious one, like 9-11–all Presidents would try to expand their powers, in the interests of national security. So, in some ways, this is a reasonable response–not something sinister or the actions of an autocrat.

    2. But here is a key question: do you trust President Trump to use those expanded powers responsibly? And related: Do you trust his motives for expanding those powers? Given what he’s said and done so far–I absolutely do not trust him. One could think about Trump is that he’s obvious about his intentions–he is not savvy or cunning when it comes to his desire for power.

    3. Here’s what worries me: once an attack (or some massive crisis) occurs, it’ll be too late to stop him. He will have justification to expand his powers–he may have a lot of support to expand his powers from citizens who are worried about security. What is Congress going to do at that point? Also, even if the courts rule against–as the quote suggests–the Trump may ignore the courts–and he may public support.

    That situation stands in stark contrast to the situation now. Despite Trump’s fear-mongering, we haven’t had a 9-11 style attack–and the terrorist attacks we’ve had have been mostly from U.S. citizens. So the reality for many isn’t one of fear.

    But all that changes if we have a big terrorist attack (or some other type of crisis). People will be really scared, and I will be shocked if Trump won’t be saying things like, “See, I told you so. The courts were wrong. I tried to warn you. Let me do what I need to do to protect you.” And then we’re really going to be in a tough situation–and we may not be able to get out of it.

    What can we do about this? Two thoughts come to mind:

    1. An independent investigation into the Russian interference–or some way to force Trump to release his tax forms–my feeling is that either could bring down his presidency. Why? I’m not 100% sure, but if what I’ve been reading is true, my conclusion is that whatever an investigation reveals will be more than enough to end his presidency. I suspect some in the government are already racing against time to find this information.

    2. The one narrative that should dominate is that Trump is making us less safe–he’s alienating crucial allies and he’s feeding into the terrorists’ narrative that the West is at war with Islam, which only strengthens these groups. The fact that his policies now are making us less safe could undermine his credibility in the future as well as the narrative he is mostly likely to sell. (This is the weaker of the two options.)

    The other option is that we don’t experience another terror attack or crisis, while Trump is in office.

    Edit

    from the same New Yorker article:

    John Yoo, who as a lawyer for the George W. Bush Administration was the fiercest defender of its most extreme post-9/11 policies, including the use of torture, recently wrote an Op-Ed in which he said he was alarmed by Trump’s attempt to expand the powers of the executive branch. (This was as if Trump had written an essay arguing that he was concerned about developers adding their names to buildings in lettering that was too large.) Yoo told me, “If there is another terrorist attack, I could see Trump seeking all of the powers that the President can exercise during wartime. The domestic powers would have to be approved by Congress, such as limitations on habeas, domestic warrantless surveillance, and an internal security act. We really haven’t had a system like that since the Second World War or the Communist cases of the nineteen-fifties.”

    Dang, I believe Yoo wrote the torture memos–that is, legal justification for “enhanced interrogation” during the Bush administration. And he’s worried about Trump?

    More from Todd Breasseale, the former assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, who is also alarmed:

    Breasseale said that he was most concerned about the potential of Trump using existing D.H.S. tools. “He could create a registry of various religions, sects, and provenance—all within the law—all to amp up fear and suspicion, releasing the information in ways that meet his narrative,” he said. “D.H.S. has a means to track this information and publish it in real time. It gets very specific: military-aged males from East Timor, geriatric women from Japan, Muslim children from Pakistan—you name it. You can see how the right information with the wrong context could manipulate public angst. He could also order raids and removals within the law. Worse in some respects: he could remain unpredictable, continuing the chaos we saw with the Customs and Border Patrol folks.”

    Edit 2/8/2017

    From the Lawfare blog: How to Deal with Reichtag Fears in the Age of Trump

    In case you don’t know, the Reichtag is the German legislature. When it burned down, Hitler used the opportunity to consolidate power.

  52. Reid

    Congressional Republicans Enabling Trump’s Authoritarian Behavior; or, the Republicans are Becoming an Authoritarian Party

    From Politico: Republicans Give Trump a Pass on Judge Attacks

    Here’s one quote from Sen. Hatch:

    Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who in 2010 said it was “rude” for Obama to rebuke the court for its Citizens United ruling in 2010, on Monday had no worries about Trump’s attack.

    “You’ve got a very active, aggressive president who feels we’ve got to do something about immigration, more than what we’re doing. And you’ve got a judge who disagrees with him,” said Hatch, a senior Judiciary Committee member. “It’s easy to see why either of them have a sour disposition towards the other.”

    The GOP’s response is basically tacitly approval of this behavior, and I fear it would encourage people in Trump’s administration as well as Trump supporters to not really respect the courts and the separation of powers. If we have a full-blown constitutional crisis at some point, a lot of the blame should fall on the GOP (and the conservative press).

  53. Reid

    I’m not the only one

    v

  54. Reid

    Kleptocracy and Conflict of Interests Watch

    Edit: Our family will use the Office of President to Make Ourselves as Wealthy as Possible

    I personally know someone who may not be bothered by these reports. Here’s something I might say to these people: the fact that the Trump is using his presidency to enrich himself and his family is worrisome because it raises the question about his motives to become president. Does he really want to serve the country? A good question when you consider he’s never served the country in any capacity (unless you count running his business; his charities are pretty dubious as well). Can we really trust him to put the interests of the country ahead of his own?

    No other president (as far as I know) used done this sort of thing for himself and his family.

    Edit

    Ivanka Trump Trustee for Rubert Murdoch’s (Fox Network) Children

    Edit: No shame or qualms–blatant (2/9/2017)

    Edit 2/10/2017

    Yep.

    Edit 2/11/2017

    “(Mar-a-Lago)”–a slimy way to promote his business and use his office to enrich himself. Parenthetical, but blatant. Ugh.

  55. Reid

    Interesting Comparison with Trump’s Position on Travel Ban

  56. Reid

    Is Trump Trying to Establish His Narrative Over Reality

    Two tweets made me think of this:

    and

    Molly McKew’s response:

    Here’s his narrative:

    • America is a disaster now
    • America is faces grave threats, especially from Muslim terrorists;
    • The Trump administration is succeeding–they’re making great deals, bringing back jobs, defeating terrorists, etc.

    The fact that this is true or not is irrelevant to the Trump administration. The goal is to convince as many Americans as possible that this is the case. A key part of his strategy involves undermining and discrediting the main threats to this objective–namely, institutions that can provide information that undermines or destroys this narrative (e.g., the press, government agencies that provide data, etc.). Remember, they only have to undermine the faith in these institutions. If they do that and a) many people believe Trump over other sources of information or; b) many people don’t know who to believe, so they’re paralyzed and eventually give up, then Trump’s narrative may have a chance of becoming “reality” for many people.

    Reality becomes secondary, and the Trump administration will present (their) reality–staging Trump and his actions in a way that makes him appear fantastically successful and strong. His spokespeople will continue to tell crazy lies because reality doesn’t matter–they’re trying to kill it with their narrative.

    I wrote this because people seem confused about the lies and bad research that the Trump administration seems to be using in their PR. The Trump administration’s claim that the Yemen raid was a a success also confused Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic. This isn’t a criticism of Friedersdorf–the Trump administration’s claim seems bizarre.

    What I’m writing (which comes from McKew’s ideas and others’) is an attempt to explain the White House’s strange behavior.

  57. Reid

    Fact checking Trump

    Ben Sasse is a GOP Senator from Nebraska:

    Max Boot a conservative critic of Trump:

  58. Reid

    The Comments on This Tell You How Insane Things Have Gotten

    (For what it’s worth, I can’t really tell if this is a joke or not, either!)

  59. Reid

    On Sebastian Gorka, Trump’s Deputy Assistant

    from Talking Points Memo: How Did Sebastian Gorka Go From Anti-Islam Fringe to White House Aide

    Engy Abdelkalder, adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, noted that like Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, Gorka has ties to anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney.

    “He has frequently appeared on Gaffney’s radio program to further such fears and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims,” Abdelkalder told TPM in an email. “And what makes him particularly pernicious is his academic credentials and now, prestigious political appointment, extend an appearance of legitimacy to anti-Muslim bigotry and prejudice.”

    Since at least 2013, Gorka has served as a frequent guest at events and on a radio show hosted by Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy, a D.C. based anti-Islam think tank. Gaffney has heavily promoted the conspiracy theory that members of the Muslim Brotherhood have infiltrated the U.S. government and argued that the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, is affiliated with terrorists.

  60. Reid

    Learning About the Difficulties of Governing

    Politico: Trump Vexed by Challenges and Scale of Government: The New President’s Allies Say He’s Been Surprised That Government Can’t Be Run Like a Business

    If he’s genuinely surprised, then that really speaks badly of him. At best, it likely means that he ignored advisers who warned him otherwise–or he didn’t have advisers who tried to disabuse him of this idea–in which case, he chose bad advisers. This should not have been surprising at all.

    By the way, if the article is accurate, the WH is a mess.

  61. Reid

    Grieder’s Analysis Would Mean Trump Administration Using Russian Psychological Manipulation/Terror on Americans

    She may not be right, but what she’s saying is plausible as well.

  62. Reid

    An Interesting Insight Into How America Has Moved Toward an Autocracy

    Jay Rosen pointed out the following passage from a piece by Andrew Sullivan. Prior to this passage, Sullivan explains why questioning Trump’s mental health is entirely reasonable.

    With someone like this barging into your consciousness every hour of every day, you begin to get a glimpse of what it must be like to live in an autocracy of some kind. Every day in countries unfortunate enough to be ruled by a lone dictator, people are constantly subjected to the Supreme Leader’s presence, in their homes, in their workplaces, as they walk down the street. Big Brother never leaves you alone. His face bears down on you on every flickering screen. He begins to permeate your psyche and soul; he dominates every news cycle and issues pronouncements — each one shocking and destabilizing — round the clock. He delights in constantly provoking and surprising you, so that his monstrous ego can be perennially fed. And because he is also mentally unstable, forever lashing out in manic spasms of pain and anger, you live each day with some measure of trepidation. What will he come out with next? Somehow, he is never in control of himself and yet he is always in control of you.

    One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago. It’s less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes. This is what I mean by the idea that we are living through an emergency.

    The observation that living in a democracy means that citizens can be free of politics is a brilliant insight in my opinion–something I never really fully appreciated until Trump. The observation also makes me think of my impression of many Eastern European films, which are saturated in politics–something very different from American movies. It’s as if that’s the only type of movies they can make. Politics dominates their lives in ways that it doesn’t in ours–but, sadly, that’s changing.

    Edit 2/12/2017

  63. Reid

    How To Make Trump’s Kleptocracy an Issue for American Citizens

    This is a great idea by Molly McKew.

    Has anyone started the official calculator of how much taxpayer money has gone into Trump family pockets yet? Then, we can go to every rundown school, VA hospital, collapsing bridge, out-of-service military aircraft and put a sign on it —Someone needs to. (which is what we used to recommend for civil society fighting kleptocrats in Africa, etc –but apparently US embraces semi-kleptocracy now) and the signs will say “This [school/hospital/bridge/plane] would have cost XX $ to repair. The Trump family has paid itself XX millions.” Nothing wakes people up faster than understanding how much funding should have gone to them and their community, specifically — but didn’t.

  64. Reid

    Thread on How Constitution Can’t be Relied on to Stop an Authoritarian

    With links to articles

  65. Reid

    Comments About Trump’s False Claims About Voter Fraud in New Hampshire–From Republicans

    Stephen Miller on voter fraud (and other highly dubious, if not false claims):

    I find what Miller–particularly his conviction in what he’s saying–to be a little frightening.

    Here’s some response from conservatives/Republicans:

  66. Reid

  67. Reid

    Has this ever happened in previous administrations? And if so, how often? This seems crazy to me.

  68. Reid

    Trump Wanted Clinton Thrown in Jail for Mishandling of Security Matters

    From WaPo: Trump Turns Mar-a-Lago Club Terrace Into an Open Air Situation Room

    The scene of their discussion, Trump’s club, has been called “The Winter White House” by the president’s aides. But it is very different than the actual White House, where security is tight and people coming in are heavily screened. Trump’s club, by contrast, has hundreds of paying members who come and go, and it can be rented out for huge galas and other events open to non-members. On the night of the North Korea launch, for instance, there was a wedding reception underway: CNN reported that Trump dropped by, with Abe in tow.

    And also from WaPo Trump Ran a Campaign Based on Intelligence Security But That’s Not How He’s Governing

    In DeAgazio’s first photo, you can see a phone flashlight being used in that way.

    Why is this important? Mobile phones have flashlights, yes — and cameras, microphones and Internet connectivity. When Edward Snowden was meeting with reporters in Hong Kong at the moment he was leaking the material he’d stolen from the NSA, he famously asked that they place their phones in the refrigerator — blocking any radio signals in the event that the visitors’ phones had been hacked. This was considered the most secure way of ensuring that the phones couldn’t be used as wiretaps, even more secure than removing the battery. Phones — especially phones with their flashes turned on for improved visibility — are portable television satellite trucks and, if compromised, can be used to get a great deal of information about what’s happening nearby, unless precautions are taken.

    It’s important to note that Trump is still using an older, android phone, which he tweeted from at that dinner. Here’s some incredible information about that phone:

    The problem is that Trump’s Android phone would be very simple to hack to provide precisely the sort of access described above. NPR dug into the question of how secure that phone might be, and Berkeley computer scientist Nicholas Weaver was blunt.

    “Donald Trump for the longest time has been using a insecure Android phone that by all reports is so easy to compromise, it would not meet the security requirements of a teenager,” Weaver told NPR, and while he couldn’t say for sure, “we must assume that his phone has actively been compromised for a while, and an actively compromised phone is literally a listening device.”

    How can he still be using that phone? How can the Congressional Republicans not say anything about this? The phone is likely a listening device!

    Here’s as picture of the guy who carries the nuclear football with a Mar-a-Lago patron. This can’t be good, can it?

    This comment by Speaker Ryan, last July about Comey’s chastisement of Clinton’s emails, are galling in light of the report above:

  69. Reid

    Agreed

  70. Reid

    Flynn Scandal

    Here’s the tweet McFaul is referring to:

    From CNBC: Russian Lawmakers Mount Defense of Flynn

    I could be wrong, but being defended by Russia is damning.

  71. Reid

    The Administration is a Mess

    And it could affect our national security–lives!

  72. Reid

    From the New York Times: What Trump is Doing is Not OK, an op-ed by Tom Friedman.

    I agree with everything he said.

  73. Mitchell

    That Times column was extremely well laid-out. Most of it’s obvious and well known, but he uses few words to remind the reader of some big things. And honestly, I hadn’t actually thought to compare this guy’s approach to cautious rivals (China), friends (Australia), neighbors (Mexico), and possible enemies (in the Middle East) to his statements on Russia. That’s damning all by itself.

  74. Reid

    The writing is very clear and concise–and that’s one of the things I liked about it.

    That’s damning all by itself.

    Yeah, although it’s one red flag among many. People are going to look back on this time and say, “How the heck did you guys not know there was some connection?”

    Thirty-three Mental Health Professionals Finally Weigh in on Trump’s Mental State

    Letter to the New York Times: Mental Health Professionals Warn About Trump

  75. Mitchell

    I guess I didn’t mean damning anyway. It’s just cause by itself.

  76. Reid

    I don’t think “damning” is so far off. For me, it’s just one of many red flags, the totality of which is damning or maybe highly suspicious.

  77. Reid

    Jake Tapper’s Ed R. Murrow/Walter Cronkite Moments?

    There are some journalists who have iconic moments in our history. I feel like Jake Tapper, of CNN, might be included in this list. Take a look:

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.