Trump Regime (4)

Trump Presidency (1)
Trump Presidency (2)
Trump Regime (3)

Administrative Personnel Profiles

55 Responses to “Trump Regime (4)”


  1. Reid

    Worried About Trump’s Mental Stability and Temperament

    Articles like this Timesarticle really hit me, and I repeatedly find myself saying “what the heck?!” several times as I’m reading. (And it’s not always what the heck, to be honest.)

    I have no idea if you guys would react the same way. For me, the reaction is at least partly due to a cumulative effect of the speeches, interviews, press conferences, and articles like this. They’re all consistently create the impression that something is wrong with him. (Actually, I take that back: his recent speech to the joint members of Congress did not create that impression–and the speech stood out because of that.)

    The next thing I think of when I encounter stuff like this is, the Congression GOP are still supporting him. It’s so wrong and crazy.

    Edit

    I liked this Times op-ed by Tom Friedman, which deals with the importance of trust in a President, and the lack thereof in President Trump.

    Edit (3/15/2017)

    Edit (5/10/2017)

    Edit (5/11/2017)

    With a few differences and additions, I think the following tweetstorm paints an accurate description of Trump’s mental state and lack of ideology:

    Edit (5/15/2017)

    Drezner tweets a series of quotes that provide evidence that people around Trump are treating him like a toddler. Not good.

    Edit

    This Politico article is entitled, “How Trump Gets His Fake News,” but that’s a misleading title, not because an incident involving fake news didn’t get to Trump (it did), but because the article is really more about the crazy way White House staff members have to manage and worry about which news stories will get to Trump–worry because Trump may act impulsively on it, even if the story is fake. They also worry that it may set him off. It’s nuts! The situation reminds me of a tyrannical king, with a royal staff scrambling around him, coddling him, keeping him in a good mood, and hoping he won’t do something rash and destructive.

    Edit

    From The New York Times: When the World is Led by a Child, op-ed by David Brooks. It may not tell the fully story about Trump, but I have the same impression. (This op-ed is similar to the vox piece by David Roberts.)

  2. Reid

    Russia

    So, Wikileaks dumped a bunch of CIA documents today. (I didn’t read the article, yet.) There are certain people I follow with national security background who believe that wikileaks is basically a front for the Russian government. That is, they appear to be an independent organization, but they’re really controlled by Russia. I tend to believe this, but I’m being careful to not accept this notion completely; I still try to keep an open mind about this.

    But here are some things to consider:

    1. Why did they dump these CIA documents today–right after Trump was accusing Obama of wiretapping him?

    2. As far as I know, Wikileaks really hasn’t revealed anything to hurt Trump or Putin. That seems like an odd coincidence.

    And as to point one, I’m hearing a possible narrative build on the dump–namely, that the CIA has techniques and technology where they can hack into a system and make it seem like someone else did. That is: the CIA hacked into the DNC and John Podesta and made it seem like Russia did it.

    The people who think this also anticipate that Briebart, someone like Glenn Greenwald (maybe others on the far Left–those who have deep suspicions of the Military Industrial Complex), and even Trump himself will begin promoting this narrative. It’ll be interesting to see if this happens. (I think it’s already happened on some Russian sites.)

    What concerns me is the numbers of people who may buy into this. I can’t say that this narrative is 100% false, but the CIA hacking into the DNC and blaming the Russians seems way more far-fetched and fanciful than wikileaks being a Russian front. The organization actively hurt Clinton’s campaign, and didn’t release any damaging information on Trump. As far as I know, they’ve done nothing to hurt Putin. One other thing I forgot to mention (and I’m not 100% sure about this), but wikileaks and the Kremlin’s rhetoric often closely mirror each other.

    Edit

    I read the article. After reading it, this tweet best captures my reaction:

    Here’s what McKew was responding to: “Why this matters: If real, all these exploits are now in the hands of every hacker in the world, rather than just the CIA.”

    Edit

    Oh, one more thing, and this may sound nuts, but this wikileaks dump feels like an act of (hyper)war–like we’re getting blitzed by the Russians. Hopefully, this is just an overactive imagination.

    Edit

    Trump and his administration have to comment on this WikiLeaks dump right? If he launches the narrative that the CIA really hacked into the DNC, and there is no condemnation of WikiLeaks, that’s seems like a really bad sign.

    Edit (3/8/2017)

    Former acting CIA-director, John McLaughlin: “WikiLeaks” is an Instrument of the Russian Government”

    Edit (4/7/2017)

    From Lawfare blog: Of Course There’s Evidence That Trump Colluded with Russian Intelligence

    This post makes a key point in my opinion. There is a lot of evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia during the campaign (and the post mentions specific examples)–a lot of it occurred openly. But there isn’t evidence of covert (and I would assume direct) planning and coordination between Trump and the Russians. That latter would be illegal, while open, overt coordination that occurred during the campaign is not illegal.

    I’d make two points:

    1. This open collusion is damning by itself. Is it impeachable? I’m not sure, but if it’s not I feel it’s something approaching it.

    2. Part of the reason this may not seem as damning to many Americans is that the the Russian way of influencing and the impact of this influence may not be so clear to see and easy to understand. My feeling is that if more people see the way the Russians tried to undermine Clinton and faith in democratic processes and once more people see how vulnerable these things are, I think this will make the open collusion really damning. (Apparently, many journalists don’t really see this is well.)

    Edit (4/21/2017)

    I pretty much agree with this:

  3. Reid

    Travel Ban

    This story from KHON In Wake of Travel Ban Hawai’i Muslims Targeted by Hateful Messages makes me both sad and angry.

    Edit (3/12/2017)

    King is a Republican Congressperson. What he’s saying here sounds like enthno-nationalism–specifically, white nationalism. It just adds to the idea that the travel ban is driven by a white nationalist policy.

    And look who endorses this view:

    Edit (3/13/2017)

    In case Rep. Steve King wasn’t clear:

    White nationalism/white supremacy. I’ve heard a few people call out the GOP to push King out of their caucus. Of course, Steve Bannon ran a website that was a platform for that, and he’s still in the White House. So pushing out King, would beg the question: why is Bannon and Miller still in the White House? And what does that say about the Trump? My question: at what point does it become appropriate to call the GOP a racist party?

    Edit

    From WaPo: Why Are We Hearing Crickets From the GOP on Steve King’s Ugly Tweet?, an op-ed by Sarah Posner

    Edit (3/16/2017)

    Some bad effects of the travel ban:

  4. Reid

    Trump and the Economy

    Trump has espoused protectionist policies and seems comfortable use strong-arm tactics against businesses. The following Planet Money is an excellent cautionary tale for this type of approach:

  5. Reid

    Corruption and Kleptocracy

    Edit (3/13/2017)

    From Bloomberg News: Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese Firm on Tower

    If some people don’t care that the Trump and his family is blatantly profiting off of the office of President, there’s also a national security concern as well, involving the partner in the deal, Anbang:

    Anbang would pay a hefty price for both sections of the 666 Fifth Ave. project but score its first U.S. real estate investment of the year. The company’s ties to the Chinese government are sufficiently unclear that former President Barack Obama declined to stay at the Waldorf after Anbang bought it because of fears of espionage. Now Anbang will be business partners with in-laws of the First Family.

    Edit (3/17/2017)

    Edit (3/20/2017)

    The corruption and kleptocracy are so brazen. I tend to think that Trump and his family are completely clueless that what they’re doing is inappropriate and unethical.

    Edit (3/21/2017)

    I heard reports that Ivanka is getting top level security clearance. (I’m not sure if Jared Kushner has top level security clearance, either.)

    Edit (3/26/2017)

    Super brazen, obvious–Trump doesn’t seem to have any qualms using his position and time in office to maximize profits for his business–which he claimed to put into a “blind trust.”

    Edit (4/3/2017)

    From Pro Publica: Trump Can Pull Money from His Business Whenever He Wants and He Doesn’t Have to Tell Us

    This reinforces the impression that Trump is trying to pull a fast one on the American people. “Here, see, I’m putting my business in a blind trust.” And then he just waits until the public stops paying attention.

    Also from Pro Publica: White House Power Player Jared Kushner Is Keeping Parts of Real Estate Empire

    Edit (4/12/2017)

    From WaPoarticle:

    Trump’s three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and Kushner have been frustrated by the impression of chaos inside the White House and feel that their father has not always been served well by his senior staff, according to people with knowledge of their sentiments. The Trump heirs are interested in any changes that might help resuscitate the presidency and preserve the family’s name at a time when they are trying to expand the Trump Organization’s portfolio of hotels.

    “The fundamental assessment is that if they want to win the White House in 2020, they’re not going to do it the way they did in 2016, because the family brand would not sustain the collateral damage,” said one well-connected Republican operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s family. “It would be so protectionist, nationalist and backward-looking that they’d only be able to build in Oklahoma City or the Ozarks.”

    I take this passage with a grain of salt. To what extent are they concerned and motivated to “resuscitate the presidency” for their business? I’d like to think the primary motivation is not only wish for their father to succeed–but in succeeding this will be best for the country. I also hope the words of that well-connected Republican operative doesn’t reflect the sentiments of Trump’s kids.

    Edit (4/18/2017)

    Edit (4/24/2017)

    Edit (5/8/2017)

    From TalkingPointsMemo: an article about Kushner’s family using Jared Kushner’s contacts with the Trump to sell immigration visas to Chinese investors–the money would go to a Kushner real estate project. This type of transaction is technically legal, although the article mentions that the law has been abused by real estate developers. To me, this is another bit of evidence that Trump and his families sense of ethics with regard to using their presidency to enrich themselves is highly problematic and troubling.

    Edit (5/22/2017)

    From the New York Times: White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry into Ex-Lobbyists on the Payroll

  6. Reid

    Competency of the Administration

    I didn’t get to read the article, but this is another bit of evidence that creates the impression that the Trump administration is a clown show:

    Maybe the massage therapist does have relevant experience and skills for the Energy Department, but it seems highly unlikely.

    Edit (3/11/2017)

    So careless.

    Edit

    Edit (3/12/2017)

    Trump Lets Key Offices Gather Dust Amid ‘Slowest Transition in Decades’

    The article doesn’t paint a picture of a competent organization.

    Mr. Trump has insisted that the barren ranks of his government are not a shortcoming but the vanguard of a plan to cut the size of the federal bureaucracy. “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Mr. Trump told Fox News last month. “I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.” But the president has not proposed any plan for trimming crucial senior positions, and a White House spokeswoman, Lindsay E. Walters, said he eventually planned to fill them.

    Later,

    While Mr. Trump has won confirmation of 18 members of his cabinet, he has not nominated anyone for more than 500 other vital posts and has fallen behind his predecessors in filling the important second- and third-tier positions that carry out most of the government’s crucial daily functions.

    Finally,

    Analysts say Mr. Trump’s approach also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the government works.

    “They can think of this lack of appointments as being a lean government, but this isn’t like running a small business,” said Terry Sullivan, the executive director of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the pace of appointments. “The federal government is quantum times larger than the largest American corporation. It puts Exxon Mobil in the shade. It is a reflection of naïveté about how big the U.S. government is.”

    If the Trump administration doesn’t function well, it’s on Trump.

    Edit (3/17/2017)

    I could have put this in several headings.

    For those who don’t remember, a few years ago, a story leaked to the press that the U.S. government wiretapped Merkel’s phone or something to that effect. Trump’s trying to joke about that in relation to his accusation that Obama ordered to wiretap him. My reaction: I’m pounding my head on the table.

    I’m also banging my head because I understand Trump blamed the accusation Spicer made about Obama telling British intelligence to wiretap Trump on Fox News. I’m sick to my stomach.

    Edit

    Maybe I’m overreacting, but this really gets me mad. I’m really hoping Trump didn’t hear her, or that she really never did ask for a handshake. But if she did, and he just ignored her, what the heck is that? It’s such a bad showing for our country.

    Edit (3/20/2017)

    James Fallows’s reaction:

    Edit

    Brian Stetler of CNN discusses the waning credibility and trust of Sean Spicer, WH spokesperson, and that’s definitely an issue, but there’s also a clownshow element to Spicer and his dissembling. Some of the examples are just unbelievable, like something from a parody.

    Edit (4/6/2017)

    Edit (4/10/2017)

    I’m not into snark, and the following “picture book” presentation of Jared Kushner is extremely snarky. (If you like snark, you’ll probably like this.) I still didn’t find the sarcasm all that entertaining, but the picture book format is appropriate. Trump sending the 36 year old Kushner to Iraq and giving him various tasks is pretty crazy. I guess Kushner could be this diplomatic savant/genius public administrator, but that seems highly unlikely.

    Edit: (4/11/2017)

    From WaPo: Op-ed by Kevin Sullivan and Karen Tumulty.

    Based on my background in public administration, my reaction to this article, particularly the quotes below, was, This is crazy.

    In interviews over the past few weeks with a half-dozen foreign ambassadors based in Washington, most complained — diplomatically, of course — that thin lines of communication have made it difficult for them to explain U.S. intentions to officials in their home capitals. That is creating strain on traditionally solid alliances, they said.

    “Nobody can tell us on Russia what the American policy is, on Syria what the American policy is, on China what the American policy is,” one ambassador said. “I’m not sure there is a policy. They will listen to me and tell me, ‘We will get back to you when there is a policy.’ ”…

    …The diplomats said the problem was partly caused by a new administration still in transition and focused on health care, tax reform and other domestic issues. But as the weeks have passed, allies are growing more concerned that limited communication could lead to misunderstandings if a diplomatic or security crisis erupted somewhere in the world.

    (emphasis added)

    Later,

    Several envoys described frustration at the slow pace of appointments to critical jobs, especially in the State Department, which has sometimes left them struggling to get even the most basic information.

    “When you reach out to them, it’s like you are reaching out to a body that has a head and legs but no torso. The blood is not flowing from above to below,” one said.

    And

    If a foreign policy crisis were to flare, perhaps over North Korea or Iran, several ambassadors expressed worry that the lack of the usual contacts at many levels of government could keep them from being able to fully explain Trump’s actions to their leaders back home.

    One ambassador said that when he approached the State Department and the White House recently, he was told to come back if he has an emergency to discuss.

    Several added that they have tried to be creative in their approaches to the Trump administration, increasingly going outside the normal channels. Some said they have tried to leverage friendships with people in business who have ties to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner or daughter Ivanka Trump to get access to those key members of Trump’s inner circle.

    Finally,

    The envoys said Trump has made efforts to create ties with the foreign diplomatic corps, including many at the Mar-a-Lago for the Red Cross Ball on Feb. 4.

    But they said the transition period had been unlike any they had ever seen.

    “The question is: Will the close allies maintain that same natural cooperation that we have had for 70 years?” one ambassador said. “The leaders of those allies want to maintain a relationship of trust with the traditional leader of the Western world. But today we have the impression that the chair of the leader of the Western world is a little bit empty. We are reaching out to test those relationships, but we have no answer.”

    Said another: “It’s quite distressing that the Americans are so unpredictable. Unpredictability is the worst.”

    Edit (4/12/2017)

    If this is this true, then this is another in a long series of what-the-heck exclamations.

    Edit (4/19/2017)

    Edit (5/10/2017)

    I don’t like snark, but this is not about snark. I had similar reaction sans the snark from reading the article (which I read before this tweet).

    Edit (5/11/2017)

    Funny, and true:

    Not sure what the normal practice is, but this doesn’t sound good:

  7. Reid

    Trumpcare

    Trump quotes to remember.

    Edit (3/17/2017)

    This is a small thing, but the fact that Ryan is excited about an idea he had in college, in my view, is not a good sign. When I think back to the ideas I had in college, many (most) were formed without the test of living in the real world, informed by more life experience. In the subsequent years after college, these ideas were put through the test derived from working, getting married, and raising kids. The merits of many ideas fell away or at least I greatly modified my enthusiasm. I suppose I embrace some ideas that I formulated in college, but because so many of these ideas failed the test, I don’t really find myself pointing back at the ideas I still embrace with enthusiasm. Ryan’s quote makes me feel like either his ideas really hasn’t been put to a rigorous test, and that he still has a starry-eyed view of his ideas he cooked up in college. Again, a small red flag, one that could be misplaced, but it’s a red flag for me nonetheless.

  8. Reid

    Autocracy Watch

    From WaPo

    According to the pool report from Roll Call’s John Bennett, the effort to get the press to leave the room is joined by an unexpected party. “One of Trump’s personal security men entered the Roosevelt Room from a door behind the pool and began yelling loudly for us to clear out,” Bennett wrote.

    Trump had private security personnel in his employ staffing him at rallies over the course of the campaign, alongside the Secret Service. In January, he announced that one of them, Keith Schiller, would join him at the White House to serve as a deputy assistant. It was Schiller who struck a protester in the face outside Trump Tower in September 2015 after the protester tried to reclaim a sign Schiller had snatched away.

    Bennett later clarified that it was Schiller who’d yelled at the assembled press. He asked the White House for more details on the interaction, receiving a statement: “The staff asked the press to leave the room. I am not going to comment any further.”

    (Troubling information regarding Gateway Pundit, as well.)

    Edit (3/22/2017)

    This Politico article discusses how conservative media outlet like Breibart and Conservative Review (to name two) are criticizing specific career government workers.

    This passage was a bit chilling, and I’ll explain why after:

    Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon is now Trump’s chief strategist, has even published lists of workers that the president should fire.

    During the transition, the Trump administration was asking for specific names of people in various departments. For example, the Trump team wanted to know names of those who worked on climate change in the EPA. I can’t help, but think what’s being reported now is one of the reasons why.

    Edit (4/17/2017)

    Not really evidence of creeping autocracy, but just an additional bit of evidence of Trump’s authoritarian streak:

    Also, this op-ed from The Philadelphia Inquirer mentions a recent action that can be seen as another small step away from democracy:

    The Trump administration announced over the weekend that it will halt the practice of releasing White House visitor logs, which was done in 2009 under Barack Obama, and shut down the website that hosted them, Open.gov. The White House claimed that security and “privacy concerns” — that old bugaboo for the rich and famous who spend their weekends at joints such as Mar-a-Lago — trumped (pun slightly intended) transparency. The move will save a whopping $70,000, which the Verge noted will pay for one-tenth of one of those Tomahawk missiles that Trump lobbed into Syria. And it’s more proof that nothing matters less to Trump than transparency. Or ethics. Or even maintaining the pretense that his will be a government by the people, of the people, and for the people.

    Edit (5/16/2017)

    From WaPo: I Wrote Art of the Deal with Trump, His Self-Sabotage is Rooted in the Past op-ed by Tony Schwartz.

    I’m putting this link here because there are details that make me thing of qualities of authoritarians–qualities I’ve read about from other writers. For example,

    A key part of that story is that facts are whatever Trump deems them to be on any given day. When he is challenged, he instinctively doubles down — even when what he has just said is demonstrably false. I saw that countless times, whether it was as trivial as exaggerating the number of floors at Trump Tower or as consequential as telling me that his casinos were performing well when they were actually going bankrupt. In the same way, Trump sees no contradiction at all in changing his story about why he fired Comey and then undermining the explanatory statements of his aides, or in any other lie he tells. His aim is never accuracy; it’s domination.

  9. Reid

    Trump Administration and Climate Change

    Of the people who don’t pay a lot of attention to politics, I wonder how many would be OK with this:

  10. Reid

    Budget and Serving the Country

    State department getting cut. From what I understand, science and medical research budget getting cut. And we’re building–and paying for–a wall.

  11. Reid

    A Pause to Summarize My Thoughts on the Trump Administration So Far

    Some general thoughts:

    1. The administration is unbelievably corrupt. I’m talking about major, major conflicts of interests…actually, it’s more than that: Trump and his family members are profiting for the office of President in an unbelievably brazen way.

    2. The administration seems very, very incompetent. Trump and his team don’t seem to understand the Constitution, the federal government and how it works. Trump is not filling positions in the government, which I feel could really hurt the effectiveness of the government. Trump seems to value loyalty above competence as well.

    3. Trump has a very strong authoritarian streak. I have very little doubt that he would do things that would move our system of government closer to an autocracy. Whether we like it or not, our system is being put to the test with regard to how resilient it is to an autocratic ruler.

    Some people may disagree with these impressions, but I feel like there is overwhelming evidence to support these positions. No one can say, “Oh had no idea that these things were going on; that Trump was like this.” One could try to find alternate explanations or dismiss the evidence, but one won’t be able to see there was no way of knowing.

    Edit

    Forgot one other thing: #4–Trump administration is racist. I don’t like using that word, partly because it’s tricky to define, and I think people carelessly use it. I think we could argue that the administration isn’t really racist, but doing so would be close to splitting hairs. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, even Trump himself.

    Personally, when details are revealed, I think a lot of people will agree with #1-4–or they will at least be shocked and appalled.

  12. Reid

    Immigration Policy

    I really sympathize with what Booker is saying. One caution about quotas: I’d want to understand more about why they’re used. I don’t have any problem believing it benefits private prisons, but I also could believe there is a good reason for using quotas as well. In government, sometimes less than ideal methods are used to achieve objectives, often because there is a lack of a better way. I’m not sure that applies in this case, but I’d want to understand the use of quotas before I could confidently support 100% of what Booker says here. (My current support would probably be 90% of what he’s saying.)

    Edit (4/3/2017)

    From the ACLU: Local Leaders Should Know Constitutional and Public Safety Risks Joining Trump’s Deportation Enforcement

    As we’ve explained in the past, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials often ask local law enforcement agencies to keep people in jail for them so they can initiate deportation proceedings. Because ICE does not seek a judicial determination of probable cause, these requests put local police in the position of holding people in jail without the legal authority to do so, which violates their constitutional rights….

    …ICE warrants are little more than a second piece of paper signed by an ICE agent — not, like familiar criminal warrants, signed by a judge. ICE is sending them to local police to give them a false sense of security and paper over the flaws in the detainer system, but they don’t offer local police any legal authority to hold someone.

    We also urge local police not to join the notorious 287(g) program, which allows ICE to deputize local police officers as immigration agents. In the past, 287(g) has been used as a dangerous tool, enabling rogue departments or officers to racially profile their residents. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who was recently voted out of office for being anti-immigrant and is currently facing charges of criminal contempt, had a 287(g) program before the federal government pulled it, citing Arpaio’s discriminatory policing practices.

  13. Reid

    Hypocrisy

    Of all the things to criticize Trump for, hypocrisy would be low on my list because it’s relatively smaller potatoes compared to all the other problems associated with him. Still, his hypocrisy can be breathtaking. For example, consider that Trump has gone to his vacation residence in Florida five out of eight weekends, and watch the following:

    Edit (3/19/2017)

    Also consider that Trump administration issued the travel ban based on the idea that terrorists were flooding into the country.

  14. Reid

    Trump’s Team

    Thread on difference between Mattis and Tillerson:

    The difference between the way both are functioning reminds me of an impression about outsiders coming into the White House to govern, an impression that formed from Bill Clinton’s presidency. The impression is that outsiders seem surprised and caught off guard when they enter the White House; they’re surprised by the difficulty, complexity, or something else that throws them off, and requires the newcomers to adjust and get settled.

    I wondered how this could happen, since this must have before in the past. If that’s true, then the newcomers should know this, and be able to plan accordingly. Choosing a team with experience in Washington–Congress, the various departments, and running the White House–seems to be one effective way to minimize the surprise and bumps that occur in the initial phase of a presidency. My sense is that Bush 43 and Obama approached their presidencies this way, whereas Clinton did not.

    My guess is that the level of humility versus hubris is the key factor here. If a new administration enters with an awareness there will likely to be surprises and difficulties, then they will plan for ways to minimize this–and in doing so create a smoother transition. On the other hand, a new administration that comes in thinking they are somehow different from previous administration, which were inferior, or if the new administration just assumes they’re smart and experienced so they won’t have major surprises or difficulties, then I think these administration will likely be caught off guard and struggle, at least initially.

    The Trump administration seems really clueless about governing, the way Congress and the federal bureaucracy works. I also get the sense that they still don’t quite understand the difficulties. Think of one of these sports fans who criticizes coaches and players, and then gets an opportunity to coach. Suppose this person is ignorant to the extent that he doesn’t even know that he is in over his head. That’s the sense I get from Trump and people like Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Jared Kushner. Maybe Tillerson as well.

  15. Reid

    I found this post, How to Read What Comey Said Today, from Benjamin Wittes from Lawfareblog really compelling. Wittes wrote a piece prior to the hearing about how we should approach Comey’s testimony to Congress, regarding the FBI investigation into Russian interference into our elections and whether the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign as a part of this. (The answer is yes.) Wittes has a premise: the more Comey free speaks, the better it is for the Trump administration. Wittes’s logic is that if there is an ongoing investigation that could lead to really damaging information to Trump, then Wittes would expect Comey to be tight-lipped–1) so as not to ruin the ongoing investigation; 2) to not anger Trump, which might lead to Comey’s firing. Wittes believes that if Comey doesn’t think he has much of a case, he would talk more and maybe even express indignation at Trump’s allegation that Obama ordered the intelligence community to wiretap Trump.

    What happened today? Comey was more tightlipped. There’s a lot more detials that Wittes goes into, but I’ll let others read the post and decide for themselves.

  16. Reid

    Russians Getting Killed Off

    There are several Russian diplomats and/or intelligence officers that have been killed in suspicious ways–some of them relating to the dossier put together by former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele.

    Add one more. Reporting in the Daily Beast, the lawyer for a Russian critic of Putin, Sergei Magnitsky, was reportedly thrown off a building, and now is in the hospital with serious head injuries. But here’s the kicker:

    …Gorokhov reportedly served as a witness for ex-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s separate case probing allegedly corrupt Russian businessmen and officials.

    The Trump administration also fired several U.S. Attorneys, including Bharara.

    Edit (3/23/2017)

    I understand Voronenkov was set to testify against Victor Yanukovych, former Ukrainian PM, and allie to Putin.

  17. Reid

    The Very Serious Consequences of Trump’s Lies

    James Fallows lays it out fairly well in Trump’s Credibility Crisis Arrives in The Atlantic

    Actually, I think these two quotes from Rep. Adam Schiff (D) and Rep. Peter King (R) spell it out fairly well. Schiff’s quote is first:

    If six months from now the president should say that Iran is cheating on the nuclear agreement, if he’s making that up, it’s a real problem. If he’s not making [it] up and it’s true, it’s an even bigger problem because the question is: Would people believe him? Would the American people believe him? Would people around the world believe him? And that has real-world consequences.

    King:

    That’s what he has to worry about, yeah, that when a real crisis does come along. And we could well have a crisis with North Korea, we could have a crisis with China, we could have a crisis with Russia for that matter. Or just some terrorist group out there: where the president gets real intelligence, saying that a real attack could be occurring, and people may think it’s the same as his tweet about Obama.

    Fallows explains that with the current restrictions of electronic devices in airplanes, the credibility issue has come up. People don’t know if this is a legitimate terrorist threat or if Trump is just trying to harass Muslims.

  18. Reid

    White Nationalism (Supremacy) and the Trump Administration

    Post to track stories related to the rise of white nationalism/supremacy in the nation.

    From the New York Times. A white man stabbed and killed a black man in New York today. The white man said he drove to New York City to kill a black man.

    When I hear stories like this, I also wonder if this is an isolated incident or part of a larger trend. The article mentions that hate crimes have been going up in cities.

  19. Mitchell

    Man. I never, ever, ever would have guessed that a single block of far-left or far-right Congresspeople, unwilling to compromise, would be the reason bad legislation fails. I’m so conflicted about these representatives right now, but grateful for the problem. I guess it points back to what I’ve said for a few years about the Republican party being a mess.

  20. Mitchell

    Have you heard reports out of Trumps Tennessee rally about people vocalizing racist ideals? It’s a closed thing, so of course attendees are all supporters, but it continues to amaze me (though I should be beyond amazeable by now) that mainstream Republicans can just let these things happen without saying crap. Why aren’t there Beth Fukumotos on Capitol Hill?

  21. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Man. I never, ever, ever would have guessed that a single block of far-left or far-right Congresspeople, unwilling to compromise, would be the reason bad legislation fails.

    I assume you’re talking about the health care bill? To me, if the compromise isn’t about repealing Obamacare versus modifying it–and I’m not sure that’s even possible (What would that even look like?)–then compromising or not on the replacement kind of doesn’t matter.

    I say that because the notion that you can repeal Obamacare and replace it without something else strikes me as foolish (and I want to say, ignorant) in the extreme. I’m far from an expert, and I only have vague notions about providing health care, but I have some strong impressions:

    1. It’s super complex. One writer I follow compared health care policy to a Rube Goldberg device–you make changes to please one politician, and you end up upsetting three. This can also apply to key special interests groups as well. Finally, the comparison relates to competing objectives for health care–keeping cost downs, providing the most people with coverage, etc.

    2. It’s politically super difficult. When Obama was trying to pass the ACA, I remember someone saying that Washington has been basically been trying to reform health care for decades. Decades. The complex nature of health care is one reason, but the political difficulty is there, too. If you help certain constituents, but harm others–especially ones with resources–you’re not likely to pass the bill into law. How can you increase coverage, keep cost downs, and keep key special interests at bay? That’s super hard, and this is one reason Obama deserves credit.

    And the GOP is trying to whip all this up on the fly. Yeah right. If they really cared about helping Americans, they would make changes to Obamacare. They could also say they’re repealing it, but just add changes and call it something else–e.g., Trumpcare–and take the credit. That would have been the smarter and better thing to do for the American public.

    Have you heard reports out of Trumps Tennessee rally about people vocalizing racist ideals?

    No. And I agree, it’s appalling that the Republicans don’t say anything. But look, they’ve haven’t said anything about Steve Bannon being the chief strategist or Stephen Miller. Those guys are white nationalists–or close enough–that it should raise an outcry.

    The GOP isn’t saying much about Trump not divesting from his business and also making family members, who still have business interests, part of the administration, either.

    And then there’s the Russia thing.

    These are the reasons I think the GOP is basically dead–i.e., they’re no longer a legitimate political party.

  22. Mitchell

    I’m not sure what you’re explaining to me here.

    To me, if the compromise isn’t about repealing Obamacare versus modifying it–and I’m not sure that’s even possible (What would that even look like?)–then compromising or not on the replacement kind of doesn’t matter.

    The freedom caucus wants something that looks more like repeal. The rest of the house mostly wants something less mandatey. All I’m saying is that this legislation is unlikely to pass because some of the Republican House thinks it doesn’t peel back enough of the ACA elements. If the House leadership concedes and peels back even more, the Republican moderates aren’t going to support it. My sentiment is about how somehow this unwillingness to bend on issues their constituents put them in office for has turned a repugnant tendency into something that’s going to save the ACA at least for now. I can’t stand those guys, yet they’re going to be the reason this bad legislation doesn’t pass.

    I say that because the notion that you can repeal Obamacare and replace it without something else strikes me as foolish (and I want to say, ignorant) in the extreme.

    I’m confused. Aren’t the White House and House leadership trying to replace it with the AHCA? Or are you saying the freedom caucus is foolish and ignorant because they want to repeal without replacing? If that’s the case, then we are agreeing, except I’m reacting with conflicted feelings. The freedom caucus’s foolishness and ignorance are saving the ACA.

    Thanks for the explanation, but I get why it’s a complicated issue. I am only saying that who would have guessed that stubborn freedom caucusers were going to be the reason the ACA survives, at least for now?

  23. Reid

    I think I got carried away, and forgot about your main point.

    I’m confused. Aren’t the White House and House leadership trying to replace it with the AHCA?

    Right, but they seem to be doing this on the fly–which is crazy and irresponsible if true. This is I talked about the complexity, both in terms of policy and politics. Politicians on both sides of the aisle knew that health care needed fixing, but it took decades before we got Obamacare. But the GOP thinks they can just scrap Obamacare, rush a bill through starting from scratch?

    So my point is that even if the GOP is having problems compromising with the final bill, the fact that they’re trying repeal Obamacare and then propose a new policy on the fly is just foolish. Does that make sense?

    I am only saying that who would have guessed that stubborn freedom caucusers were going to be the reason the ACA survives, at least for now?

    I don’t know. The impression I get is that this is a bad bill–and it’s hard to hide that. The bill seems to have two primary “virtues”: 1) it fulfills the promise to repeal Obamacare; 2) it has tax cuts for the wealthy. This is not going to be so compelling for Republicans in districts where their constituents will be hurt by the bill.

  24. Mitchell

    Yes. Foolish. It’s all summed up by the ridiculous question, “Who knew healthcare was so complicated?” That should be impeachable just by itself.

  25. Reid

    Yeah, Trump asking that really revealed a real deep ignorance. (Similar to trumpeting, several times, about how we should have taken the Iraqi oil.)

  26. Mitchell

    More than ignorance is that it’s combined with privilege. He’s clearly not someone who’s ever really had to think about how he’s going to cover medical expenses. And he was elected by people for whom this is a primary concern. Infuriating.

  27. Reid

    He’s clearly not someone who’s ever really had to think about how he’s going to cover medical expenses.

    Right, but I feel like has lead to his ignorance. I don’t think we’re disagreeing, by the way, it’s just that the depth of ignorance is really astounding–not just in health care, but even with regard to a basic understanding of governing, leadership, management, and the government in general.

    The ignorance also seems to stem hubris (which is related to living a privileged life) where he doesn’t think seriously about the possibility that he is ignorant or wrong. There seems to be very little awareness of his ignorance–maybe he’s incapable of admitting his ignorance, limitations, and mistakes.

    And he was elected by people for whom this is a primary concern. Infuriating.

    But do you share my impression that Trump really doesn’t care about the people that elected him? I really don’t think he cares about anything except himself. What he’s said to the American public is scam. The man is a fraud.

    Edit

    Regarding Trump’s profound ignorance:

    This is the kind of thing that leads me to think that Trump (and others in his administration) are like a college freshman who criticizes politicians and government officials, based on complete ignorance. The college student not only doesn’t have enough of the book knowledge about government and governing, but he probably lacks a lot of the real world experience that would lead to real knowledge about government and governing. Trump seems to be like that. If he were intelligent and interested in governing and learning, if he had the capacity to be aware of his limitations and mistakes–I think he could improve and make things better. I don’t get the sense that he can or will do any of that.

  28. Reid

    Apropos our discussion about the health care bill:

    From two reporters:

    Two other comments:


    Edit

    Shaking my head:

    Edit

    Edit

    Edit

    Some context. The Republicans control both House of Representatives and Senate. I heard someone say they have a 44 seat advantage which is the most any party has had since the 1920s. The Republican bill that was going to replace Obamacare failed.

    Edit

    Edit (3/25/2017)

    From Politico: Paul Ryan Failed Because His Bill Was a Dumpster Fire

    A summary of the GOP health care bill, which creates a very damning impression of the Republicans. Also, Nobody Knew Governing Could be So Difficult from The Atlantic is a good companion piece.

    One main takeaway from both: Republicans got so used to winning political points by demonizing Obamacare, in the process, their knowledge and skill at real governing and law-making atrophied. The recent health care bill debacle is an example of that.

  29. Mitchell

    But do you share my impression that Trump really doesn’t care about the people that elected him?

    This was clear from early in the campaign.

  30. Reid

    OK, just wasn’t entirely sure where you stand. (It’s not like we talk about this topic a lot.)

  31. Reid

    Is Trump a Great Dealmaker?

    From Vox: Donald Trump is Extremely Bad at Making Deals

    This is Trump’s pattern: He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.

    This was Trump’s approach to the health care bill, too. He let someone else worry about the product and he simply licensed his name, marketing support, and political capital. Trump didn’t know what was in the American Health Care Act, and he didn’t much care. It broke his promises to ensure health care for everyone, to protect Medicaid from cuts, to lower deductibles, and to guarantee choices of doctors and plans — but he didn’t pay attention to any of that. In private, Trump was apparently bored by the subject and eager to move onto tax reform.

    But being president of the United States isn’t like being a downmarket consumer brand. The products you put your name on matter. And the deal isn’t done once you’ve appeared at the ribbon-cutting and hyped up the project. You still need to persuade members of Congress to vote for the bill — and they’re apt to wonder what will happen to them when 24 million people lose their health insurance and millions more find themselves forced into crummier, higher-deductible care.

    Trump had no answers for these questions, and he didn’t have the patience to negotiate any out. He agreed to a few thoughtless changes to the legislation — changes that made the bill worse and less stable — and then demanded a vote, fast.

  32. Reid

    This Seems Like Good Information on Unmasking of Americans in Incidental Collection from the NSA

    And more information about incidental collection from Lawfare: Breaking News: I Was Probably Subject to Incidental Collection

  33. Reid

    The Armchair QB Now Becomes an Actual QB

    In my opinion, any critic of government, or the President, specifically, are often based on ignorance, at least to some degree. This even applies to smart people with government experience. Even Congresspeople don’t know all the things a President is privvy to, and I think that information can change one’s opinion and attitude. Because of this, it’s not surprising when Presidents change their views expressed during a campaign.

    Having said that, Trump’s ignorance seems far more profound than any previous candidate. I feel like many, maybe even most, of the strong positions he espoused before becoming president were almost completely based on ignorance. I think we’re beginning to see some evidence for this, by hearing Trump doing a 180 on certain positions. Here’s a recent example:

    (He also dramatically revered positions on attacking Syria after the use of chemical weapons. In 2013, he vociferously opposed any intervention after Assad used chemical weapons. In 2017, he fired sixty missiles at Syria because Assad used chemical weapons.)

    Again, I think all Presidents change their views and positions because they receive information they did not have prior to becoming President. But Trump’s ignorance seems very different. Also, even with access to more information, I still think he’s holding positions based on ignorance, lack of understanding, or possibly being delusional.

    Edit

    Here’s more evidence of his depth of ignorance:

    This comment also reminds me of his comment about health care being so complicated (“Who knew?”). What the above suggests is not just ignorance, but several other things: 1) he doesn’t listen to other people; b) he’s too close-minded or doing enough to learn; c) he has really ignorant advisers around him. There’s something else: he seems to lack awareness that his pronouncements make him seem like a total ignoramus.

    Given all that’s happened, here’s what a smart person would do: The next time he assumes an issue is simple and easy, he would think twice before saying so. In fact, the smart person would reexamine the various positions and opinions and check to see if they were based on flawed or insufficient information. I’d be surprised if Trump does this.

    Edit

    And another example…

    Schindler remarks, “Trump means nothing he says,” which is another valid point. Who can take the President’s words seriously?

  34. Reid

    Trump’s Conception of Truth and Lies and How This Relates to His Gut Feelings

    My current theory about Trump’s lies is that his perception of truth and lies are totally different and distorted from most people. To wit, anything that favors or supports Trump (including, and maybe especially, a position based on a gut feeling) is true. On the other hand, any information or claim that doesn’t favor Trump (or support his gut feeling) is a lie or even “disgraceful.”

    Here’s a small example from a WaPo article:

    Soon after he was elected, Trump said he was “not sure” whether he would keep the FBI director and wanted to meet with him first. He had said previously that Comey “made a mistake” in not charging Clinton and added: “I think something happened.”

    But Trump also had said Comey “brought back his reputation” by revealing in October — less than two weeks before the election — that agents were resuming the Clinton probe.

    The interesting point here, which I didn’t really notice until now, is the importance that Trump seems to place on his gut feeling and instincts. Specifically, if his gut tells him something is true (or false), he really places a level of certainty that is not normal. For example, the evidence and facts can go against the claim based on his gut feeling–e.g., the Inaugural crowd size or millions of illegal votes for Clinton. But whatever facts and evidence exists in the present, they don’t matter because Trump is convicted that at some point in the future facts and evidence will turn up to vindicate his gut feeling. This is what seems to be going on with Trump’s claim that Obama ordered the IC to wiretap Trump Tower.

    If this is true, the fact that the POTUS functions this way is absolutely crazy. Wouldn’t we be right in wondering if something was not of sound mind? At the very least, we wouldn’t be able to trust his decision-making and judgment.

  35. Reid

    The Wall

    From WaPo: President Trump Just Got His Bluff Called Again

    Earlier (last week?) Trump threatened to shutdown the government if the Democrats didn’t agree to fund the border wall. (The one Trump claimed Mexico would pay for.) Trump is now backing down. A pattern seems to be emerging: talk tough, but then back down. It’s happened on health care. One could argue that it happened with China as well. The WaPo article points out a problem with this:

    This kind of bluffing and having it called is undoubtedly something Trump is used to in the business and real estate worlds. But in the political world, you are negotiating with the same people over and over again. And the lesson of the first two big congressional debates is that when Trump says a bill must contain XYZ, he doesn’t really mean it; it’s just posturing. And that doesn’t bode well for future Trump demands.

    But there’s another problem as well. If Trump makes threats to world leaders, they might not take this seriously. One may cross the line, and Trump will either have to back it up or lose even more credibility. If Trump has credibility threats can prevent military action. If he doesn’t, I would think that can increase the chances of a military conflict. (Think of the North Korea situation.)

  36. Reid

    After the First 100 Days, What Are Your Impressions?

    I’m not sure if anyone is following this thread, but if you are, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    Don, I’m especially interested in hearing if your impression of Trump have changed since the last time you commented.

    Here’s what you said earlier (in the first thread on Trump)

    Reid:…that everything Trump says and does is essentially accurate reflection of who he is; that he’s not saying this just to be outrageous; that he only cares about himself–his power and wealth–not the country or governing well

    (Don): At this point and that could change, I don’t really agree with this. My take on Trump in pidgin terms, “he like do whatever he like”. So not following certain protocols is because of that, not so much because of greed. I agree he cares only about himself, but I think he thinks he can make a difference. I think he thinks his policies will be effective, not only for himself, but for America. My best guess is that he is or will be concerned about his legacy, not just as a businessman but as a President. I feel like if he knows something will only benefit him and will destroy America, he wouldn’t do it because even though his wealth is important to him, I think being someone important in history is more important. I could be proven wrong, but that’s how I feel at this point.

    As for me, off the top of my head, I don’t think much has changed. I will say that his ignorance seems deeper, more extensive as time goes on. Also, I feel like he has a pattern of bluffing and then when the bluff doesn’t work, he just withdraws, makes excuses, or just tries to move on to something else. I guess these are minor changes in my perception.

    How do you guys think he’s doing so far? Better or worse than you thought, or just about right?

    For me, it’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s bad.

  37. Mitchell

    I’m reading this but have very little desire to contribute. My impression of this idiot has gotten worse. Slightly worse because he was already scraping the bottom and there wasn’t much room to go any further down.

  38. Reid

    Thanks for your response, Mitchell. I basically agree with your impression.

  39. don

    I don’t think my opinion has changed much. The first 100 days have proven that he’s not effective enough as a politician to enact anything (good or bad). I’m totally guessing, but if he did more politicking maybe his appeal on Obama care would have been more effective. I wonder if he even tries to make deals with the other politicians. If he doesn’t and thinks he can just be omnipotent, I’m not sure how many changes he can enact during his term.

    I’m not sure if Trump is actually “bluffing” as you said or just spouting off. Bluffing has a connotation of a possible benefit if it works as in poker. Do you think Trump thinks people will buy what he’s saying or whether what he’s saying will come to fruition at some point? I’m not so sure he even believes what he’s saying himself. I take his “spewings” as just saying whatever he thinks is best at the time and if it’s not correct, “oh wells” I will roll with that as well. He’s definitely different. Do you think middle/rural America still strongly backs him? I know his approval numbers aren’t great, but I wonder if there are huge numbers of guys that backed him thinking, “Why did I vote for him?”.

  40. Reid

    Don,

    What about the idea that Trump cares about his legacy and how history will remember him over his wealth?

    I’m totally guessing, but if he did more politicking maybe his appeal on Obama care would have been more effective.

    I think I know what you mean by “politicking.” I mean, if he and his staff were just more competent and knowledgeable about legislation, they had a chance to repeal and replace Obamacare. i agree with that.

    I’m not sure if Trump is actually “bluffing” as you said or just spouting off. Bluffing has a connotation of a possible benefit if it works as in poker. Do you think Trump thinks people will buy what he’s saying or whether what he’s saying will come to fruition at some point?

    When he talks “tough” in the relation to a conflict that needs to be resolved–like with health care legislation, keeping the government open, or even with North Korea and China– I think part of this is a tactic, maybe a desperate one, to see if this will help him get a better deal.

    But I also think he just “says any kind,” too. But I also wonder if he’s not mentally sound, if he’s delusional. What’s your take on that? If he says something he doesn’t even believe, why is he even saying those things?

    Do you think middle/rural America still strongly backs him? I know his approval numbers aren’t great, but I wonder if there are huge numbers of guys that backed him thinking, “Why did I vote for him?

    My sense is that his supporters still strongly support him. I think if you see the Congression Republicans turn against Trump, then you’ll know that his supporters’ enthusiasm has also waned quite a bit.

  41. Don

    What about the idea that Trump cares about his legacy and how history will remember him over his wealth?

    Why is this clearly wrong? I didn’t get the sense it’s wrong. Not yet anyway.

    Politicking as in making deals to get things passed. I understand that Obama made quite a few to get Obamacare passed. My guess (and it’s totally a guess) that Trump isn’t into making deals to win votes.

  42. Reid

    Why is this clearly wrong?

    Wait, did I say this in any of my posts today? I was just asking you if you changed your views–specifically about whether he’s motivated by leaving a good legacy as president.

    By the way, I don’t think I would say this view is clearly wrong, but I, personally, don’t think his motivation to leave a good legacy is stronger than his personal interests, like enriching himself. The failure to divest his business, which creates a lot the conflict of interests or placing Ivanka and Jared to be a part of his administration and use that position to profit off it–these seem to go against the notion that he cares about his legacy.

    My guess (and it’s totally a guess) that Trump isn’t into making deals to win votes.

    You mean, compromising to get votes to pass the legislation? You could be right, although a part of me feels like Trump isn’t closed to making concessions to get a deal done. A part of me feels like he and his team know very little about the legislative process.

  43. Reid

    Trump Fires FBI Director, Jim Comey

    From Reuters:Comey Infuriated Trump by Refusing to Preview His Testimony to Senate: Aides

    From WaPo: How Trump’s Anger and Impatience Prompted Him to Fire the FBI Director

    One thought: Trump definitely doesn’t believe in the idea that the Department of Justice and FBI should function independently of the White House–that this independence is very important. My sense is Comey acted independently, which infuriated Trump, and that’s one of the big reasons Trump fired him. Related to all of this: Trump was angry at the fact that Comey continued to pursue the Russian investigation and didn’t pursue the leaks as hard as Trump would have liked. Tyrannical. (This could also go in the autocrat post.)

    From New York Times: Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resource for Russia Inquiry

    What the heck? This is too close to obstruction of justice.

    Edit (5/11/2017)

    And something else from The Atlantic Two Dead Canaries in the Coal Mine This could also be in the autocracy watch post. Recommended.

    Edit (5/17/2017)

    From Business Insider: Why James Comey Didn’t Quit Ealier by Josh Barro

  44. Reid

    Don the Con

    From WaPo: Trump Lawyers Outline President’s Russian Income But Provide No Documents

    Trump, via his lawyers, are trying to prove that Trump has no financial connections to Russia/Russians. Like his attempt to prove that Trump has divested his businesses, this recent attempt feels like he’s trying to hoodwink the American people–and it’s not even a clever attempt, which is adds insult to injury. There are no documents to verify the claims–the President and his lawyers are essentially saying, “just trust us.”

    Some examples of the incompetent con job:

    Trump and his aides have been promising for several days that they would send a certified letter from Trump’s attorneys to Graham showing that the president has no business ties with Russia. “Certified” refers to the class of mail used to send the document, but does not offer any outside assurance that the contents of the document are accurate.

    Also, about that letter:

    The letter released Friday is dated March 8 and addressed to Trump. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a question about why the letter was written in early March and why it was not released publicly for more than two months.

    I agree with the comments below (emphasis added):

    Daniel Shaviro, a tax law expert at New York University, said that without additional information on Trump’s tax returns and income, the letter from the lawyers is “meaningless garbage.”

    “There are too many ways that it could be misleading and incomplete, Shaviro said. “For example, suppose that Russian people controlled U.S. entities that were intermediaries. Or suppose that things were run through Russian allies, including former Soviet countries.”

    He said the fact that the White House would release such a letter with no verification “makes me more suspicious, not less, of the president’s financial ties.”

  45. Reid

    (In)competency, Part 2

    Edit (5/15/2017)

    The constant leaks from the White House is another comical sign of ineptitude from this White House. As an example, here’s a quote from a Politico article (emphasis added):

    The consequences can be tremendous, according to a half-dozen White House officials and others with direct interactions with the president. A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.

    An enraged Trump looking to find and punish people for leaking information, while the leaks continue unabated, gushing, even–that seems like a picture of comical incompetence.

    Edit

    From WaPo: Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador

    I believe Lt. Gen. McMaster is pushing back on this, saying this didn’t happen–that he was in the room. I tend to believe this–or I want to–because if it’s not true, than McMaster is covering for the President when he probably shouldn’t be.

    Even if the President actually didn’t reveal highly classified information, the article suggests he gave too much information to the Russians, and what’s worrying is that Trump seems totally ignorant and inept with regard to watching what he says. For example,

    U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points — and often ignores those.

    “He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

    (emphasis added)

    I’m worried, too. Shoot, if McMaster or any other responsible people in the White House are really worried about this, shouldn’t they do something–like start considering a way to impeach the president?

    Thread on background of different types of classified information. (I’m not sure who this person is, but according to his twitter bio, he worked in the Obama administration. I saw the thread from Prof. Brendan Nyhan.)

    Edit

    Good point.

    Also, a really thorough and thoughtful post from Lawfare about this issue (one of the best sites I discovered during the campaign).

    Edit

    Another story from Politico, with quotes from people with national security background

    Edit

    I have no idea if this is a big deal or not, but it doesn’t sound good.

    From WaPo: When President Trump’s Bodyguard Revealed Jim Mattis’s Private Cellphone Number

    Edit (5/16/2017)

    The inside look into the White House from both the Times and WaPo, hasn’t been reassuring. From the Times: At a Besieged White House, Tempers Flare and Confusion Swirls. It’s pretty remarkable what the White House staff people tell the reporters:

    “Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now,” he said, “and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.”

    A dozen of Mr. Trump’s aides and associates, while echoing Mr. Trump’s defiance, privately agreed with Mr. Corker’s view. They spoke candidly, in a way they were unwilling to do just weeks ago, about the damage that was being done to the administration’s standing and the fatigue that was setting in after months of having to defend the president’s missteps, Twitter posts and unpredictable actions.

    Or later,

    There is a fear among some of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers about leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the president is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground.

    This has, at times, chafed the president, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Trump, who still openly laments having to dismiss his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, has groused that General McMaster talks too much in meetings, and the president has referred to him as “a pain,” according to one of the officials.

    In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of printed briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would do harm to United States allies.

    Trump is basically not sophisticated or well-informed enough to harm U.S. interests. Lovely.

    Edit (5/16/2017)

    Consequences of incompetence:

    Awful, if true.

    Edit (5/17/2017)

    From The New York Times: Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to the White House

    The impact of this isn’t that dramatic, actually, because the essence of the story was known before this–namely, that Trump choose someone really unfit and inappropriate for the National Security Adviser position. Still, it does underscore the decision:

    Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

    Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

    What I’m wondering: did Mike Pence know about this?

    Answer:

    Edit (5/19/2017)

    This is some of the most scathing criticisms I’ve read about Trump–from the White House (emphasis added):

    “He keeps saying there’s no collusion, and I think he’s right. So if he would just shut his trap, what would Dems have?”

    “Okay, he fired Comey,” the official conceded. “With a semi-competent comms operation, that would blow over in 24 hours. And that’s the worst part: he has a competent comms staff. But they can’t do their jobs because he keeps running his mouth.”

    and,

    Trump’s repeated media missteps have frustrated even longtime supporters. “Every day he looks more and more like a complete moron,” said one senior administration official who also worked on Trump’s campaign. “I can’t see Trump resigning or even being impeached, but at this point I wish he’d grow a brain and be the man that he sold himself as on the campaign.”

    Asked whether an administration staff change-up would ameliorate this latest crisis, a Republican source formerly involved with a pro-Trump political group told The Daily Beast, “yes, if it comes with a frontal lobotomy for Trump.”

    I wonder who the senior official is that made the moron comment. Priebus? Bannon?

  46. Mitchell

    The White House has no power to impeach the President, but I know you know this. Should members of the White House staff encourage the House to begin articles of impeachment? I don’t think I’m comfortable with this, although I guess it’s within their rights.

    Whatever McMaster says, Reuters and BuzzFeed each verified the WaPo story through two inside sources. Whether those sources are the same two people for both publications is impossible to know, but if they didn’t share info, I’m inclined to believe the anonymous sources.

  47. Mitchell

    Also, if just the fact that the WaPo is holding back details at the request of officials because sharing them would pose a threat is true, that’s really all you need in order to determine that the WaPo story is probably true.

  48. Reid

    Should members of the White House staff encourage the House to begin articles of impeachment? I don’t think I’m comfortable with this, although I guess it’s within their rights.

    If your in the White House–or Congress or a government official close to the White House–and you really think the president is so reckless, ignorant, and undisciplined–maybe even mentally and emotionally unstable (See the second post of this thread.)–that he can’t protect national security information (among other bad things), what would be the responsible thing to do? If I were in the situation, I would consider telling someone in Congress or someone else that could, about my concerns. And if I do believe the Cabinet Secretaries, per the 25th Amendments, could remove the POTUS.

    Whether those sources are the same two people for both publications is impossible to know, but if they didn’t share info, I’m inclined to believe the anonymous sources.

    What do you mean by, “If they didn’t share info?”

    Also, if just the fact that the WaPo is holding back details at the request of officials because sharing them would pose a threat is true, that’s really all you need in order to determine that the WaPo story is probably true.

    Yeah, good point. Also, if it’s true White House officials removed information from the transcripts because the information was highly sensitive, that seems to support the reporting as well.

    It would be sad if McMaster, the author of Dereliction of Duty, was covering this up.

  49. Mitchell

    If the cabinet removes the president, is it still an impeachment? I don’t know the details on that. My understanding is only the House can impeach the president, and the Senate is the jury for the trial. I could be wrong; it’s been a long time since I’ve read much about this.

    I mean if BuzzFeed and Reuters didn’t tell each other which White House officials confirmed the WaPo story. If they did, and received verification from the same two officials, it’s not two verifications but the same verification reported by two different outlets.

    McMaster doesn’t have to be covering things up in order to be right. The way he worded things, if any part of the WaPo story is incorrect, he’s telling the truth.

  50. Reid

    If the cabinet removes the president, is it still an impeachment?

    I’m not sure–you might be right that it’s not impeachment. The difference, in my view, doesn’t matter. Both will remove or take significant steps to remove the POTUS from office.

    I mean if BuzzFeed and Reuters didn’t tell each other which White House officials confirmed the WaPo story. If they did, and received verification from the same two officials, it’s not two verifications but the same verification reported by two different outlets.

    But if they didn’t tell each other, it’s still not two verifications, right? I’m confused.

    McMaster doesn’t have to be covering things up in order to be right. The way he worded things, if any part of the WaPo story is incorrect, he’s telling the truth.

    Technically, you might be right, but do you think his integrity will come out of this intact, if the the substance of the story is true? Personally, I don’t think so.

  51. Mitchell

    Okay. Buzzfeed has a few contacts in the White House. It calls Adam and Beth, who confirm that the WaPo’s account is pretty much what happened.

    Independently, Reuters calls its contacts in the White House. It calls Charlie and Danielle, who also confirm the WaPo’s account.

    This is two different verifications. If Reuters had called Adam and Beth, even without knowing that Adam and Beth had spoken to Buzzfeed, it’s still only one verification. I’m not sure where I’m being confusing here. I was just musing aloud about whether or not two agencies were likely to have the same contacts, especially since Buzzfeed is the new kid, and just a blog.

    I think it depends. Colin Powell played good soldier until he couldn’t play it anymore. I think most of us who are generous in spirit would say he’s not fully to blame for guiding us into a bad war. There’s room here for McMaster to just be the good soldier, although I don’t think it’s much.

  52. Reid

    I think I got confused with “if they didn’t share info” phrase. Your point is that if there are four sources versus two, then you would have more confidence in the reporting. I get that, and agree.

    I think it depends. Colin Powell played good soldier until he couldn’t play it anymore. I think most of us who are generous in spirit would say he’s not fully to blame for guiding us into a bad war. There’s room here for McMaster to just be the good soldier, although I don’t think it’s much.

    But that situation seems really, really different. In this case, if Trump recklessly gave important details to the Russians, allowing them to gain important insights into classified information and methods–methods of an ally (NY Times reporting the information was from Israel), McMaster is basically covering this up. More importantly, if McMaster–and others around him–believe Trump is unfit, then that makes the deception/lie even more egregious.

    Whatever you want to say about George W Bush, I don’t think even his staunchest opponents would say he was mentally and emotionally unfit to be POTUS. Do you see what I’m saying, or do you disagree with this?

  53. Mitchell

    Powell went before the United Nations with (erroneous) justification for a war that led to thousands of deaths. Did Powell believe what he said that day, or was he merely doing his job? It’s pretty damnable even if he truly believed what he was saying, because it was wrong.

    I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying, but I wouldn’t be so quick to call McMaster’s actions that different from Powell’s. I don’t see a cover-up so much as spin. He acknowledges what the guy said, but he’s now saying it was “wholly appropriate.” It sounds a lot like toeing the party line for the Gulf War.

  54. Reid

    It’s pretty damnable even if he truly believed what he was saying, because it was wrong.

    But if, to the best of his knowledge, the intelligence he had was accurate, you think that’s the same as McMaster dissembling about Trump giving away crucial information to the Russians? And what if McMaster believes Trump is truly unfit to be president? I see these are very, very different situations.

    Now, if McMaster truly believes that Trump didn’t give critical information or that Trump is unfit–then I find this less objectionable, even if he turns out to be wrong.

  55. Reid

    Talk of Removing Trump From Office

    This New York Times op-ed by conservative writer, Ross Douthat, is remarkable. It’s remarkable not only that Douthat is sincerely calling for Trump’s removal, but he’s arguing that Trump should be removed via the 25th Amendment because Trump is too much of a child–specifically too much of a child to “betray an oath of office you evince no sign of really understanding or respecting.” From following Trump for about a year, the explanation that Trump behaves like an authoritarian because he is actually a kind of child seems plausible and compelling to me. Trump really may not understand notions of the rule of law and separation of powers–because of he possesses not only a child’s temperament, but a child’s mind. This sounds like crazy talk, but his behavior or words have been crazy–he seemed to admit or come close to admitting that he could fire Comey because of he believed the Russian investigation was made up; he uttered openly, “Who knew health care could be so complex?” with zero awareness how ignorant this made him sound. In light of these things, the explanation that Trump is not unlike a child in many ways seems like plausible.

    And now Douthat is saying that the president’s cabinet should consider invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows the Cabinet, through a majority, to remove the president from office.

    That’s where we are.

    From The National Review: Ross Douthat Fails to Grapple with the Consequences of his 25th Amendment Idea by Charles C.W. Cooke.

    And here’s a twitter exchange between the two:

    If we have to remove the POTUS, I lean toward impeachment. However, I tend to agree with Douthat–specifically, that we could be minutes away from disaster (which is how Cooke characterizes their differences). There’s really no one of knowing if we are truly minutes away from disaster, but I don’t think this is a far-fetched notion at all. If something catastrophic happens (and the incident with giving classified Israeli information to the Russians is related red flag), one can’t say it was a total shock, something really unpredictable. At this point, I would say it’s a possibility that one should seriously consider. Does that constitute “minutes away from disaster?” I don’t know. But there is an urgency to deciding whether to remove the president, and if Congress decides to act, they shouldn’t think they have all the time in the world.

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