Trump Regime (5)

Trump Presidency (1)
Trump Presidency (2)
Trump Regime (3)
Trump Regime (4)
Administrative Personnel Profiles

Here’s the fifth thread.

56 Responses to “Trump Regime (5)”


  1. Reid

    Incompetence

    From Bloomberg What a Conservative Sees From Inside Trump’s Washington by Meghan McCardle. The basic idea in the article is that Republicans in Washington know that Trump is incompetent.

    Edit (5/25/2017)

    On Trump’s talk at NATO:

    More

    Edit: Possible Explanation of Flynn’s Incompetence (5/27/2017)

    I don’t know if it’s true, but it sounds persuasive:

    Edit (5/30/2017)

    I’m resisting believing the following, mainly because it’s too hard to believe:

    Edit (6/2/2017)

    Reuters: Trump’s Search for New FBI Chief Seen as Chaotic

    This is based on three sources of people who are associates of interviewees.

    Those conversations, which followed initial interviews at the Justice Department, have been light on questions about substantive issues facing the agency, the three associates said.

    While the department has compiled a long list of candidates for the White House, there has been no “clear framework or logic for who was interviewed and why,” said one of the sources.

    Another of the three sources described the process as chaotic and said that in one interview, Trump spoke mostly about himself and seemed distracted.

    (emphasis added)

    Uhhh….

    Edit: Will People Believe Trump if Says There’s a Terrorist Attack?

    Edit (6/5/207)

    WaPo: Trump is Courting Disaster by Not fully Staffing the Government, an op-ed by Jennifer Rubin

    Edit (6/10/2017)

    Edit (6/12/2017)

    Incompetence moving to gross negligence with regard to national security. Infuriating.

    Edit (6/13/2017)

    Perhaps this isn’t incompetence, but it seems like a bad idea.

    Edit (6/15/2017)

    kakistocracy

    Edit (6/26/2017)

    Edit (6/28/2017)

    Edit (10/12/2017)

    Thread on whether we can blame an unified GOP for Trump’s struggles:

  2. Reid

    Evidence That Trump is a More like an Autocrat Than a POTUS

    Edit 6/12/2017

    Edit

    Edit

    Edit (7/29/2017)

    Edit (8/16/2017)

    Edit (8/22/2017)

    From the New York Times: Mitch McConnell, in Private, Doubts Trump Can Save His Presidency

    The article describes the feud between McConnell and Trump. Here’s a passage that stood out:

    During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

    (emphasis added)

    This is appalling in at least two different ways:

    1. Trump seems to not take responsibility for the Russian investigation. Whether Trump is innocent or not, he is the major reason for the mess he’s in with regard to the Russian investigation;

    2. Even if he weren’t, the idea that “protecting” Trump from an investigation is highly troubling. The Senate Majority Leader or any member of Congress isn’t there to protect the POTUS from the Russian investigation. That would be inappropriate, or at least moving toward something highly inappropriate. This sounds a lot like Trump’s expectation that the Attorney General shouldn’t have recused himself from the Russian investigation–that he should have protected Trump.

    Edit (8/28/2017)

    Trump Now Wants to Militarize the Police at the Wrong Time

    I don’t think this move is clearly wrong or autocratic, but taken it together with all the other things Trump has done and said, there is a legitimate cause for concern, in my opinion.

    Edit (10/11/2017)

    Edit (10/19/2017)

    I didn’t know where to place the following article–it could have been in the corruption post or Russia post as well.

    From Politico: Trump Interviews U.S. Attorneys

    “To be very blunt, these three jurisdictions will have authority to bring indictments over the ongoing special counsel investigation into Trump campaign collusion with the Russians and potential obstruction of justice by the president of the United States,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an interview Thursday. “For him to be interviewing candidates for that prosecutor who may in turn consider whether to bring indictments involving him and his administration seems to smack of political interference.”

    and

    “It is neither normal nor advisable for Trump to personally interview candidates for US Attorney positions, especially the one in Manhattan,” Bharara tweeted Wednesday.

    Edit (10/21/2017)

    From Mother Jones: Trumpocracy: Tracking the Creeping Authoritarianism of the 45th President

    Useful catalog of Trump’s words and actions are authoritarian in nature.

    Edit (10/25/2017)

    Reminiscent of Trump congratulating Erdogan with successful measure to consolidate power.

    Edit (11/1/2017)

    Edit (11/2/2017)

    From CNN: Donald Trump laments he’s ‘not supposed’ to influence DOJ, FBI

    This is remarkable. The quotes in here suggest Trump doesn’t understand or doesn’t believe in the importance of separation of powers. Specifically, in this case, the importance of an independent DOJ/law enforcement. For example,

    “The saddest thing is that because I’m the President of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,” Trump said. “I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI.”

    (emphasis added)

    Later,

    “I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department. Well, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with her, the dossier?” Trump said, referring to the law firm Perkins Coie saying it had paid Fusion GPS to compile a dossier of information on Trump and Russia on behalf of Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
    “I’m very unhappy with it that the Justice Department isn’t going,” Trump said.”I am not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I am very frustrated by it.”

    He’s candor here suggests he’s totally clueless about why it’s important that the POTUS not interfere with the DOJ and FBI in the way he’s pining for.

    Edit (11/4/2017)

    From This Week on ABC News:

    President Trump is hammering the Justice Department over a lack of an investigation into Democrats and isn’t ruling out firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions if the department doesn’t take action against Hillary Clinton.

    “I don’t know,” Trump told ABC’s Jonathan Karl when asked if the president would fire Sessions if the DOJ doesn’t pursue action against Clinton. “I’m really not involved with the Justice Department. I’d like to let it run itself. But honestly they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty.”

    He went on, “They should be looking at a lot of things and a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”

    Edit

    I didn’t have a narcissist category, so I’m putting this here.

  3. Reid

    Russia

    One, in a series of bombshells that have been coming out in the past few weeks, from WaPo: Russian Ambassador Told Moscow That Kushner Wanted a Secret Communications Channel With Kremlin

    It’s so hard to accept this story at face value. One of my first impulses is to wonder if this information is manipulated and/or leaked by the Russians themselves. I assume Kislyak would be aware of the possibility that what was being said was being recorded. What’s a bit odd to me is that the story is based on ” intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials,” but “(n)either the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance.” What exactly are “intercepts” and how did the U.S. officials get this?

    (Another question: Did Bannon leak this information to the press?)

    If the article is accurate and we can take it on face value–i.e., this isn’t some unbelievable intricate deception by the Russians or some other explanation–Kushner is super clueless, naive, inept, and I don’t know what else. And that’s actually the rosier explanation. If he’s involved in making a deal to help his business, or helping the Russians in exchange for the Russians helping Trump get in the White House, that’s far worse, obviously. (On another note: This is the kind of story that makes me think of bumbling, idiotic criminals in a Coen Brother movie, except on steroids.)

    Finally something more speculative. Once the Russians feel like they don’t have any benefits with Trump in office, I could see them doing things to bring Trump down–and bring him down in a way that will weaponized existing partisanship and polarizing to tear the country a part.

    What could help us get through such a tactic–what might be vital–is for Republican leaders and the conservative media–to eschew partisanship and avoid demonizing the mainstream media–trying to bring their core supporters along.

    Edit

    By the way, as we live through this “TV series,” the big question: Why the heck does Trump seem to love Putin and Russia so much?! There are theories out there, but the one that comes to mind first: Russians built a strong bond with Trump, decades ago, with financial support only being one part of this. Could it be that the Russians knew about Trump’s affinity for authoritarians; and is it possible that Trump also has a powerful need for a father figure or big brother figure? If so, could the Russians have built a relationship based on this? Yeah, this is far-fetched….I’d like to get to the end of this novel to find out what the answer is, though.

    Edit

    Edit: Well Kissinger Set Up a Back Channel, too. So What’s the Big Deal?

    That’s basically the point that Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk show host tried to throw out there. Tom Nichols, a NeverTrumper conservative, shot down that idea.

    Hewitt responds:

    Nichols:

    Worth reading if you want to understand the common understanding of “back channel.”

    Edit: New York Times has Their Version of the Kushner Russia Secret Channel (5/27/2017)

    Here it is: Kushner to Have Discussed Secret Channel to Talk to Russia

    The main difference is that the story is based on three White House sources that claim the secret channel was suggested for Michael Flynn to talk to Russian military officials about the Syrian War. Like others, this seems like a odd and dubious explanation. Even if it’s true, it’s seems fishy that Flynn would want this. Why would he want to keep the DoD out of this conversation?

    See the tweet below regarding the three anonymous White House officials.

    Edit: Interesting Report on NSA Activity (5/29/2017)

    According to this article by John Schindler, former NSA officer, the NSA is now doing a massive and unprecedented search for all their collected signal intelligence (SIGINT) relating to the Russia investigation. SIGINT is intelligence relating to conversations collected. Schindler, via his contacts in the NSA, also reports that the NSA is preserving all requests for unmasking. Schindler believes this is being done to have documentation that if any unmasking was done that it was done properly–or at least have a trail to show what happened so that others can scrutinize it. Ultimately, this is a move to preserve the integrity and public trust of the NSA. Trump, Trump supporters and Russia will (are) attempt to discredit the NSA if they find any damning evidence against Trump and Russia.

    Edit: Trump is Already Guilty of Aiding Putin’s Attack on America (5/30/2017)

    From Mother Jones: Trump is Already Guilty of Aiding Putin’s Attack on America

    Tweetstorm of articles about Trump’s connections to Russia.

    Edit (5/31/2017)

    From WaPo: Trump Administration Moves to Return Russian Compounds In Maryland and New York

    These are the compounds that Obama administration seized in December 2016, which expelling 35 Russian officials, thought to be spies. The compounds have long thought to be a place that was used for spy operations.

    Russia wasn’t happy with this, and normally they would have retaliated by expelling American officials, but they refrained–ostensibly because Flynn told them to hold off until Trump got into office. (Trump praised Putin for this in a tweet, saying, in part, “I knew he was smart.”) Now, there seems to be indication that the Trump administration is planning to return the facilities with no concessions. From my understanding this was the only punishment Russia received for interfering in our elections. Giving the facilities back without concessions would basically take away that punishment–signaling weakness or that we don’t think the interference was serious.

    Edit (5/31/2017)

    From the Borowitz Report: Three Russian Spies Meet in the Oval Office

    Edit (6/1/2017)

    From Yahoo News: How Trump Administration’s Secret Efforts to Ease Russia Sanctions Fell Short. (This occurred after the election.)

    Edit

    Ugh. How is disappointing European leaders beneficial to U.S. interests? I can see how it benefits Russian interests!

  4. Reid

    A Good Explanation as to Why Trump Didn’t Appear as Bad as He Is

    I totally agree with this tweetstorm. I can totally understand and relate to the hesitation of the mainstream press from printing some of these stories. Accepting certain information about Trump makes me feel like a conspiracy theorist. But much of the facts and information seem overwhelming. Here is the tweetstorm transcribed:

    One of the reasons the collusion story took so long to break was that it was so over the top media was hesitant to believe it. Back in July ’16 I got several leads regarding Russian collusion, and I tried to report. I got told over and over again to move off it. Everyone said it was the stuff of conspiracy theorists while evidence mounted. It was so large people didn’t want to accept possibility.

    Trump and company didn’t hide this well. It was transparent and out in the open, but its brazeness hid it. If you remember, though, the Clinton campaign hinted subtly that it was there. Even those allusions went unheard. Trump’s chief strength is that he’s so brazen that people don’t want to believe someone could be so corrupt. This is only one in a long line. The dots weren’t hard to connect and were there since Dem convention, but the emails were the juicier more mundane story.

    When it comes to Trump, however, you have to be really, really open to outlandish narrative, because that’s who he is. He doesn’t operate with the same parameters as everyone else, his privilege is so great he has his own set of laws and codes. The Russian thing was just another deal to him, a bending of the line that has never, ever applied to him. Just another transaction.

  5. Mitchell

    What exactly are “intercepts” and how did the U.S. officials get this?

    I don’t think you’re as confused about this as you think. You know that American intelligence gatherers are listening in on key Russian people. They aren’t (or at least they weren’t) tracking Kushner’s phone calls, or necessarily any meetings between Russian officials in America. The story seems to say that while listening in on one (or more) of these Russians, they picked up that Kushner was making these requests.

    For some reason I knew all this already. I kept having to look at the date on these articles to see that I wasn’t experiencing deja vu or something, because I was already somehow aware of the request for a private line. So for once, today’s news does not bring me bafflement.

    This is partly why I said the other night that someone had convinced me Kushner is likely to be the smoking gun in the collusion investigation.

  6. Reid

    The story seems to say that while listening in on one (or more) of these Russians, they picked up that Kushner was making these requests.

    You mean, another Russian talking about what transpired? And maybe another Russian speaking to Kislyak about what transpired? That would make sense.

    This is partly why I said the other night that someone had convinced me Kushner is likely to be the smoking gun in the collusion investigation.

    Specifically, because he was trying to set up a secret channel? I knew the government was going to question him, but I didn’t know he was setting up a secret channel (at the Russian embassy, using Russian equipment), while Flynn was present and the president of one of the Russian banks (which is not under sanctions).

    Also, I just read an article that Kushner has a property that is losing money and the interest rates on the debt is going up. This is the building that Kushner tried refinance the debt through an agreement with a Chinese company. That deal fell through, though. I mention this, because you have to wonder if Kushner motivation to pay off this debt is linked to cutting some deal with the Russians.

  7. Reid

    On Leaks

    Leaks Aren’t the Real Story But They Shouldn’t Be Ignored is an excellent Lawfareblog article by Susan Hennesey. The article focuses on a recent leak regarding a conversation between Russians regarding the possibility of having compromising information on President Trump.

    Here’s a quick summary of the article: Releasing classified information on Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak may have some justification since Flynn lied and the White House knew about this, but didn’t really do anything about it. However, the situation now is different because a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate Russian ties to the Trump campaign as well as several other Congressional investigations. Intelligence officers (current or former) can give information to those two processes, versus releasing classified information to the public.

    Intelligence officers should be wary of releasing this information because the Trump administration could go after them, with justification, and thus distract from the current Russian investigation.

    I also think these intelligence officers have to be careful that they won’t be manipulated by the Russian government–leaking things that actually help Russia.

    I agree with Hennesey, and I hope intelligence officers heed her warning.

  8. Reid

    Corruption

    From the Daily Beast: Trump Exempts Entire Senior Staff from White House Ethics Rules

    The list provides the first official glimpse at the extent to which Trump has circumvented his own ethics rules by hiring former special interest advocates of the type that he railed against on the campaign trail.

    But it does not cover the entire Trump administration and only discloses waivers granted to officials in the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President. The Office of Government Ethics had requested all waivers issued to appointees administration-wide, but it was not immediately clear whether those were to be made available by the White House or the applicable federal agencies.

    For comparison:

    Disclosure was more regimented under a similar executive order imposed by President Barack Obama in 2009. That measure directed OGE to regularly update its website with a list of waivers to a similar ethics pledge—Obama granted 49 in total over eight years and across his entire administration—along with detailed explanations of why those waivers were in the “public interest.” No such explanations accompanied the Trump White House’s list.

    (emphasis added)

    Edit (6/10/2017)

    From WaPo: Trump’s DOJ Argues Foreign Payments to Trump’s Businesses Are Legally Permitted

    I couldn’t get past the headline. I didn’t have the stomach.

    Edit (6/14/2017)

    I think it safe to say Trump didn’t take this message from Obama very seriously:

    Edit (6/21/2017)

    Edit (8/10/2017)

    Edit (8/15/2017)

    From the New Yorker: Trump’s Business of Corruption

    This is a long, labyrinthine article about Trump’s business deal in the Republic of Georgia. There are several takeaways for me in this:

    1. I would be surprised if Trump didn’t do something illegal or highly problematic in this transaction. We’re talking about something that could put him in jail.

    2. The Russians likely have evidence for this, which can be used as kompromat (blackmail):

    Keith Darden is a political scientist at American University who has written extensively on the use of compromising information—kompromat—by former Soviet regimes against people they want to control. He told me that Kazakh intelligence is believed to collect dossiers on every significant business transaction involving the country. This would be especially true if a famous American developer was part of the deal, even if it would not have occurred to them that he might one day become the U.S. President. “There is no question—they know everything about this deal,” Darden said.

    Darden explained that Kazakh intelligence agents work closely with their Russian counterparts. Kulibayev himself has direct ties to Russia’s leadership. In 2011, he was named to the board of Gazprom, the Russian gas behemoth, which is widely considered to be a pillar of Putin’s fortune. In “The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev,” Daniel Treisman, a political scientist at U.C.L.A. who specializes in Russia, wrote, “For Putin, Gazprom was a personal obsession. He memorized the details of the company’s accounts, its pricing rules and pipeline routes. He personally approved all appointments down to the deputy level, sometimes forgetting to tell the company’s actual C.E.O., Aleksey Miller.” Kulibayev could not possibly be serving on Gazprom’s board without Putin’s assent.

    (Note: Trump’s deal involved a Kazakh oligarch.)

    Edit (10/13/2017)

    Edit (10/23/2017)

    I’m not certain that this is a matter of corruption, but it sure is fishy.

    Edit (10/25/2017)

    Edit (10/27/2017)

    Edit (11/2/2017)

    From Newsweek: Trump Administration Most Corrupt in History

  9. Reid

    Russia (2)

    From WaPo: Explanations for Kushner’s Meeting with Head of Kremlin-linked Bank Don’t Match Up

    ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — The White House and a Russian state-owned bank have very different explanations for why the bank’s chief executive and Jared Kushner held a secret meeting during the presidential transition in December.

    The bank maintained this week that the session was held as part of a new business strategy and was conducted with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business. The White House says the meeting was unrelated to business and was one of many diplomatic encounters the soon-to-be presidential adviser was holding ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

    The bank of the bank president, Gorkov, that Kushner met with:

    “Basically, VEB operates like Putin’s slush fund,” said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Center and a Russia expert who follows the bank’s activities. “It carries out major Kremlin operations that Putin does not want to do through the state budget.”

    Also:

    VEB has played a role in Russian espionage efforts in the past, serving as the cover for a Russian operative convicted last year of spying in New York.

    According to court documents, Evgeny Buryakov posed as the second-in-command at the bank’s Manhattan office for at least three years while secretly meeting dozens of times with a Russian intelligence officer who tasked him with gathering intelligence on the U.S. economic system.

    The court records show that Buryakov’s handlers were also recorded discussing attempts to recruit an American whom government officials have confirmed was Carter Page, an energy consultant who later served as an informal adviser to Trump’s campaign.

    (emphasis added)

    Edit (6/5/2017)

    From WaPo: Every Russia Story That Trump Said Was a Hoax by Democrats: a Timeline

    Edit (6/7/2017)

    Comments from former Director of National Intelligence under Obama, James Clapper. I believe the following remarks came from a speech he just gave in Australia. The remarks don’t all pertain to Russia, but I think this is the best place for them.

    Edit (6/10/2017)

    From the New York Times: Trump’s Lawyer in Russia Probe Has Clients with Kremlin Ties

    Not just any old ties, either. The lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has the following clients: “Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has done business with Trump’s former campaign manager (Paul Manafort!)” and “Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, U.S. court records show.”

    This surprised me, and in this surprise the first thought that flashed through my mind was John Carpenter’s They Live and then, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s hysterical, but in that instance it felt like we’re being invaded by Russians.

    On a less hysterical note: is it just me or would it be crazy if somehow Russia was paying for this lawyer?

    Oh, I forgot about this:

    Former associates of Sberbank, the other Russia-tied Kasowitz client, also have come under scrutiny in media reports.

    The bank’s former vice president, who is now chief executive of another Russian state-owned financial institution, Vnesheconombank, met with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, in December.

    The former vice president is Gorkov. The bank he’s at now is the one that Jim Comey couldn’t say anything about, except he knew it existed, in an open Congressional hearing.

    Edit (6/13/2017)

    Edit (6/15/2017)

    If this is true, I seriously would like to know if there is a perfectly innocent, non-suspicious reason for this connection.

    Edit (6/19/2017)

    From Buzzfeed This is Trump Administration’s Plan for Dealing with Russia

    The article describes a State Department memo describing Tillerson’s approach to dealing with Russia. It seems somewhat like a solid approach, but two things stood out, as little red flags:

    A key difference from the Obama-era strategy is the Tillerson framework does not expressly commit to building up the “resilience” of Russian neighbors. Obama’s strategy, drafted by his White House senior director for Russia Celeste Wallander, pledged to make Eastern and Central European countries more “resilient against Russian tactics” through various democracy-building programs and the development of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which first deployed in June 2015 for a NATO exercise in Poland.

    When asked about the omission, a State Department spokesperson said US support for Eastern Europe will remain in place even if it isn’t explicitly stated in the framework. She pointed to Tillerson’s remarks during a Senate budget hearing last week pledging to maintain a “particular emphasis on the countries that we see in Europe that are most at risk of Russian interference.”

    Tillerson’s reassurances were met with skepticism last week, when lawmakers including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham questioned his budget proposal, which cuts US assistance to several countries in Russia’s sphere of influence. “What do we tell our friends in Georgia about reducing their aid about 66% given the threats they faced?” Graham said.

    Tillerson said the goal of US aid programs has never been to provide assistance to US allies indefinitely.

    and

    In the meantime, Tillerson has tapped Tom Shannon, a career foreign service officer and the State Department’s No. 3 official, to help get US-Russia relations back on track. Shannon will travel to St. Petersburg on June 23 to address “irritants” between Moscow and Washington. One of the issues up for discussion is the return of two diplomatic compounds, or dachas, in New York and Maryland that were seized from Russia by the Obama administration as punishment for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Then-President Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the compounds in December, saying they were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.”

    Democrats skewered Tillerson last week about the planned talks, saying returning access to the Russians would send the wrong message about the gravity of interfering in US elections.

    “[Why] would we even consider the return of those dachas as part of any discussions that we’re having with them?” asked New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

    Tillerson said the potential return of the dachas would be discussed as part of a larger discussion about getting the US-Russia relationship back on track, an approach he formulated after his April meetings with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

    “I came out of those meetings and I said our relationship is at the lowest level it’s been at since the Cold War and it’s spiraling down,” Tillerson told Shaheen. “The two greatest nuclear powers in the world can not have this kind of a relationship. We have to stabilize it and we have to start finding a way back.”

    Edit (6/21/2017)

    My response to this Bloomberg opinion piece–piece (which actually feels more like a news article) is, “Who needs crime/political fiction when you have something like this?” Everything about one of the people in this is right out of a crime novel or movie. This is the kind of thing that can be overwhelming to those who resist taking conspiracy theories seriously, as doing so makes them feel like a nutjob. I’ve avoided talking about this, just because I know it must make me sound crazy.

    Edit (6/23/2017)

    From NBC News: Trump White House Has Taken Little Action to Stop Next Election Interference

    The report cites people from different agencies saying that the Trump administration is doing little to nothing to address this issue. This is one of several things future generations will point to and say, “How could this not have set off major alarm bells?!”

    Edit (7/5/2017)

    From JustSecurity: Timeline for Trump’s Acts of Appeasement/Accommodation Towards Russia

    Edit (7/8/2017)

    Another example of Trump campaign (Trump Jr., Manafort, Kushner) meeting with a Russian lawyer that has been trying to get rid of the Magnitsky Law.

    From the New York Times: Trump Met With Lawyer Connected to Kremlin During the Campaign

    Commentary from Benjamin Wittes of Lawfareblog:

    Connecting dots?

    Edit (7/9/2017)

    From the New York Times: Trump’s Son Met with Russian Lawyer After Being Promised Damaging Information on Clinton

    Comment: My sense is that Trump family have a very unhealthy sense of morality and ethics. That is, they seem unaware that some acts are just wrong and inappropriate–acts that most people would realize is wrong and inappropriate. For example, Donald Trump Jr. seems to be comfortable admitting that he was ready to accept negative information from an adversarial foreign power. Now, maybe he didn’t know that Russia was an adversary, but I think he should have–and not knowing is not an excuse. Any official in the inner circle of a presidential campaign should know this. He should also realize that accepting this information is inappropriate–or at least have some qualms about doing this. Based on Trump Jr.’s response, he seems to think that accepting information about Clinton from someone connected to Russia was perfectly acceptable. I find it hard to believe that most running a campaign would think the same way.

    But this seems to be the way the Trump family thinks about morality and ethics. They also have no qualms with conflicts of interest as well. (Here’s where the country needed the GOP and conservative media to push back against Trump. Their failure to do so has created the sense, among Republicans and some moderates, that this was OK. Or that this was a partisan issue.)

    Another thing I forgot to mention. Trump Jr. approach seems to be that a) the lawyer never really gave any information; b) the information was merely a pretext to discuss the Magnitsky Act–as if this makes what he did OK. It doesn’t in my opinion. Going there to get the information from someone connected to the Kremlin (or may be) is bad all by itself. That she wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act should be a red flag for that. Again, even if he didn’t know about the Magnitsky Act and how this is connected to the adoption issue, that’s not an excuse. Additionally, I think most campaign officials would know the entire meeting was highly inappropriate.

    Also, Manafort and Kushner were there, and they should have known better.

    Also:

    An ABC News article from March 2017: For Donald Trump Jr., Lingering Questions About Meeting with Pro-Russia Group

    Three weeks before Election Day, Donald Trump Jr. left the campaign trail and the country to speak at a private dinner in Paris organized by an obscure pro-Russia group that promotes Kremlin foreign policy initiatives and has since nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Edit (7/29/2017)

    Trump trying to claim Russian actually interfered to help Hillary:

    Edit (8/28/2017)

    From WaPo

    Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president

    Top Trump Organization Executive Reached Out to Putin Aide for Help On Business Deal

    Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo has an interpretation of the significance of these stories and why they’re coming out now. On the latter, here’s Marshall’s take:

    Why is this all coming out now? The Post stories are quite clear on this. The Trump Organization had what seems to have been a deadline to turn over lots of Trump Organization emails in response to congressional requests or subpoenas. These leaks seem to be coming from the Trump Organization or at least from that direction if not literally from there. At least in yesterday’s Post report, the emails were referred to as in the process of being turned over. If I’m understanding the language, they had not been turned over yet. That means they couldn’t have come from Congress and strongly suggests they were leaked by lawyers on the Trump Organization. That would mean they were trying to get the story out with the best possible spin in advance of congressional investigators getting their hands on them.

    What does this mean? Hard to say. But it would seem that this was an effort to get the bad stuff out early and on the Trump Organization’s own terms. In other words, this is the most generous possible take on what these emails show. I can only imagine what they’ll look like on an adverse view.

    Edit

    Edit (10/5/2017)

    Good thread

    Edit (10/16/2017)

    From Business Insider: Trump Russia Connection and Wilbur Ross

  10. Reid

    Climate Change

    WaPo fact-checks Trump’s speech, announcing and explaining his reason for leaving the Paris Accord.

  11. Reid

    From Politico Trump National Security Team Blindsided by Trump’s NATO Speech

    Worrisome article that describes how Mattis, McMaster, and Tillerson thought Trump would affirm commitment to Article 5 in NATO, but were blindsided that he didn’t.

    No one seems to know what happened, and as far as I know Trump or his spokespeople haven’t explained this. The article reinforces the idea that Trump is a loose cannon. It also underscores what seems to be Trump’s dogged determination to help Russia achieve it’s objectives. If his isn’t collusion or Trump under the sway of Russian influence, I don’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing.

    …some have argued in recent months that Trump’s foreign policy is a relative outpost of competence, with strong hands like McMaster and Mattis on board to avoid major failures. But Talbott and others with whom I’ve spoken since Trump’s trip believe the NATO incident really overturns that assumption. It’s destroyed the credibility of Trump’s advisers when they offer reassurances for allies to discount the president’s inflammatory rhetoric—and cast into doubt the kind of certainties necessary for an uncertain world to function.

    Edit A couple of takeaways from this:

    1. My initial reaction from seeing this was: why don’t they all resign? Or: if the story is true, they should all be seriously considering it now. What credibility do Mattis, McMaster, and Tillerson have now? If you’re a leader of another country, you can’t rely on what they say–you have to prepare for the possibility that Trump will behave in a different way.

    2. One reason they may not be leaving: to protect the nation. This view seems credible and valid, if you assume that the people that would be left (e.g., Bannon, Miller, Anton, etc.) would be so clueless and extreme in their ideology that they would allow Trump to do something really foolish and possibility catastrophic. Additionally, the Congressional Republicans seem more like enablers of Trump, and even if they weren’t, they may not be able to act quick enough to stop Trump from doing something disastrous.

    These two reasons seem plausible. But if I’m wrong, they should probably resign.

    Edit: Follow up (6/6/2017)

    From Politico: The 27 Words Trump Wouldn’t Say

    “We face many threats, but I stand here before you with a clear message: the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance and to Article 5 is unwavering.”

    Why is he so stubborn about not saying this? The article gives the impression that Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon–the white nationalists–are the ones behind this. Maybe Trump, besides a commitment to himself, is really committed to a white, ethno-nationalist vision of America.

  12. Reid

    Mental Fitness

    This incredible @sbg1 scoop gets at key point of this WH – plenty of ppl tell Trump “no.” He often doesn’t listen. Even off-the-charts weird initial Spicer briefing on Jan. 21 was something Spicer/others advised against. And McGahn, despite appearance from outside as “Dr. Yes,” has given Trump advice he hasn’t heeded repeatedly. The idea that anyone can stop Trump from doing something once his mind is made up is off. But so is the idea that no one discourages him from his more destructive statements/inlmpulses. Trump doesn’t want to be controlled. In campaign, would often do opposite of what he was advised to do, simply because it was opposite.

    Edit: Separate thread discussing this (7/11/2017)

    Edit (11/2/2017)

  13. Reid

    Con Man

    From the Brookings Institute: The 110 Billion Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia is Fake News

    Edit (6/11/2017)

    Key takeaways from this thread: 1) Trump’s policies are all show no substance; 2) In projects that involve spending (e.g., infrastructure), Trump actually has cut spending.

    Edit (6/12/2017)

    Edit

    Edit (7/4/2017)

    I put this video under this heading because you can see clips of Trump talking about criticizing Obama for golfing, saying how he, Trump, will work so hard he won’t have time for golfing. And yet, he’s not only golfing a lot, but he’s going to his golf courses, and it’s promoting and helping his business.

    Edit (7/5/2017)

    Note: tweeted on January 2, 2017:

    It seems like North Korea achieved this capability yesterday. The tweet isn’t a con per se, but it’s an example of Trump’s BS/bluster and empty threats, which seem part and parcel of his con man approach.

    Edit (7/7/2017)

    Trump claimed that everyone at the G20 Summit was talking about John Podesta not giving over his server to the FBI:

    Some responses on twitter:

    The Daily Beast investigated to see if this other people at the G20 Summit were in fact talking about this:

  14. Reid

    Obstruction of Justice

    Others have said this before (and I might have also said this), but after reading the following WaPo article, I’ll say it again: how can this is not be obstruction of justice (assuming that what the sources say are accurate)?\

    Edit (6/7/2017)

    Blasts from the past to provide some context:

    Edit (6/14/2017)

    from WaPo: Special Council is Now Investigating Trump for Possible Obstruction of Justice, Officials Say

    Trump had received private assurances from former FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

    The irony: Trump wanted Comey to publicly announce that Trump wasn’t personally under investigation. Unhappy that Comey didn’t do this (with justifiable reasons in my view), among other things, he fired Comey–which now starts an investigation on Trump, personally. And there was a belief (from Kushner) that firing Comey would go over better because Democrats wanted him fired. The level of boneheadedness is off the charts, and hard to believe.

    This would all be senseless is Trump is truly innocent. Of course, if he’s not, then that might explain a lot (although it would still be foolish).

    Meanwhile, Robert Mueller is doing his seven samurai thing, which doesn’t bode well for Trump and the people in his administration.

    Now, I’m feeling like the chances Trump will fire Mueller just went up. I’m thinking of this New York Times story from yesterday, especially this line:

    The president, when asked by the pool of reporters covering a midday meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House whether he supported Mr. Mueller, gave no answer, even though he often uses such interactions to make headlines or shoot down stories he believes to be fake.

    That may have been by design, according to a person who spoke to Mr. Trump on Tuesday. The president was pleased by the ambiguity of his position on Mr. Mueller, and thinks the possibility of being fired will focus the veteran prosecutor on delivering what the president desires most: a blanket public exoneration.

    (emphasis added)

    If this description is accurate, then I’m guessing Trump is pretty unhappy–as the WaPo story suggests Mueller is responding in a very different way. The Times story also reports that Trump’s advisers had to talk him out of firing Mueller. There’s also this:

    Angered by reports in Breitbart News and other conservative news outlets that Mr. Mueller was close to Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump in recent days has repeatedly brought up the political and legal implications of firing someone he now views as incapable of an impartial investigation. He has told his staff, his visitors and his outside advisers that he was increasingly convinced that Mr. Mueller, like Mr. Comey, his successor as director of the F.B.I., was part of a “witch hunt” by partisans who wanted to see him weakened or forced from office.

  15. Mitchell

    Yeah, that’s pretty damning.

  16. Mitchell

    Actually, I’m wondering what really constitutes the obstruction of justice. Destroying or withholding evidence seems pretty clear, as was the case with Richard Nixon. But is merely asking someone about the possibility of laying off or redirecting an investigation an attempt at obstruction?

    If I step in front of a tank, I’m obstructing. If I ask the tank’s leader to instruct the driver to go in a different direction am I obstructing? I’m not sure if there’s really a crime here. Although I’d say there certainly seems to be evidence enough to bring a trial, based on the tiny bit of info I have.

  17. Mitchell

    Here’s an interesting question. If Comey’s testimony Thursday demonstrates convincingly that Trump’s behavior was consistently above the line, are you glad because a sitting officeholder did not commit a crime, or are you disappointed because he’ll stay in office?

  18. Reid

    Some comments:

    1. My understanding is that there are strict rules and norms–not necessarily laws–that relate to fostering DOJ/FBI independence from the White House, both in real terms and in terms of public perception. This is a worthy objective in my view, but violating these norms and rules may not be illegal. When Bill Clinton spoke to Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, that was not good in my view, because it created the appearance that Bill Clinton may be trying to influence the AG’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Bill Clinton or Loretta Lynch didn’t break any laws, but it still seemed inappropriate–and bad.

    2. Trump’s actions, if true, are much, much worse. He’s explicitly telling several individuals to find ways to stop the investigation. He’s actively trying to discredit the investigation–calling it fake news, sour grapes by Democrats, pointing to unmasking, seemingly enlisting the House intelligence chair, Devin Nunes, to create this impression. He fired the FBI director and made it sound as if the Russian investigation was the reason for this…and this might not be the entire list. If this isn’t obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is.

  19. Reid

    Here’s an interesting question. If Comey’s testimony Thursday demonstrates convincingly that Trump’s behavior was consistently above the line, are you glad because a sitting officeholder did not commit a crime, or are you disappointed because he’ll stay in office?

    In light of what I said above, let’s broaden “above the line” to include respecting important norms and rules. My knee-jerk and honest reaction is that I will be disappointed. Part of that stems from the fact that the previous reporting would have been completely wrong, which would damage my trust in the outlets that reported on this.

    Additionally, there are so many other red flags out there–having to do with Russia. Do you have any thoughts or benign explanations as to why Trump is helping Russia achieve it’s objectives–objectives that, from my understanding, would weaken our country? There’s the conflict of interests and corruption/kleptocracy that seems extreme. USA Today reports that Saudi Arabia paid $275,000 to a Trump Hotel. Is that motivating Trump’s foreign policy with Saudi Arabai and Qatar? We don’t know, but the fact that this is a legitimate questions is crazy–and it doesn’t just apply to Trump and Saudi Arabia. Trump may or may not be breaking laws, but that he uses this as a defense and doesn’t seem to care that it creates the impression of conflict of interests is really, really a bad thing, is it not?

    My point: if Comey’s testimony doesn’t really reveal anything improper by Trump–if it does the opposite–namely, show that Trump behaved appropriately–this won’t wash away all these other problems, and my guess is that this is why I’ll still be disappointed.

    Look, if someone can start providing explanations for all of these problems that put Trump in a better or at least benign light, I think I actually feel genuinely better–especially with why he seems so committed to helping Russia achieve its objectives.

  20. Mitchell

    He’s making it difficult to investigate, but is he actually obstructing justice? I so far don’t see it, at least not convincingly. You seem pretty sure.

  21. Reid

    Well, if what we know so far is true–and it doesn’t constitute obstruction of justice, what does?

  22. Mitchell

    I think withholding or tampering with evidence, as with Richard Nixon, is clearly a deliberate obstruction. Asking the investigators not to ask for the tapes is simply trying to avoid prosecution.

  23. Mitchell

    I’m with you. I want him to be caught for SOMEthing so we can get him out. I will be disappointed if they can’t nail him for something. I don’t want him to be improperly brought to trial just to bring an end to all those other things you mention. We need a smoking gun.

  24. Reid

    I think withholding or tampering with evidence, as with Richard Nixon, is clearly a deliberate obstruction.

    I thought the case for obstructing justice, in Nixon’s case, alos involved telling the CIA director(?) to slow down or stop investigations?

    Also, I don’t get why you draw the line there, and not with firing the FBI director because he’s investigating the Trump campaign. If it’s true that he also asked the director to pledge loyalty to Trump and asked him to take it easy on Flynn, why does this not constitute obstruction? I think any reasonable person would say that the President is attempting to slow down or halt the investigation by these acts. I’m not sure why you disagree with this.

    I don’t want him to be improperly brought to trial just to bring an end to all those other things you mention. We need a smoking gun.

    I definitely agree with the first sentence. But I feel like there are things that warrant removal–but they’re not as definitive as something like getting audio of Trump colluding with Russian officials.

    The Russia thing should be vigorously investigated, but put that aside for the moment, and consider Trump’s ability to handle national security matters. Here are some items to consider:

    –he’s been using an insecure, older cell phone;
    –with the Japanese prime minister he didn’t seem to follow proper protocol after a North Korean missile test;
    –he allowed Russians into the White House without properly vetting their equipment and then gave them highly classified information from a key ally;
    –he mentioned information regarding submarines near North Korea (I believe this was during a conversation with Duterte.).

    Suppose all the vast majority of Republicans agreed that Trump was too impulsive and totally untrustworthy when it came to national security matters (and I’m assuming Dems feel this way as well), wouldn’t this be a justifiable reason to remove the POTUS?

    The problem is that this issue is murky and not necessarily illegal. It’s also subject to politicization. To make this work, Republicans would have to support this position, thus signaling to the American people that this isn’t a political matter. My sense is that most Republicans actually don’t think Trump is trustworthy, including with matters of national security, but they’re unwilling to say this. This is one reason I’m disgusted with them.

  25. Mitchell

    I think we may differ because we have different approaches to the law. And I confess I’m pretty stupid when it comes to the law. But an impeachment is a trial, and a trial is about crime. Attempting to influence something and actually influencing something are not the same to me. Maybe that’s why I draw the line at actually doing something.

    I think it’s within his rights to fire the FBI director for whatever reason. I don’t think it’s RIGHT, but did he commit a crime, or is he managing his job like the person this country elected? Look, I want him gone too, but if we’re going to say he committed a crime, he has to have committed a crime.

    Suppose all the vast majority of Republicans agreed that Trump was too impulsive and totally untrustworthy when it came to national security matters (and I’m assuming Dems feel this way as well), wouldn’t this be a justifiable reason to remove the POTUS?

    I found a simple explanation of impeachment here and the standard seems to be “misconduct,” not “crime.” I think the fact that 2/3 of the Senate has to vote to convict and the fact that (I think) the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court presides makes me consider it a grave situation (and a pox on the Republican party for trivializing it with Clinton), but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is more like a recall than trial.

  26. Reid

    Maybe that’s why I draw the line at actually doing something.

    But why isn’t firing the person leading the investigation doing something?

    Also, I’ve heard several times that the impeachment process is not legal, but political. I take this to mean that conviction doesn’t depend on meeting legal standards. In other words, a president can be removed even if they haven’t broken the law, as defined by a court of law.

    This is also a good time to talk about the importance of norms. At some point, does the violation of norms warrant removal? I’m very much open to that. I think if we elevate the bar to illegality, there are many terrible things a president can do and not be removed.

    Maybe this is more like a recall than trial.

    What was your answer to my question regarding removing a president because s/he can’t be trusted with protecting national security?

  27. Mitchell

    I think if what the guy did was legal and we don’t like that he did it, we should probably make it illegal, or at least define the conditions under which they’re legal.

    Removing the person leading the investigation doesn’t stop the investigation; it only puts someone else in charge of it. I don’t see this as an obstruction. Sorry.

    Taking an elected official out of office circumvents the will of the people. This cannot be done under anything but the strictest of parameters.

  28. Reid
  29. Reid

    I think if what the guy did was legal and we don’t like that he did it, we should probably make it illegal, or at least define the conditions under which they’re legal.

    This leads to a discussion that goes beyond my knowledge,
    but my understanding is that the POTUS isn’t subject to a lot of laws because it would be too cumbersome and esentially make her ineffective.

    Removing the person leading the investigation doesn’t stop the investigation; it only puts someone else in charge of it. I don’t see this as an obstruction. Sorry.

    What if he threatened Comey–that if he continued the investigation, Trump would fire him? If a mobster is on trial, and he threatens witnesses, this doesn’t stop the trial, either. If the mobster has those witnesses killed, this also doesn’t stop the trial.

    Taking an elected official out of office circumvents the will of the people. This cannot be done under anything but the strictest of parameters.

    So if both parties in Congress strongly believe that the POTUS is mentally unsound, they can’t and shouldn’t remove the POTUS? I don’t think impeachment functions like this. My sense is that it is broader than this.

  30. Reid

    One other thing, I’d be interested in discussing the importance of maintaining an independent Department of Justice and FBI–specifically, independent from the POTUS/White House. It’s something that I agree with, but my understanding is only superficial. I think it’s important to get a deeper, fuller understanding of why this is critical, and how to ensure this happens.

  31. Reid

    This what I was referring to earlier:

    I don’t think Nixon told the CIA director. He told Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff, that CIA should get FBI to stop investigating. If this remark started process for impeachment, then I would think what Trump said to Comey (and possibly Rogers and Coats) is far worse.

  32. mitchell

    Nixon was directly involved in the coverup. AND He refused to turn over the tapes. AND when he turned them over, critical parts were erased. He was going to be removed from office. I’m just not convinced that the case for removal from office is solid, based on what we know. Maybe the interactions with Comey are enough to bring him to trial. Is there enough for a removal from office?

  33. Reid

    But if the smoking gun for Nixon was a tape of Nixon telling his Chief of Staff that the CIA should stop the FBI from investigating Watergate, what Trump said to Comey–if true–seems worse. And Trump fired Comey. Whether this is enough to remove him from office, I’m not sure–I thought we were talking specifically if the actions constitute obstruction of justice.

  34. Reid

    David Frum touches on something I tried to bring up earlier, regarding the importance of norms and the role it plays in keeping the FBI and DOJ independent from the White House:

    I agree with Frum on this. Yet, the president, technically, has the power to fire the FBI director any time, for any reason. But it would be very bad and wrong if the president actually did this. That is, there are legitimate and illegitimate–and even dangerous–reasons for firing the FBI director. Firing an FBI director because that director is investigating the White House has to be close to the top of the list of illegitimate and dangerous reasons. It’s an action that epitomizes the act of a dictator.

    My sense is that the previous presidents in our lifetime (except for Nixon) adhered to norms and established rules that created a separation from the White House and the DOJ/FBI, creating independence for both agencies from the president, both in appearance and substance. (This isn’t a black or white issue, but my sense is that, more or less, that’s what previous presidents have been able to establish.) This is a really good thing.

    What Trump has shown so far is that he really doesn’t value and/or understand the importance of separating powers, having a check on executive powers. And in this way, he’s really not that different from authoritarian rulers. This is consistent with his open praise of these type of leaders. He seems to get along and like them, while having trouble–being antagonistic, even–with leaders from democratic countries, particularly are allies.

  35. Reid

    Foreign Policy (Incompetence)

  36. Reid

    Lying, Dissembling, Making Stuff Up

    From WaPo: Trump: a True Story

    This an article that chronicles a lawyer’s questioning of Trump in a deposition, where Trump was under oath, about Trump’s claim, which turned out to be untrue. The pattern of the variety of falsehoods that Trump that we see Trump tell now can be seen in this article. It’s obvious he can’t be trusted.

    It’s also obvious to me that he will never willing speak under oath.

    Edit (6/27/2017)

    I liked the following comments, particularly the way Trump’s character flaws infect his organization and this infection is spreading to the U.S. government.

    Edit (8/2/2017)

    From the New York Times: Those Calls to Trump? White House Admits They Never Happened

    Trump made two claims–Boys Scouts called him to say Trump gave the greatest speech ever made to them, and that the Mexican president praised him for border security. White House admits those calls never occurred.

    Edit 8/29/2017

    Edit (10/4/2017)

    In this New Yorker article, How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. Avoided Criminal Indictment, you can see the way Trump and his kids will exaggerate (basically, lie) to deceive people for their own gain. There’s also a strong sense the Trump have no qualms with paying off officials in the form of campaign contributions to get out of trouble.

    Edit (10/16/2017)

  37. Mitchell

    I don’t see why not. He doesn’t seem to care whether people demand the truth from him or not. He’s just going to say what he wants. I’m not sure he puts any seriousness on the “under oath” thing.

  38. Reid

    Based on reading the article, I have a strong feeling that the experience was very unpleasant for him. Part of this is because it seemed like he did take the oath seriously, so he was forced to admit and confront his falsehoods. I suspect the consequences for lying under oath is not something Trump would like to face, so he seemed to take it seriously.

  39. Reid

    Trump Seriously Considering Firing Robert Mueller

    Chris Ruddy was seen coming out of the White House today:

    I agree with others that this is a trial balloon. Ruddy’s spin seems to be–Mueller was being considered for the FBI director, therefore, there is a conflict of interest. I don’t buy it, especially since Trump hasn’t shown any indication that conflicts of interest matter to him at all. It just seems like a way of finding an excuse to fire him.

    As someone mentioned, the tweet above strongly suggests that Trump is seriously considering firing Mueller.

    Or, it could a bluff, similar to the claim that Trump has a tape of conversations between him and Comey. (My guess is that there are no tapes.)

    Personally, I’m worried about Trump firing Mueller. Yes, it will be politically bad for Trump, but I’m worried the Congressional Republicans won’t respond as they should–and will either ignore, downplay or defend the action.

    Someone else pointed out something that bears thinking about: If Trump fires Mueller, it will be before he’s even done anything (besides choose people to help him).

    Edit

    What gets me is how sure Douthat seems to be. How can he be so sure or surprised if Trump did this?

  40. Reid

    State Department Being Gutted

    From Politico: How Rex Tillerson is Wrecking the State Department

    This sounds really bad–both in the short and long terms. (The Atlantic also had an article that was similar.

    The following tweetstorm coveres the same thing. It sounds a bit hysterical, and I don’t really have enough knowledge to know if this is the case or not. But if it’s accurate, it would be very worrying:

  41. Reid

    Inciting Violence

    From Talking Points Memo: Trump Encouraged Violence? Let’s Check the Tape

  42. Reid

    Partnering with Russia on Cyber Security

    From Politico: Trump’s cyber tweets cause dismay, confusion

    This idea–creating some partnership or join unit to deal with cyber security, which I assume would likely entail revealing information about each others cyber security–seems like a dumb idea, based on the little I know.

    Others with more knowledge than me seem to agree:

    Several former George W. Bush and Obama-era cyber officials insisted the latest deal would be unlikely to help digitally secure upcoming U.S. elections, and instead would widen the rift between America and its European allies combating Moscow’s online aggression — a broader Putin goal. And when the deal inevitably falls apart, former Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend said on Twitter, “#Russia will blame #US” — handing Putin a significant narrative-setting victory.

    “It’s strategic idiocy,” said Chris Finan, a former director for cybersecurity legislation and policy in Barack Obama’s White House.

    Even worse, the attempt at cooperation itself could result in the U.S. exposing even more secrets to a country that has already stolen so many, cautioned former Obama administration official R.D. Edelman, who negotiated with Moscow on cyber issues at both the State Department and White House.

    “On the heels of their election hacking, giving a country with that record access to sensitive information about our cybersecurity capabilities — and perhaps inadvertently, our citizens — is a mistake,” said Edelman, who now leads a project on cybersecurity issues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Internet Policy Research Initiative, in an email to POLITICO.

    From WaPo: Trump’s Plan to Work with Putin on Cybersecurity Makes No Sense. Here’s Why (Didn’t read this one yet.)

  43. Reid

    From CNBC: As Lies and Contradictions Mount, Federal Officials Deciding to Ignore Trump by John Harwood

    I get this sense, too, although I may be projecting. I’m at the point where, because Trump seems so incompetent and incoherent, I don’t consider him a serious person, and I imagine I would often ignore him, too, if I were a federal official.

    In any event, the list of officials who have expressed strong dissent, approaching repudiation, or just not followed what Trump has said, should be a red flag for Americans.

  44. Reid

    NPR: Behind Fox News’s Baseless Seth Rich Story: The Untold Tale

    Yahoo: Reporter says ‘Russian propaganda outlet’ pushed him to cover conspiracy theory at the center of a White House lawsuit

    Feinberg said that during a meeting held on May 26, his superiors asked him bring up the story in the press briefing.

    “It was, ‘We want you to ask about Seth Rich and just, you know, ask about the case and if those revelations should put an end to the Russia hacking narrative and the investigation,” said Feinberg.

    According to Feinberg, his bosses handed him a termination letter when he declined. He described the situation as “disturbing.”

    “It’s really telling that the White House is pushing the same narrative as a state-run Russian propaganda outlet,” Feinberg said.

  45. Reid

    From Politico: Tillerson Spurns $80 million

    I was most interested in learning if there were any legitimate reasons for this. Here’s R.C. Hammond, one of the spokespersons from the State Department:

    Hammond threw up objections to the request on multiple fronts, the former senior State official said. Hammond indicated to officials involved with the Global Engagement Center that with the department facing potential budget and staffing cuts, it didn’t make sense to take an infusion of new funds, the former senior State official said. Hammond also questioned why the U.S. doesn’t ask other governments, particularly in Muslim countries, to play a larger role in the information battle.

    Hammond further expressed hesitation about needling the Russians at a time when Tillerson was trying to find common ground with the Kremlin on sensitive matters such as the war in Syria. The Kremlin-backed news outlet Sputnik has compared the Global Engagement Center to George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

    and later,

    Hammond said Tillerson hadn’t sought the $60 million because Global Engagement Center officials hadn’t offered a vision for how to spend it. “They put in a request in for additional funding. We asked them to map out a plan of how they would spend the money,” Hammond said.

    But the former senior State official denied that was the case. He said the center’s leaders had crafted a spending plan after consulting with experts at the National Security Council, the Defense Department and those working in the regional bureaus of the State Department. Hammond and other Tillerson aides dismissed that effort, according to the former senior State official, saying that any such plan needed to be approved by the State Department’s policy planning office.

    The reasons don’t sound good or credible to me. Tillerson and Turmp are so worried about angering Russia? They don’t seem that concerned in the North Korea situation and that might be more volatile. You have questions about Trump’s ties to Russia, too. This is a big issue, in my view, because I think we’re already behind in information warfare.

    (Note: The article also describes a poorly run department.)

  46. Reid

  47. Reid

    Trump Pardons Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

    Bloomberg has an article–Arpaio Pardon Would Show Contempt for Constitution–that explains what Trump is pardoning Arpaio for, and explains why this warrants impeachment of Trump.

    Not sure if this is true, but…

    Also, this:

    Edit

    I’m not familiar with the Phoenix New Times. Wikipedia describes it as a free weekly paper, so I’m thinking it’s like The Honolulu Weekly. However, wiki also describes it as a tabloid. Take that for what you will.

    Edit (8/28/2017)

    My reaction: disbelief that Trump said this.

    Edit (8/29/2017)

    This is the type of insider-y, grandular details that makes twitter valuable in my opinion:

  48. Reid

    Insulting, Childish Behavior

  49. Reid

    Hurricane Maria Disaster in Puerto Rico

    From AP News: Trump Lashes Out at San Juan Mayor Who Begged For More Help

    Some context:

    Later that same day (I believe):

    Here are some of Trump’s tweets:

    It should be noted that Trump tweeted this at one of his golf courses. (And he personally profits from these visits.)

    This is a disgrace on so many levels.

    On a side note, here are some of his other tweets this morning:

    Do people really believe CNN and NBC would do disparage the work of the first responders to ‘get Trump’? That’s a level of liberal bias that is ridiculous. I don’t even think Fox News would do this to hurt a Democratic president.

    Edit

    Several hours ago:

    I would like to hear what the people in Puerto Rico have to say to this. The Mayor of San Juan would have to be essentially lying.

    And around the same time:

    Trump is saying this, while he’s not doing a great job of uniting us. Case in point: just now:

    Low marks for trying to unite us. (I can almost hear him saying this like Terrence Stamp’s General Zod–“Son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!!”)

    Edit 3 minutes ago:

    If you follow Trump long enough, you’ll see many things like this. At some point, you think. Something not right with him. And that feeling gets stronger and stronger….

    Edit (10/12/2017)

    I don’t get these tweets, particularly the point about their infrastructure being a mess and not staying their “forever.” It’s been about three weeks since the hurricane. Why talk about these things now? Let’s focus on making sure people of Puerto Rica get the basic needs met now, and that people who need medical attention get that care; let’s minimize suffering and death. I don’t know why he’s talking this way, and I find it disturbing.

  50. Reid

    Eminen Takes on Trump

    Not sure what I think about this, but I can definitely understand his anger.

  51. Reid

    Sabotaging Obamacare

    From WaPo: This Executive Order is Trump’s Most Significant Step Yet to Undermine Obamacare

    Edit (10/13/2017)

    My sense here is that Trump is causing or hastening the implosion, and he seems to be using that action to pressure the Democrats to negotiate with him.

    Edit (10/14/2017)

    I guess the best reading of this Obama and the Democrats were serving interests of health insurance companies–so by stopping government subsidies, he’s ended this corruption and hurt the health insurance companies. Otherwise, I’m not sure why he would brag about this.

    There’s also this:

    I do think there is some credence to the idea that he’s doing this out of some desperate attempt to make Democrats grovel toward him and cut a deal to help health care. Crazy on many levels if this is the case.

    Edit (10/16/2017)

  52. Reid

    Russia (3)

    Edit (10/18/20170

    From The Daily Beast: Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election

    Edit (10/23/2017)

    From The Business Insider: It looks like another Trump adviser has significantly changed his story about the GOP’s dramatic shift on Ukraine

    Edit (10/23/2017)

    From The Daily Beast: Congress: Trump Won’t Implement Russian Sanctions, and He Won’t Tell Us Why

    Edit (10/25/2017)

    From The Daily Beast: Trump Data Guru: I Tried to Team Up with Julian Assange

    Edit (10/27/2017)

    From WSJ: Trump Donor Asks Data Firm If It Could Better Organize Stolen Emails

    From the New York Times: Talking Points Brought to the Trump Tower Meeting Were Shared With the Russian Government

    Edit (10/30/2017)

    Indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates

    Thread from Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor on what these indictments mean:

    and this:

    Lawfare blog also has a breakdown

    Lawfare blog also has a write-up for indictment for George Papadoupolus.

    Edit

    From AllahPundit: Did Papadopoulos Wear a Wire When Talking with Trump Officials?

    Not good for people in the Trump administration, if true.

    Edit (11/3/2017)

    This should 1) end the notion that Papadopoulos was a minor figures in the Trump campaign; 2) reiterate that Trump administration are dishonest and bad at it.

    Edit (11/11/2017)

    From the New York Times a transcript of Trump’s remarks last night(?) on Air Force One. One main takeaway: Putin said he didn’t interfere in our elections, and Trump believes him. It seems like because Putin says this over and over when Trump meets with him, Trump has no reason to doubt Putin, despite what our intelligence agencies have been saying. In relation to this, see below:

    and

  53. Mitchell

    George W. Bush gave a speech at a Bush Institute event in NY. I normally would have just skimmed the first paragraph but I listened to the whole thing. I wonder who his speechwriter is, because this is pretty well done.

    It’s too bad most people who should hear a thing like this never will. But I guess the people who do hear it are in positions to put the message into effect and pass the concepts along. (He said, wishfully.)

    It’s also neat that these are clearly the conservative take on things. A good example how there’s room in this country for valid conservatism within the agreed-upon basic tenets of our democracy. I think liberals forget this all the time.

    The annotation thing should please Reid, as it provides the context he always yearns for. The WaPo’s political writers (for the Fix blog) have been doing this since the campaign. Pretty useful, although I admit I only read one of the annotations in this speech.

    I admit I got a little misty in one part. Unexpected.

  54. Reid

    I really liked the speech–not just for the content, but the writing is also well done. On the other hand, the speech may seem more impressive to me because I’m comparing it to Trump’s speeches and rhetoric.

    It’s also neat that these are clearly the conservative take on things.

    You think so? I do think there is a slight conservative angle, but could you not see Obama or Hillary Clinton giving almost the exact same speech? I could.

    The sad thing is that this speech seems almost alien now, when you compare it to how Trump and even many Republicans speak. The ideas and the message being pushed are closer to the things that Bush 43 decries–the ethno-nationalism, bigotry, isolationism. There doesn’t seem to be many staunch defenders of the values and ideas Bush 43 champions. We hear them, sometimes loudly, for a brief moment, only to be drowned out by Trump and his supporters and enablers.

  55. Reid

    Demagoguery and White Nationalism

  56. Reid

    Evidence That Trump is More Like an Autocrat Than POTUS, Part 2

    Edit (11/9/2017)

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