We know the current system isn’t working for families or health-care providers, so perhaps it’s time to try something new. I say we try freedom. More freedom to choose and innovate, leading to more access and affordability, which will help ensure our health-care system remains the best in the world.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the fiercest political critics of socialized medicine, will travel to Canada later this month to get hernia surgery.
Paul, an ophthalmologist, said the operation is related to an injury in 2017 when his neighbor, Rene Boucher, attacked him while Paul was mowing his lawn. The incident left Kentucky’s junior senator with six broken ribs and a bruised lung.
He is scheduled to have the outpatient operation at the privately adminstered Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario during the week of Jan. 21, according to documents from Paul’s civil lawsuit against Boucher filed in Warren Circuit Court.
The procedure is estimated to cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000, according to court documents. MDsave.com lists a hernia repair costing between $4,000 and $8,000.
Shouldice Hernia Hospital markets itself as “the global leader in non-mesh hernia repair,” according to the clinic’s website. The hospital’s website outlines payments it accepts, including cash, check or credit card for those patients, like Paul, who are not covered by Ontario’s insurance plan for its residents or a provincial health insurance plan.
Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for Paul, said the hospital is privately owned and people come from around the globe for their services.
To be fair, Shouldice IS a private hospital that got grandfathered into Canada’s socialized medicare system, but it doesn’t look good for the guy who wrote ” our health-care system remains the best in the world.”
Shutdown Day Number 23 and there is no sign of movement.
Trump apparently has little to do but tweet all day — childish attacks on Elizabeth Warren (racist attacks there) and on Jeff Bezo’s personal life. But that is kind of the point that Trump wants to make — he’s ready to work on a deal and Dems are off “vacationing”.
Here’s the Elizabeth Warren tweet (since deleted):
Anyway, Trump’s tactic of “I’m ready to fix this — where are the Dems?” is not working, as most everyone outside of Fox News world knows that Trump walked out of the last meeting he had with Democrats. Democrats are in not in any hurry to come back to the table. Polls show that Trump, not Democrats, are painted into a corner and looking bad, as TSA agents call in sick for work.
The public generally is more apt to blame the President, with 55% saying he is more responsible for the shutdown than are Democrats in Congress, while 32% say the blame rests mostly with the Democrats. Another 9% say both are responsible. Democrats are more unified in their blame for the President (89% blame Trump) than are the Republican rank-and-file in blaming the Democrats (65% of Republicans blame the Democrats in Congress, 23% blame Trump). Independents are more apt to blame Trump (48% to 34%), and are most likely to say both sides are responsible (14%).
This stood out to me in the new Quinnipiac poll: "Did President Trump's recent televised address to the nation change your mind about building a wall along the border with Mexico, or not?" 89% NO, 2% YES (Whites w/college ed=1%). Margin of error: 3.3%.
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation. The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly twoinstances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.
Trump responded by Tweet of course:
Yeah, you need proof BEFORE you open an investigation. *sarcasm*
And so on. No denial though. And he didn’t deny it here either:
“Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?”
Trump doesn’t directly answer: “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written.” Via Fox pic.twitter.com/b91KHzmiFK
And that’s been the course of the political dialogue for a few days, with the additional note that, of the five times Trump met privately with Putin, there exists no record of what was said.
On Saturday, The Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported new details of the extreme things done by Trump to conceal his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin from even the senior-most members of Trump’s own administration. Trump even reportedly seized the interpreter’s notes after one of his meetings, the Trump-Putin sit-down at the Hamburg G20 meeting in July 2017. Even more disturbingly, Trump and Putin met privately a second time at Hamburg—with no American present. In an act of astonishing recklessness, Trump relied entirely on the Russian interpreter, preventing any U.S. record-keeping at all.
So you see, Trump’s own determination to defy normal presidential operating procedures to keep secret his private conversations with Putin only lends credibility to the worst suspicions: that he is an Russian asset and/or dupe.
At the VERY least, you could agree that Trump is hiding something. Maybe something to do with his financial entanglements with Russia.
So here we are:
I don’t live in Nihilist Nation, but right now… I’m fucking exhausted.
UPDATE: Well, this morning Trump did straight out say he wasn’t working for Russia, but then, when it comes to the wall/shutdown, he floats another obvious lie:
Trump, offering no evidence, claims “many” Democrats are “calling” and telling him, “we agree with you.”
This week Trump struggled to create stagecraft and find narratives to justify funding for his border wall, while keeping the government shuttered. Trump delivered a prime-time Oval Office address, visited the U.S.-Mexico border, and held an immigration round-table to make his case, while the reality of the shutdown hurt federal workers and contractors, and agencies started to cut back or cease operations and functions.
This was a week of bombshells on the Trump-Russia front, as an inadvertently unredacted filing by Paul Manafort’s attorneys revealed Manafort had delivered 2016 president campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI believes has ties to Russian intelligence. Michael Cohen set a date to testify before the House, and Natalie Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who attended the June 9 Trump Tower meeting was back in the news. Late Friday, a bombshell story by the Times revealed the FBI had opened an inquiry in May 2017 into whether Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
As the week came to a close, the government shutdown reached Day 22, making it the longest shutdown in history, with no end in sight. Federal workers got their first $0 paycheck on Friday, week three of the shutdown.
Trump also said he “informed my folks to say that we’ll build a steel barrier” at his weekend meeting at Camp David with senior officials, adding the Democrats “don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel.”
Trump accused the media of hiding his successes, tweeting “The Fake News will knowingly lie and demean” to make him look as bad as possible, and “use non-existent sources & write stories that are total fiction.”
WAPO dispelled the notion that the situation at the border is a national crisis , as apprehensions have been declining since 2000. They also clarified that the wall is not being paid for by Mexico, the wall has not been built, and other repeated lies.
Trump started the address with a lie that the U.S. has a “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” and inflated or gave misleading numbers related to arrests, sex crimes, and violent killings.
Trump also again falsely claimed “The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.” Trump made this same promise more than 200 times during the presidential campaign.
Shortly after, Trump tweeted “Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” saying he asked for Border Security including a wall, and when “Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
He also warned of a mounting backlog at Quantico labs, which provide forensic-analysis support services, and said funds supporting drug trafficking and undercover operations have been dangerously limited.
Russian hackers planted malware on sites of online publications, sent out fake résumés with tainted attachments, and slipped through hidden portals to get into systems that monitor and control electricity flows.
Investigators were also troubled by Trump’s NBC News interview after firing Comey, as well as his Oval Office meeting with Russian officials where he said, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump also tweeted, “I just watched a Fake reporter from the Amazon Washington Post say the White House is ‘chaotic,’” and “the Fakes always like talking Chaos,” but “there’s almost nobody in the W.H. but me.”
Trump also tweeted: “We have a massive Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border,” adding, “We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their “vacations” and get back to work.”
Government is shut down. Nobody is budging. At a meeting yesterday with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump asked if they would fund his wall. He specifically said “wall” and NOT “border security” (he lied in a later tweet about this). Pelosi said no, and Trump said (verbatim) “Bye bye” and left.
At present, he seems to have rallied the Republicans behind him. They seem to feel that to go against Trump will mean the end of the Republican party (Senator Graham said that specifically). I predict history will show that sticking with Trump will foretell the end of the Republican Party.
So here we are. Trump flew down today to the US-Mexico border.
Here’s something that is pretty awkward. According to NBC News, Department of Homeland Security tests of all eight prototype border walls currently constructed at the “Pogo Row” site in Otay Mesa, CA, revealed that all of them were vulnerable to breaching — but that in particular, the “steel bollard” design Trump is now touting as his choice can be sliced through with a saw:
Also, as Trump goes on and on about the necessity for a wall, here are some facts that he doesn’t want you to know:
The design of Trump’s border wall could still change — and already has fluctuated with the political winds. During the 2016 campaign, Trump talked of a solid concrete border wall. Then it was steel slats. Sometimes he called it a wall, other times it is a fence. He has described it stretching for 2,000 miles and 1,000 miles and even just 700 miles…
If Trump’s border wall gets funding, construction would not begin for at least six months — and likely longer, Zarenski said.
Land along the border still needs to be acquired.
Soil and environmental studies need to be done…
Even if these huge crews broke ground today, they would finish just 86 miles of border wall by year’s end. By Election Day 2020, 161 miles of border wall would be done. It would take 11 years to reach 1,000 miles. And that is assuming 10,000 workers going all at once, five days a week.
Given the fact that people who currently own the land that will need to be acquired are gearing up for a protracted legal battle, we could add years to that estimate. For some of us “oldies,” that means that a 1,000 mile wall might not be completed in our lifetime because it could be 2030 before it’s finished. Meanwhile, the so-called “crisis” Trump is trying to sell will continue.
In the 1640's the Dutch in New Amsterdam built a 12' #wall to keep the bad hombres out. In 1664 the British ignored the wall and took New Amsterdam by sea. It's now called New York. They took down the wall and built a street. It's called Wall Street pic.twitter.com/cSF925EPqt
Trump, to Border Patrol: "They have done a fantastic job. Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history." Reality: border apprehensions are at their lowest level since the early 1970s. pic.twitter.com/j4JyECvdF4
There is an interesting media phenonmenon going on. I see this Atlantic article that, like most articles, seems to suggest that Republicans are squirming:
As President Donald Trump descends on the border Thursday to further make his case for a wall, back home in Washington congressional Republicans—the ones whose resolve he needs if he’s going to continue his shutdown campaign—are growing more anxious. While the images Trump broadcasts to the nation may bolster his case to his base, these Republicans are left to talk and share doubts among themselves.
A handful of Republican senators have so far signaled their willingness to reopen parts of the government without funding for a border wall now that the partial government shutdown is tied for the second longest in the country’s history, with no end in sight. Those Republicans include Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who told reporters on Tuesday that Congress “can focus on [Trump’s] very legitimate concerns about border security … through the Homeland Security appropriations bill” and “in the meantime, let’s allow for these other departments to do the work.”
The GOP response to all of this is crucial to ending the impasse. With enough members, Senate Republicans could potentially persuade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—and indirectly, the president—to take up legislation reopening parts of the government without the inclusion of border-wall funding. Perhaps more likely, worried Republicans could try to pressure Trump to find another way out of the mess—maybe by declaring a state of emergency in order to unlock funding for the border wall, a move that would almost certainly be met with legal challenges from Democrats. Republicans shifting on the issue may also reflect what they’re hearing from their constituents, indicating to Trump that there’s a potential voter rebellion on its way.
Freshman House Democrats are ready to shut down the shutdown. The new class of 60-plus members has been in Congress for less than week only to see the partial government shutdown consume the Capitol and grind nearly everything to a halt — including action on their campaign promises to overhaul Washington and deliver for voters back home.
Now, as the shutdown drags into Day 19, the frustration is starting to reach a tipping point for some who fear the prolonged stalemate could do real political damage in vulnerable Democratic districts.
Democrats remain united behind their leadership’s shutdown strategy of refusing to negotiate with Trump on his border wall demand and pressuring Senate Republicans to take up House-passed bills to open up the government. But the first fissures are starting to show.
The freshmen arranged an impromptu 90-minute meeting over the weekend at a retreat in Virginia because several new members were “freaking out” about the ongoing shutdown and the party’s strategy, according to a Democratic source who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
I suspect the pressure is more on Republicans at this point.
A few weeks ago, there was a super-secret hearing in DC Court regarding a subpeona issued to an unknown foreign company from the Mueller investigation. The company was fighting the subpoena.
This just happened:
"(Bloomberg)—The U.S. Supreme Court refused to shield a mystery company from having to provide information in what’s believed to be the criminal investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller."
Basically, the Supreme Court denied the foreign country-owned company’s request to stay a contempt order. The contempt order resulted from its refusal to comply with a grand jury’s subpoena. Chief Justice Roberts’ “administrative stay” is vacated, so the result is the contempt order is back in effect.
What does that mean? Well, without knowing the company, the contents of the subpoena, or how (if) it relates to Trump, it is hard to say. But bookmark this.
A few follow-ups for the completists among you. -The Manafort team refiled its document to fix the redactions. -The court has ordered the govt to file the "factual and evidentiary basis" of the five breaches it alleges next Monday 1/14; Manafort will have until 1/18 to reply
As the government shutdown enters its third week, and there is no movement on funding Trump’s wall, Trump is looking and acting desperate. Tonight, he will go on primetime television and, everyone expects, he will declare some sort of emergency and then try to get his wall funded by the military.
Basically, the administration is trying to move the narrative away from politics and to national security, even though this issue has been — and continues to be — part and parcel to Trump’s political rallying cry. Pence said it plainly: “Our position is very simply this: There is a humanitarian and national security crisis at the southern border.” The Veep has been going on the morning shows with network White House correspondents.
At the crux of the controversy is this: Even if everyone accepts the base case that this is a humanitarian crisis, Republicans say there is no answer that does not include a wall, and Democrats — generally speaking, at the moment — say there is no answer that does include a wall.
White House aide Stephen Miller reportedly has a hand in writing the primetime address advocating for a wall on the Mexico border.
Many are doubtful that Trump’s address will be accurate when it comes to the number of crossings and threats (Washington Post provides great numbers here). Recently, the president claimed his predecessors encouraged him on the border wall. But they all came out with statements saying they never did this.
At this point, anything officially released by the White House should simply be considered a lie unless it’s confirmed with someone reliable, especially when it comes to the border. (Some are now saying that, given the parade of lies from the Administration these past few days, Trump will probably avoid stating any facts at all, and make emotional arguments about gangs, MS-13, drug trafficking, etc)
And that raises questions of legality. Can a President just declare anything an emergency? Even if it is based on made-up “facts”?
In 1976, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, which permits the president to pronounce a national emergency on a whim, at his discretion. The act offers no definition of “emergency.” It lays out no required criteria; it demands no showing by the president.
Declaring a national emergency also gives the president access to dozens of laws with specialized funds he otherwise would not have.
There are several significant caveats and, while it may be easy to declare a national emergency, Trump cannot just do whatever he wants.
One statute provides for “unobligated funds originally set aside for military construction projects” if the national emergency involves the military, and another “permits a president to divert funds from Army civil works projects and reprogram them” but still may require further authorization. Then there is the issue of seizing land through eminent domain through a claim of military necessity.
But this might be Trump’s out. Knowing the emergency powers will be challenged in court, Trump could seek to use available funds and begin building the wall. A court would quickly decide whether to temporarily enjoin his efforts. The larger case, however, would remain in the system for years, gifting him an excuse to end the congressional impasse.
So the theatre starts tonight at 9 pm, with Democrats being granted (by the networks) equal time for a response.
Kellyanne might not like the question, but it is a legitimate one. This president lies pathologically and she knows it.
LATE NIGHT UPDATE: Trump spoke. Not for long. No declaration of a “national emergency”. He didn’t even MENTION the wall until half way through.
Over the course of the overtly political nine-minute speech on Tuesday night, Trump sought to convince the public of a nonexistent emergency to justify the partial government shutdown he started to create leverage to build his long-sought border wall. In a humiliating turn for the networks, the president broke no news, instead using the opportunity to reiterate the same immigration talking points he’s been pushing for years. And by breaking into regular programming to air what was effectively his regular stump speech, they all implicitly validated his claim of a crisis.
Here are some of the untruths and distortions in Trump’s speech, most of which he’s uttered before.
“I am speaking to you because there is a growing and humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Every day Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousand of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
The notion that the number of border crossings represent a “crisis” is not true. The number of people caught crossing at the border (the standard metric for determining the volume of illegal crossings generally) remains below annual levels under President Barack Obama and far below the high levels of the 1990s and early 2000s. Border Patrol arrested 396,579 people at the U.S. Mexico border in fiscal year 2018. The agency arrested an average of 400,751 people per year over the previous decade.
“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country.”
That distorts the truth. Several studies show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. A June 2018 report by the libertarian Cato Institute found that legal immigrants were roughly one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as native-born Americans. Undocumented immigrants were half as likely to be incarcerated, according to the report, which drew on 2016 data from the American Community Survey. Do undocumented immigrants commit crimes? Of course — but at lower rates than their native-born counterparts.
“As part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.”
Congressional Democrats never asked that the wall be made of steel rather than concrete. When Trump first said he was making that concession, Democratic party leaders said they didn’t care. “There’s no requirement that this government be shut down while we deliberate the future of any barrier, whether it’s a fence or a wall,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“The wall would also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we made with Mexico.”
That’s not true. Trump vowed during his presidential campaign that Mexico would pay for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but Mexico has refused to pay. The president now insists that Mexico will pay for the project through a renegotiated NAFTA agreement known as the USMCA. The deal still needs congressional approval and isn’t yet in effect, but even if it were in effect, any economic gains from the deal would go to private individuals and companies, not the U.S. Treasury.
And of course, Trump painted immigrants as criminals, etc. all without data or support. Nor did he presented detailed data about how many children are being fraudulently used for border-crossing purposes, merely implying it’s common. The evidence suggests it’s a small minority of the families who cross.
This week, for the first time since he took office, Trump faced a check on his power as the 116th Congress was sworn in. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took back the gavel, she made clear she will take Trump on, telling the Times she considers herself Trump’s equal, and the “TODAY” show that Trump can be indicted while in office. The 116th Congress, the most diverse by race, religion, and gender — on the Democratic side — stood in sharp contrast to Trump, who increasingly surrounds himself with rooms full of white men.
The government shutdown passed three weeks, with no end in sight, as Trump dug in his heels and Pelosi’s House voted to reopen the government without any funding for his wall. As the shutdown’s impact was increasingly felt across the country, including unpaid essential TSA workers calling in sick at four major airports, reporting indicated the Trump regime had not planned for or anticipated a long-term shutdown, and is caught flat-footed. Trump’s lack of empathy for those impacted by the shutdown, and threat to call a national emergency, further belied his autocratic tendencies.
Trump held a bizarre cabinet meeting in which he rambled on for 95 minutes, full of lies, revisionist history and self-aggrandizement — as his cabinet members took turns praising him. Although displays like this in his first year would be the topic of discussion for days, there was a notably shorter focus and reaction to the spectacle, as if truly we are the frogs in water close to boil. The federal grand jury seated in Washington D.C. for the Mueller probe was extended for an additional six months, as the 18 month mark passed.
Trump also tweeted, “I’m in the Oval Office. Democrats, come back from vacation now” to discuss his border wall. Politico reported there was no Marine posted outside the West Wing, meaning Trump was not in the Oval Office.
On Monday, the U.S. Strategic Command deleted a tweet which noted the “big” Times Square ball drop celebration at midnight, and joked “if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.”
Trump then tweeted, “HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE, INCLUDING THE HATERS AND THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA! 2019 WILL BE A FANTASTIC YEAR FOR THOSE NOT SUFFERING FROM TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. JUST CALM DOWN AND ENJOY THE RIDE, GREAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING FOR OUR COUNTRY!”
Trump also tweeted another false claim: “Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built.” Some walls and fencing have been replaced during Trump’s time in office, but no new wall has been built.
Wednesday marked the 12th day of the shutdown. Trump said he will veto any measure that did not include $5.6 billion for his wall, telling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer he would “look foolish” if he backed down.
Trump falsely claimed there were 35 million immigrants illegally in the U.S. In 2016, Pew Research estimated 10.7 million, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress there were between 11 and 22 million last week.
Acting AG Matthew Whitaker added, “Sir, Mr. President, I will start by highlighting the fact that you stayed” in D.C., giving up Christmas and New Year’s with your family while “some members of Congress went on vacation.”
The freshman class included historic firsts, including the first two Native American women and first two Muslim American women, as well as several who are the first African-American women elected in their states.
Trump also asserted, without evidence, “no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded.” The grounds for impeachment are “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and not related to job performance or popularity.
Also, a head of Trump’s meeting with Congressional leaders Friday, the White House issued a misleading statement: “3,775 known or suspected terrorists [were] prevented from traveling or entering the U.S.” in 2017.
At a press briefing at the end of a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump took questions from the press, and went on for 90 minutes in a rambling monologue festooned from end to end with falsehoods on a variety of subjects.
But then Trump went right off the deep end with a disquisition on the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and his remarks betrayed a perilous, gawping ignorance of the very reason why Afghanistan became such a lawless hellhole in the first place—which is how it came to pass that al-Qaeda found sanctuary there with the deranged Pakistani subsidiary that came to be called the Taliban, which is how al-Qaeda managed to plan and organize the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—which is the very reason the American troops that Trump keeps saying he wants to bring home are still there at all.
“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan,” Trump began. “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.” They were right to be there.
You’ll want to let that sink in for a moment: on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, Donald Trump endorsed a revisionist lunacy that is currently being championed by a bunch of cranks at the outermost neo-Stalinist fringe of Vladimir Putin’s ruling circle of oligarchs. They’ve already managed to cobble together a resolution in Russia’s Potemkin parliament that is to be voted on next month. It’s jointly sponsored by lawmakers from Putin’s United Russia and the still-existing Communist Party.
The resolution slammed the former Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Andrei Gromyko and Dimitri Ustinov for turning Afghanistan into an apocalyptic wasteland of more than a million corpses and forcing a third of the Afghan population to flee the country as refugees, costing as well the lives of 15,000 Soviet soldiers, for good measure.
And now, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is saying Gorbachev was wrong, and Brezhnev, Andropov, Gromyko and Ustinov were right, and so are Vladimir Putin’s creepy neo-Stalinist revisionists. Further than that, the idea the invasion bankrupted the Soviet Union, leading to its collapse, and that the Soviets rightly invaded Afghanistan “because terrorists were going into Russia,” as Trump claimed, is a whole-cloth fiction.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board piled on, saying Trump’s comments on Afghanistan were a “slander against every ally that has supported” the US effort in the country and adding, “We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President.”
And this hints on a question that many people are asking: Where is Trump getting his information from?
Certainly not our generals.
Or historians. Let’s go back not too far in time.
Through the 1970s, Afghanistan had been governed by a president who was friendly to the Soviet Union, but it was not reliably under Soviet control. That president, Mohammad Daoud Khan, became convinced that the local Communists were plotting against him. He struck first, assassinating one Communist leader in April 1978, and arresting others.
Instead of preventing the plot, this coup-from-above triggered it. In April 1978, the Communists—enabled by their strong presence in Afghanistan’s Soviet-trained military—seized power.
The new regime launched an ambitious modernizing agenda: women’s rights, land reform, secularization. That project went about as well as expected. While the Communists appealed to a small, educated elite in Kabul, they offended the ultraconservative countryside. Violent guerrilla resistance gathered. The guerrillas called themselves “mujahideen,” holy warriors. The Kabul government dismissed them as “bandit elements” and “terrorists.”
By the end of 1979, the Kabul-based Communist government was teetering, nearing collapse. The Soviet authorities in Moscow blamed the incompetence, corruption, and internecine violence of their local allies. In December 1979, they overthrew and killed the then-Communist leader, installed somebody more compliant, and deployed 85,000 troops to enforce their rule over the countryside. The Soviets had expected a brief, decisive intervention like those in Prague in 1968 or Budapest in 1956. Instead, the war turned into a grinding Vietnam-in-reverse. The Soviets withdrew, defeated, in 1989.
Now, Putin doesn’t give a crap about Afghanistan, but he cares about the now broken-apart USSR. In 2005, Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as (depending on your preferred translation) “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” or “a major geopolitical disaster of the 20th century”—but clearly a thing very much to be regretted.
And in reviving the image of the USSR, the Putin regime tries to rehabilitate and justify the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
Trump just did that.
It is now two days since that statement, and there has been no attempt by the White House to tidy things up: no presidential tweet, no corrective statement. The president’s usual defenders—Sean Hannity, Fox & Friends, the anti-anti-Trump Twitter chorus—have likewise ignored the whole matter. They’re back to denouncing the Steele dossier, fulminating against Mueller, and reprising the Clinton-email drama. There’s apparently nothing they can think of to say in exoneration or excuse.
So we understand why Putin is interested in propping up the Soviet Union. But how that propaganda is reaching Trump—by which channels, via which persons—seems an important if not urgent question.
The new Congress is being sworn in today. There is a partial government shutdown. An American was arrested in Russia for spying (he probably wasn’t — it’s retaliation). And the Dow is down today, uh, let’s see — 550 points.
So what is on Trump’s mind? Re-election.
Let’s be clear about this: if you think this is funny, you’re a dick. And this isn’t politics.
I’m not prepared to discuss Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy yet, simply because I feel we JUST HAD A FUCKING ELECTION!!! Plus, Trump clearly wants the focus to go there. But I will say this… it is clear they are trying to “Hillary” her, and it is not likely to work. She simply doesn’t have Hillary baggage.
Imagine being so small, so petty, and so undeniably racist and stupid, that you're sitting in the seat of power, in the "greatest nation on Earth," and you decide to tweet THIS trash.
The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.
It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.
It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.
He then went on to attack Trump as hurting American prestige worldwide, as well as engaging in fiscal irresponsibility.
Romney, to be sworn in as Utah’s junior senator on Thursday, was of course the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, the WaPo op-ed could be seen as the opening salvo in a run against Trump in 2020.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, gave a tepid Twitter response…
… if only because of his meaningless (and misspelled phrase): “Jealously [sic] is a drink best served warm…” . In any event, I’m not sure sycophancy is the way to go. Then again, Parscale is a tech guy, and not so much of a campaign manager.
Trump then added his own critique:
I think Dems are also asking if Romney is a (Jeff) Flake, too. That is, a man somewhat anti-Trump in words but not in deeds (votes). Trump’s tweet urges Romney to be a team player, but cannot resist the dig (I won big and he didn’t — never mind the fact that Trump did not win big at all and got only 46.4% of the vote compared to Romney’s 47.2%
All this was followed by the Chairwoman of the GOP
POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive. https://t.co/ArhI7Bi7bo
… which is a very interesting tweet considering that she is Romney’s niece!
Many believe, with good reason, that Romney is planning to join the GOP furrowed brow club — the group of outspoken GOP politicians who speak against Trump, but do nothing because they fear his base. And maybe he will do that, but that seems a terrible strategy for a 2020 run. He needs to distinguish himself from Trump in a significant way — not just with rhetoric. I doubt he will move to the left on many issues, but he does have to take a stand here and there.
It is all part of a larger question about how much Republicans are willing to stand behind Trump.
There's a growing feeling in circles that Trump won't survive the Mueller Investigation and his sinking could take the GOP down with him. Some think jettisoning him off before it comes down could be one of the few moves remaining.
Every sane Republican, privately: “Trump has bad character.” Mitt Romney, publicly: “Trump has bad character.” Trump-intimidated Republicans, which is still most of them: “How dare Mitt say publicly what we’ve all said privately! An elected Republican bring honest! The horror…”
Mitt Romney’s scorching critique of President Trump in a New Year’s Day op-ed has sparked a call from within the Republican National Committee to change party rules to protect Trump from any long-shot primary challenge in 2020.
The RNC committeeman representing the Virgin Islands late Tuesday emailed fellow elected members of the national party urging them to change the rules when they convene in New Mexico for their annual winter meeting later this month. Republicans are confident that Trump would hold off any primary challenger, but worry the campaign would derail his re-election.
“Look, the political history is clear. No Republican president opposed for re-nomination has ever won re-election,” RNC committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams said in a email obtained by the Washington Examiner. “Unfortunately, loopholes in the rules governing the 2020 re-nomination campaign are enabling these so-called Republicans to flirt with the possibility of contested primaries and caucuses.”
Romney, to be sworn in as Utah’s junior senator on Thursday, was the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and is seen as an acute threat to Trump in the wake of his op-ed in the Washington Post. Williams said Romney or someone like him would complicate Trump’s 2020 campaign.
“While President Trump would win re-nomination it wouldn’t come quick and it wouldn’t be inexpensive. Any contested re-nomination campaign—even a forlorn hope—would only help Democrats,” Williams wrote. “Accordingly, I am asking for your support to take the unprecedented step of amending the rules to close loopholes in the re-nomination campaign, including Rule 40.”
Trump would be the overwhelming favorite in any contested 2020 primary. But Republican National Committee rules make it relatively easy for a well-funded challenger to win enough votes to have his or her vote placed in nomination on the floor of the party’s nominating convention in Charlotte.
Under current rules, a primary challenger can get a vote on the convention floor if he or she wins a plurality of delegates in five states or territories (Washington, D.C. can also be one of the five).
Existing rules technically prohibit any changes to these regulations inside of a presidential cycle, which begins after the midterms. But as a private organization, the RNC could in fact make any changes it wants at any time.
Williams wants the RNC to change the rules, endorse Trump and declare him the de-facto nominee, heading off any primary challenge. But such a move, while possible, could be complicated and generate criticism that the president is engaging in the sort of establishment election-rigging he decried on the campaign trail in 2016.
Election-rigging? Not above this Republican party.
UPDATE #2 — Romney on CNN just now
Mitt Romney on CNN: "Well, with regards to the shutdown, I'll be with Republicans on that front, which is — I think it's important for us to secure the border."
1968 is often thought of as the most turbulent year domestically in modern American history, but I think 2018 is right up there. Sure, there wasn’t rioting in the streets, but the limitations of democracy and our constitutional rule of law remain tested.
Trump is, if not a criminal, certainly immoral, and without question the worst custodian of this country. He care not for the Constitution or reality. That’s a deadly concoction.
2018 saw Trump claim that he had solved the North Korea problem — he actually hadn’t — after cozying up to Kim Jong Un. And his obsession with Russia and Putin is mystifying — that is, until you accept the facts about his Moscow deals-in-the-making.
And Mueller’s investigation remains front page news, if only because Trump cannot stop tweeting about it (“WITCH HUNT!”) several times a week. (Certainly, Mueller cannot be blamed for the constant attention on his investigation). And then there is the whole SDNY investigation into Trump.
But Digby is right:
[T]he whole year is a low point. But to my mind nothing is lower than the fact that Donald Trump believes that separating children, even infants, from their parents at the U.S. border — putting the kids in cages and then losing track of hundreds of them as their parents were deported — was a justifiable “deterrent.” Trump reportedly calls their nations “shithole countries” and threatens their leaders with a cutoff of aid if they don’t somehow keep their citizens from seeking refuge in the U.S. (Does he want them to build a wall to keep their people in?)
Trump has created a crisis where none existed — illegal immigration and asylum claims are quite low by historical standards — out of bigotry and rank political opportunism. His administration has changed the rules and procedures, forcing people to take more and more dangerous risks. And now children are dying. Two kids under age 10 have died in government custody under dubious conditions in the past month.
It is the very end of 2018. The government is shut down over Trump’s demand for a wall at the border, while refugee children die in our government’s custody. Our president does not show even a scintilla of empathy or take any responsibility. That’s low, even for him. I hesitate to think what 2019 is going to bring.
So do I. But I don’t think Trump’s end-of-the-year gambit is going to turn things around for him. I don’t think his base really CARED about a wall that much. They just liked the chant. I mean, when you think about it, “Freebird” isn’t that great a song, but people asked for it anyway at concerts.
We haven’t hit the worst yet. But we’re coming to a head. A constitutional crisis.
In an interview published Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, Kelly was quoted saying that the current White House plan for a barrier is “not a wall.”
“The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes, frankly, he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing.’ Now he’s tended toward steel slats,” Kelly said. “But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”
And during a television interview Sunday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway chided Trump critics for focusing on the word “wall.”
“It is a silly, semantic argument because people who just want to say ‘wall, wall, wall’ want it to be a four-letter word,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“There may be a wall at some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements,” Conway said. “But always saying ‘wall’ or ‘no wall’ is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border when it comes to the drugs pouring in.”
Trump seemed to strike back at Kelly and Kellyanne this morning with this tweet:
We are in the second week of a government shutdown, and the administration is fighting with itself about what it is asking for.
Increasingly, Trump stands alone. The generals are gone, much of his experienced and competent senior staffers have resigned or been fired. This week, in a tantrum over his decision to shut down the government, Trump stewed and tweeted and blamed and attacked from the White House, while the rest of Congress was home for the Christmas holiday. At one point on Christmas Eve day, as the stock market was plummeting, Trump bemoaned his self-imposed status, tweeting, “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House.” Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley called it, “a sad and pathetic moment.” As the week came to a close, Trump again complained: “I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats.”
This week the stock market continued wild gyrations, as Trump again publicly lashed out at his Federal Reserve Chair, and privately threatened to fire his Treasury Secretary. Parts of the government were shuttered during the holiday week, and the effects of the shutdown started to be felt. Trump took a surprise visit — his first — to a combat zone, but even that backfired and led to further criticism as he held a campaign rally-style event with U.S. troops at a military base in Iraq, and continued his partisan criticisms of Democrats and demagoguery about his wall and the shutdown while abroad. Iraqi politicians denounced Trump’s visit and demanded U.S. troops leave their country.=
This week the crisis at our southern border intensified as a second child died in Border Patrol custody, and more than 1,600 migrants were dropped off without warning over the holidays at a Greyhound bus stop in El Paso. Incoming House Democrats promised to hold hearings on the treatment of migrants when they take control of committees, and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hired a distinguished former Department of Justice official as the new General Counsel of the House, as talks of investigations and impeachment continued.
Trump enters his third year unchecked, with the country in disarray: the government is shut down, the stock market is in free-fall, and foreign allies are voicing alarm. Hostile powers like Russia are cheering.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week was “the most chaotic week of what’s undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency ever in the history of the United States,” citing senior level departures.
Trump also tweeted, “Interesting relationship-but I also gave all of the resources that he never really had. Allies are very important-but not when they take advantage of U.S.”
Trump also attacked Brett McGurk, whom Trump claimed he did not know, even though McGurk was his anti-ISIS point man — adding “Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!”
Mnuchin said in a statement Trump had not suggested firing Powell and did not believe he could do so. Incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “This Week” that Trump “now realizes” he cannot sack the Fed chairman.
Shortly after, in a confusing tweet, Trump tweeted, “The Wall is different than the 25 Billion Dollars in Border Security,” claiming “The complete Wall will be built with the Shutdown money plus funds already in hand.”
Trump also tweeted, “Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States. See?” Adding, “Thanks to Saudi A!”
In the afternoon, Trump sent two more tweets. One included a photo in the Oval Office, saying “Christmas Eve briefing with my team working on North Korea…Looking forward to my next summit with Chairman Kim!”
Trump also threatened to keep the government shut, saying “I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. It’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.”
The president of the National Treasury Employees Union, representing 150,000 federal workers, called the shutdown “a travesty,” saying workers will have a hard time paying mortgages and buying Christmas presents.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported before Trump’s Oval Office comments, a person familiar said Trump had considered firing Mnuchin. Another said Mnuchin’s tenure may depend on how the stock market performs.
Trump’s speech to troops had the feel of one of his campaign rallies, with chants of “USA! USA!” and background music. Trump also made partisan attacks, and signed red “Make America Great Again” hats for the troops.
Later in the day, Trump tweeted “This isn’t about the Wall, everybody knows that a Wall will work perfectly,” adding, “this is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win.”
At some detention facilities, migrants worked for pennies. One detainee at the Corley center who took the graveyard shift in the facility kitchen was paid $3 for 7 hours of work. Advocates say this borders on slave labor.
On Friday, the McMinnville Police Department, after seeing the video and receiving other information,arrested Rocco and charged her with intimidation, unlawful use of a weapon, menacing, and harassment.
Days later, Giuliani told Axios Trump “might agree,” then told NBC News he did not “anticipate” any additional written answers, then told The Daily Beast that negotiations for an in-person interview are “still open.”