Ronny Jackson Bows Out

Ken AshfordMilitary Issues, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Although “the allegations against [him] are completely false and fabricated,” Dr. Ronny Jackson is withdrawing from consideration as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those allegations, which come from more than 20 sources, include passing out drunk while on an overseas trip with then-President Barack Obama, drunkenly pounding on the door of a female employee while on an overseas trip with Obama, crashing a government car while under the influence, and over-prescribing himself and others.. Here’s his full statement:

It strains credulity that ALL of these allegations are false, given how they come from multiple sources. Trump is blaming Democrats in Congress, but they did not create these allegations, and moreover, if the White House had done any vetting, it would have discovered these allegations easily.

Frankly, he should not be head of the Veterans Administration for a reason having nothing to do with his alleged misconduct — the truth is he is uniquely unqualified.

Reminder: This Is Not Normal – Unhinged President Rants On TV And Hurts His Legal Battles

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The President of the United States went on a rant on Fox & Friends this morning. Trump went on long, loopy, repetitive riffs about how “fake” and “phony” everything is: the Jackson allegations, Comey’s memos, Stormy Daniels’s assertions, the Robert Mueller investigation. The hosts kept trying to bring up Kanye West’s pro-Trump tweets, but all they got were warmed-over campaign lines about how “black unemployment is at the lowest” and how the Republican party is better for African-Americans: “If you go back to the Civil War, it was the Republicans who did the thing.” In Trump-speak, “Did the thing” = “freed the slaves.”

Toward the end, Trump tipped his hand. Asked by Doocy to grade his performance in office, Trump veered off, saying, “I’m fighting a battle … a phony battle … it’s a cloud over my head.” He seemed to be referring to the Mueller probe. “The message now is, ‘It’s a fix.’ I’ve been able to message it.” This is a crucial statement. This is how Trump — and his media handmaiden Fox News — views things. Figure out how you want to interpret facts, twist things to your liking, and then repeat it over and over and over again, thereby “messaging it.” The current message is, “It’s a fix.” What’s fixed? Everything: Mueller, Dr. Jackson’s nomination, the investigation of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels. Listening to Trump this morning was like hearing a week’s worth of Hannity episodes crunched into a half hour. All the same conspiracy theories and twisted logic. For the Fox audience, it works like a charm. It’s what put Trump in office. By the end, Trump, who could not be controlled in any coherent way for the previous 30 minutes, suddenly became friendly and precise. “Ainsley, good luck with your book!” he called out to Earhardt, who’s just published a memoir. Your president of the United States: Useless on articulating policy, great at promotion.

Here’s an example or two:

But this kind of loose talk is why Trump’s lawyers want him to shut up.   Because Trump made a couple of legal flubs.

First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work.

“Michael is in business — he’s really a businessman, a fairly big business as I understand it, I don’t know his business but this doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said, attempting to distance himself from Cohen. “Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business, he also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something to do with his business. This doesn’t have to do with me. I have many attorneys — sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it.”

Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press.

But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer loved this:

Separately, Cohen told the judge he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to a civil lawsuit brought by Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who says she had an affair with Trump and is trying to nullify a $130,000 payment she received for for her silence just days before the 2016 election.

Trump acknowledged during the Fox & Friends interview that Cohen did represent him during his dealings with Daniels. Trump recently claimed he had no knowledge of the payment at the time.

“Michael would represent me and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represented me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. He represented me and you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.”

But Cohen’s story about the secret Daniels hush payment — which may have been illegal if it was meant to help Trump’s campaign — is that he made it from his personal funds, without Trump being looped in at all. Trump’s acknowledgement that Cohen “represented me” in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” undermines the repeated public claims of his own lawyer.

At another point, Trump accused former FBI director James Comey of lying in memos he wrote about his interactions of Trump before he was fired. In them, Comey claims that Trump repeatedly told him he didn’t spent a single night in Moscow during his November 2013 trip there — a claim that if true, would represent an alibi for a salacious claim in an intelligence dossier about Russia having evidence that Trump engaged in sex acts with Russian sex workers during that trip.

“Those memos were about me and they’re phony memos, Trump said on Fox & Friends. “He didn’t write those memos accurately, he put a lot of phony stuff — for instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant. So, I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia. Now, everybody knows — the logs are there, the planes are there — he said, I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed. Well his memo said I left immediately — I never said that. I never said I left immediately.”

The problem for Trump is that the space-time continuum being what it is, it’s not at all clear how Comey would know to make this up in contemporaneous memos written in early 2017. He would have no way to know it would be significant. It simply makes no sense.

Trump was clearly agitated throughout the interview. After his ill-considered comments about Cohen, Fox & Friends hosts quickly steered him to talking about his bromance with Kanye West. But by the end of the interview, the conversation drifted back to Mueller and Trump’s frustrations with the ongoing investigation into himself and his campaign became clear once again.

“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI — it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t — our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me and Russia, and everybody knows it.

Mulvaney, The Head Of The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Is The Wolf Guarding The Henhouse

Ken AshfordClass Warfare, Corporate Greed, Economy & Jobs & Deficit, Occupy Wall Street, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The man is very Trumpian in his dealings:

Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Now where might Mulvaney have gotten that idea and the boldness to express it in public? Maybe this from 1995 will help:

In the annals of the House Republican revolution, a pivotal moment came last April when an unsuspecting corporate lobbyist entered the inner chamber of Majority Whip Tom DeLay, whose aggressive style has earned him the nickname “the Hammer.” The Texas congressman was standing at his desk that afternoon, examining a document that listed the amounts and percentages of money that the 400 largest political action committees had contributed to Republicans and Democrats over the last two years. Those who gave heavily to the GOP were labeled “Friendly,” the others “Unfriendly.”

“See, you’re in the book,” DeLay said to his visitor, leafing through the list. At first the lobbyist was not sure where his group stood, but DeLay helped clear up his confusion. By the time the lobbyist left the congressman’s office, he knew that to be a friend of the Republican leadership his group would have to give the party a lot more money.

Tom DeLay would be convicted in 2010 of one charge of money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The conviction was later overturned. Mulvaney made sure to mention that constituents got a hearing from him before lobbyists who had payed him. He received nearly $60,000 from payday lenders.

One might well ask why a man who was appointed to oversee banks is at a conference for bankers, encouraging them to pursue their agenda. Well, like Scott Pruit heading up the EPA, these men are not there to run those agencies, but to kill them.  Take Mulvaney — the New York Times reports that since taking over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

… he has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data, arguing that its investigations created online security risks. And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable.

Mulvaney insists the Associated Press refer to the agency by its statutory label, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, you know, to lower its public profile even further.

He concluded the speech, which included an appeal to diminish the bureau’s power, by describing the two types of people he was most responsive to as a congressman — constituents and lobbyists who contributed to his campaign.

Yesterday’s revelation leave no doubt as to whose team he is on.  Certainly not the Consumer.

White House Didn’t Vet Their Guy To Head The Vet Administration And Now He’s In Trouble

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee are raising concerns about allegations involving Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, and are reviewing them to determine if they are substantial enough to upend his nomination.

Committee members have been told about allegations related to improper conduct in various stages of his career, two sources said.  Accusations are emerging of excessive drinking, creating a hostile work environment and ‘improperly dispensing’ medication.

The sources say the committee is in talks to delay Wednesday’s confirmation hearing as they try to figure out the allegations. “We’re going to vet him. The Trump administration doesn’t do a particularly good job,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a committee member. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

None of the senators would publicly detail the specifics of the allegations. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is hard to feel bad for this guy – he was willing to pursue a post for which he was clearly ill-placed to fill. After all, a good doctor does not make a good administrator, and the VA is the federal government’s second largest department after the Department of Defense. VA employs nearly 280,000 people at hundreds of VA medical facilities, clinics, and benefits offices and is responsible for administering benefits programs for Veterans, their families and survivors.  Any sane person would realize the move to head up the VA would bring his conduct under scrutiny.

Veterans groups have mostly declined to give Jackson ringing endorsements, too.

The White House is sticking by him. Because… well, I guess because he talked great about Trump’s body.

Van Slams Into Toronto Pedestrians; Possible Terrorist Attack

Ken AshfordMental Health, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Police have arrested a suspect after a white van mounted the curb and struck numerous pedestrians in Toronto.

The incident happened on Yonge Street south of Finch Avenue around 1:30 p.m. today.

A suspect was arrested beside the van on Poyntz Avenue off of Yonge, just south of Sheppard Avenue West. The van is marked as belonging to the rental company Ryder.

Carol Roberts, who witnessed the aftermath, said she saw “a lot of people lying lifeless on the ground.”

“It was just so many bodies,” she told CTV News Channel.

Witness Phil Zullo, who was driving northbound, says he first noticed the commotion when he saw police taking down a male suspect.

Zullo says he continued north, where he saw “shoes and hats flown everywhere.”

A witness named Kash told local news station CP24 that he was having lunch at a Jack Astors restaurant when he came out and saw four bodies on the ground in front of Mel Lastman Square.

“People were trying to revive them obviously to no avail,” he said.

Death toll unconfirmed. Some reporting two, some as high as nine. Some reporting ethnicity of driver as Middle Eastern, but that too is unconfirmed.

BTW, look at the retweets for the tweet saying driver is Middle Eastern versus those saying driver is white.



Death toll rises to 10.  Indications are mental illness of some sort rather than political terrorism

So like this mass murder four years ago, the motive seems to be an inability to get laid.

Waffle House Shooting

Ken AshfordGun ControlLeave a Comment

A gunman opened fire at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee, at 3:25 am Sunday. Six people were shot, including four who died and two others were injured.

The Metropolitan National Police Department tweeted that a patron “wrestled away the gunman’s rifle” and that he was nude and fled on foot. “The man who wrestled the gun away is a hero,” Metro Nashville police spokesperson Don Aaron told CNN.

The patron was later identified as 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., who spoke with the Tennessean. “I don’t really know, when everyone said that, it feels selfish,” he said when asked about the descriptions of him as a hero. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.” He said he was grazed by a bullet, treated for a minor gunshot wound, and released from the hospital Sunday morning.

Shaw described the incident and his decision to wrestle the gun away from the gunman at a press conference on Sunday. “He was going to have to work to — work to kill me,” he said.

Side note:  As Waffle House executives assisted employees and spoke with law enforcement in the aftermath of Sunday’s deadly rampage at the Antioch restaurant, a car drove up with a woman in distress.  It was about 12:40 p.m. and the crime scene was swarming with investigators and police, surrounded by crime tape.

Police tweeted that Travis Reinking, 29, from Morton, Illinois, is a “person of interest” in the Waffle House shooting. They identified him because the vehicle he arrived in was registered under that name. They said murder warrants have been drafted against him and warned he may be carrying two guns.

Police say the gunman was naked except for a green jacket at the time of the shooting, after which he shed his jacket and fled. However, the description has since changed, and he was spotted near an apartment complex wearing black pants.

Police tweeted a picture of the rifle used by the gunman on Sunday.

The US Secret Service said that Reinking was arrested near the White House in July 2017 for being in a “restricted area.” After his arrest, his Illinois firearms authorization was revoked, and the police seized his weapons, including the AR-15 he used at the Waffle House shooting. Police believe his father received the weapons after they were taken away and returned them to him.

The motives are unknown, but the victims are all black or Hispanic. The fact that he was mostly naked indicates mental illness, which begs the question why his father returned the AR-15 to his son.

The Waffle House shooting suspect identified himself as a “sovereign citizen” during arrest outside the White House last year, so that may lead to evidence of white supremacy:

Police are also saying that the suspect in Waffle House shooting stole BMW, eluded police chase days before attack that killed four.  They have no clue as to his current whereabouts and he may have left the area.

UPDATE (2:07 pm)

Weekly List 75

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week Trump became increasingly frantic about the fed raid on Michael  Cohen, as innuendo swirled that Cohen could cooperate with federal prosecutors if indicted. Trump spent much of the week attacking James Comey, and teetering on firing Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller. Yet again this week, the national focus continued to be on Trump’s gyrations, with no visible efforts in Congress towards the typical discussions and debates on policy or legislation.

The untold and less-covered stories continue to be loss of rights and protections for marginalized communities and women, and the outright cruelty of the Trump regime when it comes to immigrants. Kleptocracy and corruption continues unabated, and in a sign of our country’s normalization of the previously unthinkable, Tax Day came and went this week with barely a whimper for Trump not sharing past returns.

  1. On Sunday, Trump attacked Comey in a series of tweets, calling him a “slimeball,” “Slippery James Comey,” and adding, “(he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”
  2. Trump also tweeted, “The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail).
  3. Trump also attacked a former president again, “Why can’t we all find out what happened on the tarmac” between “Wild Bill and Lynch?” Trump asked if Loretta Lynch was “promised a Supreme Court seat, or AG” to lay off Hillary.
  4. A NBC News/WSJ poll found Trump’s approval dropped back down to 39%, down 4 points from last month. His disapproval rose to 57%.
  5. On Sunday, shortly after the poll was released, Trump tweeted “Just hit 50% in the Rasmussen Poll much higher than President Obama at same point.” The Rasmussen number is 7.5 points above the average poll.
  6. On Sunday, in his first TV interview about his book, Comey castigated Trump for being a serial liar, “morally unfit,” and a “stain” on all around him. Comey said Trump was incinerating the country’s norms like wildfire.
  7. Two black men waiting for a friend to arrive at a Starbucks in Philadelphia were handcuffed and arrested after a white Starbucks employee called the police. The men were held by police for nine hours before being released.
  8. On Tuesday, Starbucks announced the company will close 8,000 of its stores on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct “racial-bias education” training for nearly 175,000 employees.
  9. HuffPost reported a federal judge in Washington barred the federal government from implementing Trump’s transgender military ban, saying transgender people have been “subjected to systemic oppression and forced to live in silence,” and are therefore a protected class.
  10. On Tuesday, Miami Herald reported ICE arrested Juan Gaspar-García, an undocumented Guatemalan man with Down syndrome, as part of a raid at TentLogix. Gaspar-García, 22, was one of 28 people detained.
  11. Gaspar-García’s sister launched a petition, saying, “My brother does not have the ability to understand certain situations and probably does not understand why he is there or what is happening.” He also has diabetes.
  12. World-famous Muslim author and activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who who holds dual citizenships in Sudan and Australia, was detained at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport by US Customs and Border Protection.
  13. American authorities said Abdel-Magied, who was being paid to speak at the conference, was in violation of her visitor’s visa. She was denied entry to the US, and after a three hour detainment, was sent back to London.
  14. Politico reported, as part of the Trump regime’s broader plan to reduce immigration, Jeff Sessions is seeking to remove domestic violence and sexual violence as persecution that would justify asylum in the US.
  15. The city of Albuquerque passed a measure making it harder for federal officials to deport undocumented immigrants, a week after a judge blocked the Trump regime from withholding funding from cities that took such steps.
  16. AP reported Manuel Duran Ortega, a reporter working for Spanish-language media outlet Memphis Noticias, was detained by ICE, allegedly because he has been critical of local police cooperating with federal ICE.
  17. Ortega, who is originally from El Salvador, was arrested by police in Memphis, then taken into custody ICE and detained in Louisiana. Southern Poverty Law Center asked a federal court to release Ortega.
  18. On Wednesday, reported ICE agents stormed a farm owned by John Collins in upstate New York without a warrant. The agents pinned his worker, Marcial de Leon Aguilar, up against a window.
  19. Collins said the men did not identify themselves and were screaming at Aguilar. The seven officers cuffed Aguilar and took him across the road to their vehicles as Collins’ children, waiting for the school bus, looked on. Collins said Aguilar had proper documentation to work for him.
  20. On Wednesday, Trump attacked California and its sanctuary cities in a tweet, saying, “there is a Revolution going on in California,” which he called “crime infested & breeding concept.”
  21. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security and Defense officials on the terms of California’s National Guard deployment at the border: the state’s 400 troops will work solely against drug trafficking and cross-border criminal groups.
  22. On Thursday, Trump shot back at Brown, tweeting Brown deployed troops “to do nothing,” and “The crime rate in California is high enough,” and the federal government “will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade.”
  23. NYT reported, according to data prepared by DHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, more than 700 immigrant children have been taken from their parents at the US border, including more than 100 under the age of four.
  24. Officials claim the agency does not separate families at the border for deterrence purposes, but Trump officials, including Kelly, have publicly suggested this in the past. A spokesman for DHS said, “As required by law, D.H.S. must protect the best interests of minor children crossing our borders.”
  25. On Wednesday, in the biggest power outage since Hurricane Maria, a toppled transmission line left all of Puerto Rico without power. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said power restoration could take up to 36 hours.
  26. BuzzFeed reported at a closed-door UN meeting in March, Trump regime officials called the US a “pro-life nation,” and pushed for references to contraception, abortion, and comprehensive sex education to be struck.
  27. On Thursday, a federal judge in Washington DC ruled the Trump regime’s cuts to the Obama-era Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) were unlawful, and ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to accept and process applications of four grantees.
  28. On Friday, Trump’s HHS announced the TPPP will shift federal funding aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates to programs that teach abstinence. The changes mark a major shift in the way the federal government treats teen pregnancy.
  29. On Thursday, a federal appeals court found an Indiana abortion law signed by then Gov. Mike Pence is unconstitutional. The law banned women from having abortions based on the gender, race, or disability of the fetus.
  30. A UK parliamentary committee released audio from November in which Nigel Oakes, the founder and CEO of SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, told a reporter Trump deliberately demonized Muslims and stoked fears about ISIS to appease his base — as Hitler did with Jews.
  31. VICE News reported that following their inquiry to Facebook, the company removed two pages associated with white supremacist Richard Spencer.
  32. On Saturday, WAPO reported that eight months after the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, the alt-right movement is in disarray amid lawsuits, arrests, infighting, tepid recruitment, and banishment from social media.
  33. One of the biggest groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party, dissolved in March; Andrew Anglin, founder of The Daily Stormer, has gone into hiding; and Richard Spencer canceled a college speaking tour.
  34. Elizabeth Pierce, FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s pick to run a federal advisory committee, was arrested after federal prosecutors accused her of forging contracts to induce firms to invest more than $250 million in a fraud scheme.
  35. On Monday, Rob Joyce, a top White House cybersecurity official, became the fourth member of Trump’s National Security Council to resign in the days since John Bolton took over at National Security Adviser.
  36. On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, a critic of Trump and leader of a moderate band of Republicans,said he would quit Congress next month before serving out his term. Dent had already announced his retirement.
  37. On Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a strong advocate for net neutrality, announced she will step down from the commission. Clyburn has served on the commission since 2009.
  38. On Monday, NPR reported the Environmental Protection Agency removed the San Jacinto Waste Pits, a heavily contaminated site near Houston, from a list of sites that require special attention by Scott Pruitt, citing significant clean-up progress.
  39. The site, which is next to homes and schools and took decades to get federal attention, saw significant damage from Hurricane Harvey. Pruitt is leaving it to two companies responsible for the contamination to come up with a court-ordered plan within 29 months.
  40. Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department announced the killing of birds resulting from an activity, such as an oil spill, is no longer prohibited under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, sapping the strength of a century-old law to protect birds.
  41. A federal judge ruled Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in contempt of court for failing to comply with a 2016 preliminary injunction that blocked a Kansas law requiring people to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.
  42. Kobach, who also serves as co-chair of Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, had assured the judge he would send out postcards to the roughly 18,000 people whose registrations were being held up. He did not.
  43. Betsy DeVos’ Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has begun dismissing hundreds of civil rightscases under a new protocol, saying serial filing have become burdensome to the office.
  44. The new provision resulted in the dismissal of more than 500 disability rights complaints. DeVos has already rescinded guidances meant to protect students against campus sexual assault, and black and transgender students against bias.
  45. The Government Accountability Office concluded the EPA did not comply with the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act by spending $43,000 to install a private phone booth in Pruitt’s office without notifying Congress spending was above the $5,000 limit.
  46. CNN reported Samantha Dravis, one of Pruitt’s most trusted advisers and top EPA official, tried to back-date her resignation letter after the House oversight committee requested to interview her as part of its investigation.
  47. On Wednesday, a group of 170 Democratic lawmakers, including 131 representatives and 39 senators,signed a resolution calling on Pruitt to resign.
  48. On Wednesday, Daily Beast reported Rep. James Bridenstine, Trump NASA nominee, led a small non-profit organization into losses. Some of the losses were the result of a company that Bridenstine co-owned using the non-profit’s resources.
  49. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Bridenstine to lead NASA, by a vote of 50–49. Bridenstine has no scientific credentials, does not believe humans are primarily to blame for the global climate crisis, and is the first elected official to hold the position.
  50. The Philippine Embassy sent invitations for its Independence Day celebration on June 12, which will be held at the Trump Hotel DC. The hotel is seen by foreign delegations as a place to be seen and curry favor.
  51. On Thursday, WSJ reported that the Kushner Cos. received a federal grand-jury subpoena in mid-March for information related to paperwork the company filed in New York City on its rent-regulated tenants.
  52. On Wednesday, the parents of two children who died in the 2012 Newtown school shooting sued InfoWars’ Alex Jones for defamation. Jones is a right-wing conspiracy theorist who said the shooting never happened.
  53. In a YouTube video, Jones backtracked and said he now believes the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting did really happen, and that the families are being used by the Democratic Party and the news media.
  54. On Friday, Intercept reported, according to documents, in February 2017 Elliott Broidy provided Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a US sanctions list.
  55. When Broidy sought legal advice on the plan and avoiding registering under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a law firm flagged the avoidance of lobbying registration as a problem. That advice was a factor in the decision not to move forward with the agreement.
  56. On Sunday, WSJ reported federal prosecutors are investigating money flowing in and out of Essential Consultants, the Delaware limited-liability company used by Michael Cohen for payment deals to at least two women.
  57. Cohen used Essential Consultants to make pay $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford. Installments were also made by Broidy towards the payment made for negotiating a nondisclosure agreement related to his affair.
  58. On Sunday, Axios reported Trump tried to block Pence from getting his pick for his national security adviser. Pence has planned to pick Nikki Haley’s deputy Jon Lerner, who was part of the “Never Trump” movement.
  59. On Sunday, US ambassador to the UN Haley told “Face the Nation” the US is preparing new sanctions against Russia for their role in Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, adding Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be announcing the sanctions on Monday.
  60. WAPO reported Trump met with his national security advisers late Sunday, and told them he was uncomfortable rolling out new sanctions. On Monday, White House officials put the brakes on new sanctions.
  61. On Monday, the White House was said to be in a “holding pattern” on sanctions, enacting them only if Russia does something which threatens US interests. The Trump regime reportedly decided to characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement.
  62. On Tuesday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters Haley “got ahead of the curve.” Haley responded, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” Kudlow reportedly called Haley Tuesday to apologize.
  63. On Tuesday, WAPO’s Carol Leonnig told MSNBC the Russian government was given a backdoor assurance on Sunday night that the threats of sanctions were nothing to worry about, and to just ignore Haley.
  64. On Tuesday, NYT reported that Trump grew angry while watching television Sunday and seeing Haley announce sanctions were coming, when he had not decided yet.
  65. The miscue highlights crossed circuits in a regime without a secretary of state, Bolton starting anew and several members of the national security officials resigning, and a marginalized White House staff.
  66. Trump is at odds with Haley, who is among the most hawkish senior officials on Russia. Recently, he saw her on television criticizing Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, and yelled at the screen, “Who wrote that for her?”
  67. On Friday, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Foreign Minister Lavrov said Trump invited Putin to the White House during a phone call, and that Trump said he would be happy for a reciprocal visit to Moscow.
  68. On Sunday, the LA Times reported Trump’s Solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco intervened in a minor SEC case toask the Supreme Court to clarify the president’s constitutional power to fire all “officers of the United States.”
  69. On Sunday, the NYT Editorial Board wrote that if Trump moves against Mueller or Rosenstein, “it will be up to Congress to affirm the rule of law, the separation of powers and the American constitutional order.”
  70. On Sunday night, in a letter to US District Judge Kimba Wood, Trump asked the judge to allow him to review documents seized by the FBI from Cohen’s office before criminal investigators see the material.
  71. The FBI is using a “taint team” of prosecutors outside the investigation to review all materials seized from Cohen’s office, hotel room, and security deposit box to access what is covered by attorney-client privilege.
  72. On Monday, Justice Wood said she would not grant the President exclusive first access to documents seized in the raids, but said she would consider appointing an independent lawyer to review the seized materials.
  73. Also in court Monday, Cohen’s attorneys acknowledged he represented Broidy, and sought to avoid naming a third client. Under orders from the judge, the third client was disclosed to be Sean Hannity.
  74. Shortly after, Hannity tweeted, “Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions.”
  75. On Tuesday, The Atlantic reported Hannity has ties to two other lawyers who are close to Trump: Jay Sekulow and Victoria Toensing, wife and law partner of Joseph diGenova.
  76. The two sent a cease and desist letter on May 25, 2017 to KFAQ, a radio station based in Tulsa, when conservative activist Debbie Schlussel said Hannity was “creepy” towards her. Sekulow, Toensing, and diGenova are frequently on Hannity’s show.
  77. On Tuesday, Fox News said it was “unaware” and “surprised” by Hannity’s business relationship with Cohen, but expressed “we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support.
  78. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Trump is now leaning against granting an interview to Mueller’s team, following the FBI raids on Cohen. When the news broke on Cohen, Sekulow and other Trump advisers were in a preparatory session for a meeting with Mueller’s team.
  79. Mark Corallo, former spokesperson for Trump’s legal team said unexpected raids “are generally reserved for mafia dons and drug kingpins.” Trump continues to have trouble staffing his legal team.
  80. WAPO also reported Trump was so upset by the raids, he had trouble concentrating on the options laid out to him by his national security team for missile strikes in Syria.
  81. On Wednesday, WSJ reported Jay Goldberg, who represented Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s,cautioned Trump not to trust Cohen, saying Cohen is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors if facing criminal charges.
  82. In a fifteen-minute conversation, Goldberg reportedly told Trump, on a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting, Cohen “isn’t even a 1.” Trump is seeking advice as prosecutors ramp up their investigation of Cohen.
  83. On Thursday, Cohen dropped his libel suit against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the dossier. Letting go of the defamation lawsuit could give Cohen more time to focus on the high-profile cases against him.
  84. On Tuesday, April 17, taxes were due. Trump filed an extension because of the complexity of preparing his 2017 returns, and plans to file by mid-October. Trump is the only modern day US leader not to release his taxes.
  85. On Tuesday, WAPO reported that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a previously undisclosed trip to meet with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend, shortly after he was nominated as Trump’s secretary of state.
  86. Trump hinted about the meeting while speaking to the press from Mar-a-Lago Tuesday while meeting with Japan PM Abe. The meeting marks the highest-level meeting between the two countries since 2000.
  87. On Sunday, Steven Molo, a former prosecutor who specializes in white collar defense and courtroom litigation, turned down the opportunity to represent Trump in the Mueller probe, citing an unidentified conflict.
  88. On Tuesday, AP reported as Trump left for a two-day summit with Japanese PM Abe, his anger against the probe has intensified, with him musing publicly about firing Mueller and Rosenstein.
  89. On Tuesday, at the start of his visit with Abe, Trump plugged Mar-a-Lago as a destination, saying, “Many of the world’s great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. They like it. I like it.”
  90. On Wednesday, Trump changed his prior story, claiming in a tweet “Comey, the worst FBI Director in history” was “not fired because of the phony Russia investigation,” adding “ NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!”
  91. On Wednesday, CNN reported that Trump believes “all of this will eventually collapse on itself,” and since he is innocent of wrongdoing with Russia, he can represent himself in the Mueller probe.
  92. On Wednesday, at a new conference with Abe at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump,” adding he would sanction Russia as soon as they deserve it.
  93. Trump declined to say whether he would fire Mueller or Rosenstein, saying, “We are hopefully coming to the end,” about the probe, and adding “It is a bad thing for our country — very, very bad thing for our country.”
  94. Trump also referred to the Mueller probe as “a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening the blow of a loss,” and said there had been no collusion five times.
  95. On Wednesday, WTAE reporter Marcie Cipriani obtained emails sent to Pittsburgh police detectives warning them of a “potential large scale protest” Trump fires Mueller. Detectives have been instructed to bring their riot gear to work.
  96. On Wednesday, in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers, New York AG Eric Schneiderman said he is moving to change state law so he and local prosecutors could bring criminal charges against aides of Trump who are pardoned.
  97. On Thursday, WAPO reported Rudy Giuliani, former New York AG, says he is joining Trump’s legal team dealing with the Mueller probe, saying he hopes to “negotiate an end to this for the good of the country.”
  98. Giuliani will work alongside Ty Cobb and Sekulow on a team that has had a hard time recruiting legal talent. On whether Trump will sit for an interview with Mueller, Giuliani said, “It’s too early for me to say.”
  99. Politico reported Giuliani’s new role could be complicated by him becoming a witness in the Mueller probe in several areas including his ties to Turkish-Iranian gold dealer Reza Zarrab. Trump’s lawyers deny there are any conflicts of interest.
  100. On Friday, WAPO reported that Sessions told Don McGahn last weekend in a phone call that he might leave his job if Trump fires Rosenstein.
  101. Sessions also reportedly asked for details about Trump’s meeting with Rosenstein at the White House on April 12, and expressed relief to learn it was largely cordial.
  102. As of Friday, more than 800 former Justice Department employees had signed an open letter calling on Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law” if Trump fires Rosenstein or Mueller.
  103. On Friday, Axios reported Trump has not cooled off on Rosenstein. According to a source, Trump is still trying to figure out a clean way to get rid of him, then Rosenstein will be fired.
  104. On Tuesday on “The View,” Stephanie Clifford and her lawyer unveiled a sketch of the man who allegedly threatened her in 2011 after she agreed to tell her story. A $100,000 reward is being offered to identify the man.
  105. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted about the sketch posted by Clifford, saying it was “about a nonexistent man. A total con job.” The tweet was accompanied by another tweet suggesting the man looked like Clifford’s former husband.
  106. On Wednesday, Karen McDougal settled her lawsuit seeking to invalidate her contract with AMI, parent of National Enquirer, over $150,000 paid to her in 2016 for her story about her affair with Trump which never ran.
  107. Under the settlement, McDougal will keep the $150,000 she was paid and AMI has the rights to up to $75,000 for any future profits from her story. She is no longer prohibited from discussing her relationship publicly.
  108. Vanity Fair interviewed Michael Avenatti, Stephanie Clifford’s attorney, who claimed there have been three raids of Cohen in eight days and “there’s a significant level of cooperation” between he and Clifford and the SDNY AG’s office.
  109. Avenatti alleges he has evidence of bank fraud involving Cohen, which he shared with the FBI and believesthe smoking gun are the Suspicious Activities Reports flagging transactions. He thinks Cohen will be indicted.
  110. On Friday, WAPO reported that Keith Davidson, the former lawyer for both Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal, is said to be cooperating in the federal probe of Cohen. Davidson’s lawyer confirmed.
  111. Davidson represented both women while they negotiated their settlements in 2016. According to CNN, as part of the raids on Cohen, federal investigators have taped conversations between Cohen and Davidson.
  112. On Friday, a federal judge in Los Angeles said there were “gaping holes” in a request by Trump’s personal lawyer to delay Stephanie Clifford’s lawsuit to end her non-disclosure agreement.
  113. On Sunday, Speaker Paul Ryan told “Meet the Press” that he doesn’t think it’s necessary to pass legislation to protect Mueller from being fired, saying, “It’s not in the president’s interest to do that. We have a rule of law system.”
  114. On Tuesday, six House Republicans endorsed legislation to block Trump from firing Mueller, despite assurances from Speaker Ryan that the effort was unnecessary. A handful of other Republicans are also evaluating it.
  115. On Tuesday, Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News he would not put legislation on the Senate floor to block Trump from firing Mueller, saying, “I don’t think he should fire Mueller and I don’t think he’s going to.”
  116. On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley said his committee will vote next week on a bill to protect Mueller from being fired by Trump.
  117. Grassley said he had promised senators Lindsey Graham, Thom Tillis, Chris Coons, and Cory Booker that if they could merge their two bipartisan bills into one, he would bring the bill up for a committee vote.
  118. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted about online retailers in his continued attacks on Amazon, tweeting “States and Cities throughout our Country are being cheated and treated so badly by online retailers,” calling it “very unfair.”
  119. On Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte said he plans to issue a subpoena to Justice Department demanding the Comey memos on his meetings with Trump be released to his committee.
  120. Goodlatte’s move would make him the third Republican committee chair, including Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee and Trey Gowdy of the House Oversight Committee, to demand access to the Comey memos.
  121. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said in a statement Wednesday that he feared the Republicans “have manufactured an excuse” to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress.
  122. On Thursday, the Justice Department released the Comey memos with congressional leaders. In a letter to Goodlatte, Nunes, and Gowdy, the agency said it was releasing both redacted and un-redacted versions.
  123. On Thursday, the Associated Press obtained the 15 pages of seven Comey memos. Although the memos were unclassified, some portions were blacked out as classified.
  124. Although much of the content had already been made public, details emerged of Trump’s obsession with political rivalries and fears the bureaucrats and government officials were trying to undermine him.
  125. The memos also reveal Trump’s obsession with his inaugural crowd size, his venting about subordinates and leaks, and not appreciating or caring about protocol boundaries for the White House and DOJ.
  126. The memos reveal that after Comey’s meeting at Trump Tower about the dossier and alleged tapes with prostitutes, Trump brought up the subject at least two more times.
  127. The memos also reveal that US intelligence agencies had corroborated at least part of the dossier, and that Trump gave contradictory statements to Comey on whether then chief of staff Reince Priebus knew they were meeting.
  128. The memos also reveal that Priebus asked Comey if Michael Flynn were being wiretapped. The response was redacted. Comey tried to explain that such inquiries should be routed from the White House counsel’s office to the DOJ.
  129. Comey described an irate Trump when then-NSA Flynn did not tell him right away that Putin had called to congratulate him. Trump said, “Six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call” from the leader of a country like Russia.
  130. The memos show Trump’s focus on Andrew McCabe, including a January dinner at which Trump asked Comey whether Mr. McCabe “had a problem” with the him. In an Oval Office meeting weeks later, Trump brought it up again.
  131. On Friday, WSJ reported the Justice Department inspector general is probing Comey for at least two of the memos he gave to a friend outside the government which contained information now considered classified.
  132. Comey considered the memos personal rather than government documents, and gave four memos to his friend Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Columbia Law School.
  133. A poll released by NPR, PBS NewsHour, and Marist University showed an increasing number of Americans believe the FBI is biased against Trump, including more than half of all Republicans.
  134. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported Rosenstein told Trump last Thursday at a White House meeting that Trump is not a target of any part of the Mueller probe, or the federal investigation into Cohen. This seemed to have cooled Trump from firing Rosenstein or Mueller.
  135. The meeting was also attended by McGahn, Kelly, and FBI general counsel Dana Boente. Despite Rosenstein’s assurance, Mueller has not ruled out making Trump a target a future point.
  136. On Thursday, NBC News reported in January the Justice Department’s inspector general had recommended a criminal investigation into whether McCabe lied to federal officials about a leak to the WSJ.
  137. On Thursday, Comey told CNN he feels “conflicted” about McCabe’s criminal referral, adding “I like him very much as a person, but sometimes even good people do things they shouldn’t do.”
  138. McCabe’s lawyer Michael Bromwich responded, “We are confident that, unless there is inappropriate pressure from high levels of the administration, the U.S. attorney’s office will conclude that it should decline to prosecute.”
  139. On Friday, Axios reported Bromwich said McCabe plans to sue for defamation, wrongful termination and other possible civil claims. Bromwich also accused McCabe’s opponents, including Trump, of “continuing slander.”
  140. Bromwich also said McCabe was “upset and disappointed” about some of the things Comey said about him. Bromwich added of Comey, “Nobody’s memory is perfect, people are fallible.”
  141. On Friday, Vox reported at a January 22, 2017 White House meeting with Sessions and Christopher Wray, Trump asked why two senior FBI officials who were disloyal to him, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, were still in their jobs.
  142. Trump pressed Sessions and Wray to move aggressively to uncover derogatory information on Strzok and Page within FBI files and turn it over to congressional Republicans working to discredit the them.
  143. Jonathan Greenberg, an investigative journalist, revealed that Trump had repeatedly lied to him, starting in May 1984, about Trump’s wealth, in hopes of staying and rising on the Fortune 400 list.
  144. Greenberg said Trump used an alter ego of himself, John Barron, on phone calls to make inflated claimsabout his net worth, like “You have down Fred Trump [as half owner]…but I think you can really use Donald Trump now.”
  145. Over time, Greenberg discovered Trump should not have been on the first three Fortune 400 list at all. In 1982, Fortune listed Trump at $100 million, but really he was worth roughly $5 million.
  146. On Friday, the Democratic Party filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and the WikiLeaks organization for conspiring to disrupt the 2016 campaign and elect Trump.
  147. The complaint was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and alleges top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Hillary by disseminating stolen information.
  148. The suit does not name Trump, but does name Donald Jr., Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates, as well as Roger Stone who claimed he was in contact with Julian Assange. It also names the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.
  149. Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale called it a “sham lawsuit,” and Trump tweeted “this can be good news in that we will now counter for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI.”
  150. On Friday, Sen. Coons of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he will not support Mike Pompeo’s nomination for secretary of state, marking the first time since 1945 the full senate will vote on a cabinet-level nominee with an unfavorable report from a committee.
  151. On Friday at 11:13 pm, Trump hinted at a flawed premise for Mueller in a misspelled tweet: “Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Council?”
  152. Trump hinted therefore that Mueller should be fired: “Therefore, the Special Council was established based on an illegal act?” adding: “Really, does everybody know what that means?”
  153. On Friday, NYT reported that while Cohen said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, for years Trump treated Cohen poorly, with insults, dismissive statements, and threats to fire him at least twice.
  154. Federal agents seized decades of documents in their raids on Cohen’s office and hotel room. While Cohen has been a staunch defender of Trump, after the raid, the leverage has shifted to Cohen.
  155. On Saturday, in a series of tweets, some of which were deleted and tweeted again due to misspelling, Trump attacked the NYT over the Cohen story, saying Cohen will not “flip” and cooperate against him.
  156. Trump complimented Cohen, calling him “a fine person with a wonderful family,” and “a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected.”
  157. Trump also lashed out at one of the NYT reporters on the story, tweeting, “a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with.”
  158. The tweets were sent Saturday morning from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump has spent almost the entire week, just before he headed out to to one of his golf course for the second consecutive day.
  159. Four former presidents and Melania attended the funeral for Barbara Bush on Saturday. Trump tweeted he was headed to the “Southern White House,” his second nickname for Mar-a-Lago, to watch the funeral service, after golfing.
  160. Trump will host French President Macron for his first state dinner next Tuesday. Unlike his predecessors, Trump has not invited any members of Congress from the opposing party or any members of the media.
  161. Again demonstrating his affinity for military ceremonies, the White House announced Trump said he will speak at the US Naval Academy Commencement next month.

Why The Nunes Release Of The Comey Memos Backfired

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Right Wing and Inept Media, Right Wing Punditry/Idiocy, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

David Frum gets it right:

It’s another familiar story that conservatives have built themselves a closed information system. The system generates and repeats agreed fictions, and people are rewarded according to their ability to internalize, repeat, and embellish these fictions.

The system has revved itself into hyper-activity in the Trump years. And no Trump-era fiction has been more profoundly internalized and repeated within the closed conservative information system than the fiction that Trump is the victim of a plot by the FBI. This particular fiction is exceedingly complicated. Its details shift from day to day. It is most often repeated not as a coherent statement of checkable facts, but as an outraged sequence of bullet points: Fusion GPS! Deep State! The Democrats are the real colluders!

Even on its own terms, the story does not make sense. Within the closed information system, it is simultaneously believed—for example—both that former FBI Director James Comey deserved to be fired for his unfairness to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and also that Comey cannot be trusted because of his flagrant bias in favor of the Clinton’s presidential campaign. But the whole point of a closed information system is that the things are not believed because they make sense. Things are believed because the closed information system has ratified and repeated them.

In some times and places, closed information systems are backed with coercive power. President Trump obviously hankers for that power. But as yet, that power is lacking within the American system. The closed conservative information system is binding only for those who agree to submit to it.

Which has created this problem for Trump and his political allies. Twice now their closed knowledge system has told them that secret memos would vindicate Trump of the Russia-collusion charge. The first time, it was the memo written by the Republican staff of the House Intelligence Committee; the second time—just these past few days—the notes James Comey wrote to memorialize his post-inauguration meetings with Trump. The inhabitants of the closed conservative knowledge system demanded the memos be released—only to suffer a shock when they got their wish. Nobody outside the closed knowledge system was even slightly impressed by either, and even inside the system the supposed secret weapon was quietly discarded as worthless. (Notice that not even The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which did so much to publicize it in advance, ever alludes to the Nunes memo now. It has popped like a soap bubble, leaving behind only a faint residue of scum.)

Yup.  And convinced that they have found the smoking gun, the inhabitants of the closed information system get even more perplexed when there is no fallout. “Why, the conspiracy must go even DEEPER!” they cry.

But they will face a crisis one day — the day the Mueller investigation wraps up and the true facts are brought to bear.

But before the crisis arrives, the habit of relying on false information leads to bad decision-making—like the very bad decision to leak the Comey memos. Those memos have enhanced James Comey’s testimony, and left Trump looking guiltier than ever. The big news in the Comey memos is that Comey directly told Reince Priebus that a federal court had issued a FISA warrant against his national-security adviser. The president presumably knew this—and kept Flynn on the job while pressuring Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. The leak of the Comey memos has succeeded only in more deeply implicating Trump in the gravest espionage scandal of recent decades.

The closed information system never runs out of blinders.

Risk Factors for 2018 GOP House Incumbents

Ken AshfordElection 2018Leave a Comment

The Cook Political Report:

Multiple indicators, including generic ballot polls , President Trump’s approval ratings and recent special election results, point to midterm danger for Republicans. But without robust race-by-race polling, it’s trickier to predict individual races six months out. Are Democrats the favorites to pick up the 23 seats they need for a majority? Yes, but it’s still not certain which races will materialize for Democrats and which won’t.

Our latest ratings point to 56 vulnerable GOP-held seats, versus six vulnerable Democratic seats. Of the 56 GOP seats at risk, 15 are open seats created by retirements. Even if Democrats were to pick up two-thirds of those seats, they would still need to hold all their own seats and defeat 13 Republican incumbents to reach the magic number of 218. Today, there are 18 GOP incumbents in our Toss Up column.

That Toss Up list is likely to grow as the cycle progresses. Out of the 65 GOP incumbents rated as less than “Solid,” 49 were first elected in 2010 or after, meaning more than three quarters have never had to face this kind of political climate before. And, Democrats have a donor enthusiasm edge: in the first quarter of 2018, at least 43 sitting Republicans were out-raised by at least one Democratic opponent.

In 2010, House Democrats suffered a backlash against their votes for two polarizing pieces of legislation: cap and trade (which died in the Senate) and the Affordable Care Act (which passed). 2018 may be a mirror image: House Republicans must defend their votes for the AHCA (which polled far worse than Obamacare and died in the Senate) and the tax bill. A new Gallup poll found voters still disapprove of the tax bill, 52 percent to 39 percent, four months after passage.

Armed with fresh FEC data, we have created a table listing seven “risk factors” to gauge Republican incumbents’ political health and readiness for a wave election. In the past, those incumbents with a high number of risk factors have typically been the ripest targets, while those with fewer risk factors could still be vulnerable but may be better able to withstand a hostile political environment.

The seven risk factors are:

  1. Sits in a district with a Cook PVI score of R+5 or less Republican.
  2. Sits in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
  3. Received 55 percent of the vote or less in the 2016 election (or a 2017 special election).
  4. Voted in favor of the American Health Care Act in the May 4 roll call vote.
  5. Voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the December 19 roll call vote.
  6. Raised less money than at least one Democratic opponent in the first quarter of 2018.
  7. Has a Democratic opponent with at least $200,000 in cash on hand as of March 31.

Only one incumbent, Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25), has all seven risk factors. Eight incumbents have six risk factors, 23 incumbents have five, 23 incumbents have four and 32 have three. This is not a hard and fast list, and over the next quarter, many incumbents will add or subtract factors based on their own and their opponents’ progress.

Seven Risk Factors

Six Risk Factors

Five Risk Factors

Four Risk Factors

Three Risk Factors

DNC Files Lawsuit Against Russia, WikiLeaks, and the Donald Trump Campaign

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It looks like Democrats, like the Republicans in Congress, want to take a look at what Mueller has.  The Democratic National Committee is ready to take things to court.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

The Democratic Party asserts that it has standing to bring this lawsuit because the actions of Trump, WikiLeaks, and Russia resulted in a conspiracy that not only did damage to the electoral process of the country, but to the party, whose stolen information was obtained by Russia, distributed by WikiLeaks, and used by the Trump campaign.

The lawsuit argues that Russia is not entitled to sovereign immunity in this case because “the DNC claims arise out of Russia’s trespass on to the DNC’s private servers…in order to steal trade secrets and commit economic espionage.”

Here is the complaint:

The Democratic Party is plantiff in the suit, with complaints against a list that includes the Russia government, the Russian hackers, Julian Assange, Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Roger Stone.

In 2016, individuals tied to the Kremlin notified the Trump campaign that Russia intended to interfere with our democracy. Through multiple meetings, emails, and other communications, these Russian agents made clear that their government supported Trump and was prepared to use stolen emails and other information to damage his opponent and the Democratic Party.

If the lawsuit seems like an unusual approach, it’s not.  There’s actually precedent.

The lawsuit echoes a similar legal tactic that the Democratic Party used during the Watergate scandal. In 1972, the DNC filed suit against then President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee seeking $1 million in damages for the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building.

That suit was successful. And it’s successful conclusion coincided with Nixon leaving office.

Sometimes, you have to hope that history really does repeat itself.

Comey Memos Leaked

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

There was a time when Republicans were upset that Comey allegedly leaked his notes to his friend Professor Daniel Richman of Columbia Law School, who told the world about Comey’s meetings with Trump and how Trump asked for loyalty. It was questionable whether or not those notes were classified, and whether Comey had the authority to leak them after he was fired.  Nevertheless, they were outraged. Remember this?

Yesterday, those Comey “classified” memos were sent to Republicans in the House Intelligence Commitee and within minutes, the Republicans leaked them to the public. No outrage from the Republicans this time.

Also no outrage about executive privilege.

And what do the memos say?  Well, let’s spill them:

Everybody of all political stripes take the position that the memos vindicate everything they have been saying all along. Hannity was referring to the memos as a smoking gun which put the entire Mueller investigation in jeopardy.

But Representatives Goodlatte, Gowdy,  and Nunes made their case for why the memos are bad for Comey, good for Trump:

Even Trump is crowing vindication:

Perhaps the stupidest takeway from the Republican Congressmen, echoed by Fox News, was that Comey “never wrote that he felt obstructed and threatened.”  These people don’t seem to understand, as Comey does, that the crime of obstruction isn’t based on how Comey “feels”, nor was Comey’s note-taking the kind of thing where he would convey legal conclusions. These were “just the facts” recordings.  And Comey himself, when asked, has never said that there was a obstruction.  It’s always a “maybe”.

More importantly, the obstruction question also turns on what happened after all of this, which is that Trump fired Comey. These memos, if anything, confirm more credibly than before what Trump’s frame of mind was in leading up to that firing — that is, the level of acquiescence that Trump wanted but did not get from Comey before firing him. These memos go further than before in supplying Trump’s likely motive for the firing.

The outraged right is not saying that the Comey memos do not support Comey’s book and what Comey is saying on the book tour.  Clearly, Comey is not telling too different stories about the FACTS.  That is important. And the Republican response shows not a scintilla of concern about the Trump conduct that was actually documented by Comey — zero concern about Trump’s demand for his FBI director’s loyalty or his effort to influence the probe. We don’t know what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will determine about Trump’s intent or about whether he obstructed justice. But what we do know is that these senior Republicans are not even slightly troubled by the misconduct that Comey has already documented, quite credibly.

But let’s set aside the Republican position and look at the memos themselves. Here are six takeaways:

Trump’s Preoccupation With the Dossier

Shortly before Trump was inaugurated, Comey briefed him at Trump Tower about a dossier compiled for the F.B.I. by a former British spy that said Trump and his associates had longstanding ties to Russia. In its most salacious allegation, the document said that the Russian government had a tape of Trump watching prostitutes urinate on one another during a trip to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.

Trump denied the episode had taken place and appeared to Comey to be defending himself. Comey replied that the allegations could have been made up, but that the job of the F.B.I. was to protect the president from efforts to coerce him.

Though Trump ended the meeting genially, the accusations clearly stuck with him, Comey’s memos showed. At least twice more in the ensuing weeks, Trump laid out a timeline for Comey and claimed that it showed that such a tape could not exist.

According to the memos, the president told Comey in a one-on-one dinner at the White House later in January 2017 that he had spoken with several people who had been on the trip with him. Trump said those people “reminded” him that he did not stay overnight in Moscow.

Trump said that he had arrived in the morning, attended a series of events, then went to a hotel to shower and dress for the pageant, leaving Russia afterward.

Trump staying one night in Russia is, we now know, is false, and Trump lied to Comey. There’s clear evidence that Trump stayed not one but two nights. In July 2017, Bloomberg News’s Vernon Silver and Evgenia Pismennaya reported out a detailed reconstruction of the trip based on FAA records, social media postings and interviews. They showed clearly that Trump flew from North Carolina to New York on the evening of November 7th (Thursday) and then proceeded on to Moscow overnight and arrived sometime early on November 8th (Friday). He overnighted in Moscow. He was in Moscow all of November 9th (Saturday), the day of the pageant, and departed for New York early November 10th. For the details of how we know these facts, see the Bloomberg article. It is forensic in its detail.

In a February 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Comey “‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense” but that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had told him that the country had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.”

The Dossier’s Allegations Were Corroborated

Comey’s decision to brief Trump on the dossier was based, at least in part, on the fact that American intelligence agencies had corroborated parts of the dossier, according to the memos.

“I explained that the analysts from all three agencies agreed it was relevant and that portions of the material were corroborated by other intelligence,” Comey wrote in a memo in February 2017, describing how he responded to a question from Priebus about why he told the president-elect a month earlier about the dossier.

Parts of the memo are redacted but appear to say that information in the dossier “was consistent with and corroborated by other intelligence, and that the incoming president needed to know the rest of it was out there.”

Trump’s Focus on McCabe, Then a Relative Unknown

Trump also raised on several occasions Comey’s deputy at the F.B.I., Andrew G. McCabe, according to the memos. McCabe had been the subject of right-wing attacks over his involvement in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while secretary of state. His wife, Jill, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for her failed Virginia State Senate campaign from a political committee run by a longtime Clinton ally.

Some conservatives insisted that McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation to avoid bias, and Trump joined in those attacks on the campaign trail.

According to the memos, Trump asked Comey during their January dinner whether McCabe “had a problem” with the president.

“I was pretty rough on him and his wife during the campaign,” Trump ventured. Comey tried to smooth over the issue by explaining that F.B.I. agents and officials pride themselves on being apolitical.

“l explained that Andy was a true professional and had no problem at all,” Comey wrote. “I then explained what F.B.I. people were like, that whatever their personal views, they strip them when they step into their bureau roles and actually hold ‘political people’ in slight contempt without regard to party.”

The president broached the subject again during dinner, and the F.B.I. director repeated his response.

“I again affirmed Andy’s ability and professionalism and said the president would come to see and benefit from both,” Comey wrote.

In an Oval Office meeting weeks later, Trump brought up McCabe again.

“He asked (as he had at our dinner) whether my deputy had a problem with him, and recounting how hard he had been on the campaign trail, saying, ‘The No. 2 guy at the F.B.I. took a million dollars from the Clintons.’”

Comey said he again explained that McCabe was “a pro” and had never mentioned Trump’s attacks.

What Priebus Knew

At their dinner, Trump gave contradictory explanations about whether Priebus knew they were meeting.

Early on, as they discussed whom Comey’s point of contact should be at the White House, Trump said that “Reince doesn’t know we are having dinner” but that Comey should plan to go to him.

But as Comey was preparing to leave the White House that night, Trump told him: ”Reince knows we are having dinner’ (the opposite of what he said earlier),” according to one memo.

Comey neither explained nor speculated why Trump contradicted himself.

The Flynn Investigation

In their own meeting on Feb. 8, 2017, Priebus tried to ask Comey whether the F.B.I. was wiretapping the national security adviser at the time, Michael T. Flynn.

Weeks earlier, reports had emerged that Flynn was overheard on a wiretap talking with the Russian ambassador to the United States about sanctions being imposed by the Obama administration as punishment for its election interference. The calls raised concerns among senior law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Flynn might have been working to help the Russians.

Comey’s answer was redacted in the released version of the memos. But it is widely believed that Flynn was overheard on the wiretap because American intelligence agencies routinely listen in on the calls of foreign ambassadors.

Comey said he then explained how such questions should be routed from the White House counsel’s office to the Justice Department.

“I explained that it was important that communications about any particular case go through that channel to protect us and to protect the W.H. from any accusations of improper influence,” Comey said, using shorthand for the White House.

Trump took to defending Flynn in a tweet today.

Hunting Leakers

In one February conversation, the two men discussed leaks in the news media at length. By then, Trump had endured several embarrassing disclosures of classified information, including transcripts of his calls with foreign leaders in which he was short with the leaders of American allies, including Australia and Mexico.

In his memo, Comey explained how he hoped to catch one of the leakers to set an example.

“I said I was eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message,” Comey said. “I said something about it being difficult and he replied that we need to go after the reporters and referred to the fact that 10 or 15 years ago, we put them in jail to find what they know and it worked.”

Trump then mentioned Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times. In 2005, Ms. Miller was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify and reveal her confidential source about the identity of a former C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame, before relenting.

“I explained that I was a fan of pursuing leaks aggressively but that going after reporters was tricky, for legal reasons and because D.O.J. tends to approach it conservatively,” Comey said. The president, he said, suggested he speak to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about being more aggressive in prosecuting leaks.

The 2018 Red Sox Are Amazing

Ken AshfordRed Sox & Other SportsLeave a Comment

The 2016 Red Sox are 16-2, just the seventh team since 1900 to win 16 of their first 18 games.

The last two teams to start 16-2 — the 1984 Detroit Tigers and 1955 Los Angeles Dodgers — both won the World Series.

Alex Cora is the only manager to go 16-2 in his first 18 games with a new team. Last night’s win moved him past Felipe Alou, who guided the San Francisco Giants to a 15-2 start in 2003.

Boston has a plus-66 run differential through 18 games. That’s 29 more runs than their next-closest competitor, the Toronto Blue Jays (plus-37). At this current pace, the Red Sox would finish with a plus-594 differential, the best in major league history.

The Sox already have hit four grand slams this season, their most in any season before May 1. The major league record for most grand slams in a season is 14 (2006 Cleveland Indians and 2000 Oakland Athletics); right now, Boston is on pace for 36.

Boston’s offense has scored a major-league best 116 runs this season. The club is on pace to score 1,044 runs, just 23 shy of the 1935 New York Yankees’ record of 1,067 runs.

The Red Sox’s starters own a 1.98 ERA through 18 games, having allowed just 22 earned runs in 100 innings pitched. For reference, only 12 individual pitchers in the American League have ERAs under 2.00, which means the entire Red Sox rotation essentially is a top-of-the-line AL starter.

Mookie Betts leads all of baseball in batting average (.391), slugging percentage (.797), OPS (1.277) and runs scored (22) and is tied with Mike Trout for the league lead in Wins Over Replacement (1.5).

What I’m trying to say is, the Red Sox have been historically good out of the gate. They boast the game’s hottest hitter, the best starting rotation and the best offense.

Yes, I know it’s early. Yes. things will change. But it is soooo nice now.