Facebook’s Attempt To Clean Up “Fake News” Was a Huge Fail

Ken AshfordElection 2018, Social NetworkingLeave a Comment

The Guardian sums it up:

Facebook hired a PR firm that attempted to discredit the company’s critics by claiming they were agents of billionaire George Soros, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Soros is a Jewish philanthropist who is the frequent subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories. At the same time, the social media company urged the Anti-Defamation League to object to a cartoon used by anti-Facebook protesters over its resemblance to antisemitic tropes.

News of Facebook’s aggressive attempts to undermine critics came in a damning report by the Times, detailing how Facebook executives have struggled to manage the numerous and severe challenges confronting the company, all while lashing out at critics and perceived enemies.

The details are disturbing:

Amid growing pressure from lawmakers over its role in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook increasingly turned to Definers Public Affairs, a Washington DC based political consultancy founded by Republican operatives and specializing in opposition research, according to the report.

One of Definers’ tactics was to publish dozens of negative articles about other tech companies, including Google and Apple, in order to try to distract attention from Facebook’s public relations woes. Definers published the content on NTKNetwork.com, a website that looks like a news site but is actually run by the PR firm. The narratives pushed on NTK Network were often picked up by conservative sites such as Breitbart.

Another tactic was to cast Soros as the driving force behind groups critical of Facebook. The firm circulated a research document connecting Soros to “a broad anti-Facebook movement”, the Times reported, and pressed reporters to look into financial links between Soros and groups such as Freedom from Facebook and Color of Change.

Soros, who was born in Hungary in 1930 and made a vast fortune as an investor, is a major funder of liberal and pro-democratic causes. He has long been the target of antisemitic attacks from the rightwing fringes, but such conspiracy mongering has been increasingly adopted by mainstream Republicans.

The anti-Soros drumbeat reached something of a fever pitch in the weeks before the midterm elections, as conservative politicians and news outlets advanced baseless allegations that he was behind a caravan of Central American migrants travelling through Mexico. Soros was one of the targets of a rash of mail bombs that were sent to Democratic politicians in October.

You get the sense that nerds have NO IDEA about the real world, and in particular, politics, and MORE in particular, the right wing media lie machine.  It’s great that this is coming out now, and one hopes they will clean up their act.

Is Mueller Squeezing Trump?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

For the past several days, several news outlets have noted the gloomy angry Trump and a dysfunctional White House. Even I commented on it here. The conventional wisdom is that Trump is pissed that his full-on efforts in the 2018 campaign failed miserably. And they did. Just yesterday, as the ballots are still being counted, three MORE Democrats won seats to the US House, flipping three districts from red to blue.

But something else may be lurking. Check out Trump’s tweetstorm this morning:

First, he addressed the dysfunctional White House (reading from the bottom up), claiming everything is running smoothly. (Hint: it’s not)

Then he lays into the Mueller investigation with the same deflective crap he’s been tweeting about since becoming President.

I’m printing the whole transcript of Trump’s interview with the Daily Caller so you can see just how batshit he really is right now (and how his boot sniffing sycophants deal with it.)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sat for an exclusive Oval Office interview Wednesday with The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti and Benny Johnson for approximately 31 minutes.

The transcript is as follows:

THE DAILY CALLER: Let’s get the news of the day out at the top. There’s all of these things that are being discussed about the chief of staff [John Kelly], about Kirstjen Nielsen. Why are you disappointed in the DHS secretary and is John Kelly going to be staying in his job right now?

POTUS: So, you know, always in an administration after the midterms you make changes, so, I’m looking at things and I’ve got a lot of options. A lot of people want to come in. A lot of politicians that have had very successful careers that are very good want to come in. So I’m looking at things — haven’t made a decision yet. I will be making a decision on Homeland shortly.

But I have not made decisions yet. But I will be making changes on various things. Overall, I have a very good cabinet. I think our cabinet’s great.

You know, you’re talking about a few names, you’re not talking about many.

Uh, we’ve been doing incredibly on trade deals and trade with my whole staff of traders, because that’s what they are. What we’ve done on trade deals is incredible — with Mexico, with Canada, with South Korea — taking deals that were horrible and making great deals. And now we’re in the midst of China and others.

But we have a great cabinet, we have — we’ll see, uh, there will be some changes made before the end of the year.

THE DAILY CALLER: Sure. Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie —

POTUS: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man. He’s — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it. Kellyanne, did I hear that?

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER KELLYANNE CONWAY: 20 pages.

POTUS: A 20-page?

THE DAILY CALLER: It just came out right before this, sir.

POTUS: Well, I heard it was a very strong opinion. Uh, which is good. But [Whitaker] is just somebody that’s very respected.

I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.

It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.

THE DAILY CALLER: Right.

POTUS: He’s heading this whole big thing, he’s not Senate confirmed.

So anyway, I have a lot of respect for Matt Whitaker, based primarily on reputation. And I think he’s really — I think a lot of people are starting to come out very much in favor of him during this period of time.

THE DAILY CALLER: What about who will eventually replace him, sir?

POTUS: Well, I’m looking at a lot of people. I have been called by so many people wanting that job. We have some great people. In the meantime, I think Matt’s going to do a fantastic job.

THE DAILY CALLER: Banning Jim Acosta. Taking his White House credentials. His hard pass. Is this going to be something that happens with repeated nature inside of the White House? Who you feel are disrespecting the White House, sir.

POTUS: Your world has changed quite a bit and you have grandstanders much more than you did before. He’s just a grandstander. He’s just an average guy who’s a grandstander. And he’s got the guts to stand up and, you know, and shout.

It’s primarily led by CNN because they pay him to do that. CNN is low on the ratings now, relative to Fox and others, and they’re doing very poorly actually. But because of me — the age of Trump — because of me, they’re doing better than they’ve done but they’re doing very poorly in compared to others. Very very poorly. And, um, and getting worse.

They’ve lost a tremendous amount of credibility and, you know, Jim Acosta’s just somebody that gets up and grandstands. He doesn’t even know what he’s asking half of the time. So, we’ll see how the court case goes. It’s today.

THE DAILY CALLER: Are you confident that you’re going to win the court case?

POTUS: I don’t know, I think that we should. Certainly, you shouldn’t be able to go up into a White House and, on principle, it’s very disrespectful to the rest of the press. You were actually getting up to do a question.

THE DAILY CALLER: That’s right, sir.

POTUS: — And this guy’s screaming. And I kept saying to you, ‘come on,’ you didn’t give me much help. I kept saying, ‘give me the question already.’ But, you know, he just screamed and, you know, you knew it because you’re standing, you didn’t know what to do, and I understand that.

He was very rude to the young lady. I won’t, I won’t even — who knows. Who knows. Certainly, he didn’t act very respectful to the press. He’s actually more disrespectful, I think, to the rest of the media. Because he gets up and grandstands and he wants to ask three or four questions and everyone else is, you know, you’re trying to get one question in and the room was packed with a couple of hundred people that want to ask questions.

So, I think he’s very disrespectful to the media, I think he’s very disrespectful to the office, and I think he’s bad for the public. You know, when I say that the fake news is the enemy of the people, it really is. A lot of the animosity that we have in our country is because of fake news. They’re so angry at the news. They get it. You guys are at my rallies all the time, you see the anger when I mention the words ‘fake news’ and they turn around. And they use CNN because they — it just sort of works for them I guess.

But it’s ABC, it’s — NBC is maybe worse than anybody. I mean, NBC’s a total fraud as far as I’m concerned. Their news is disgusting. But I think NBC is as bad as anybody. You look at — and CBS — you look at what’s going on with the fake news and the people get it.

Now they get it — you know they had a very high approval rating before I became president and I think it’s actually a great achievement of mine. Their approval rating now is down as low as just about anybody. And much lower than your president. I actually have good approval ratings, which nobody ever writes. I was at 51, I guess, with Rasmussen the other day.

So I will say that I really think that when you have guys like Acosta, I think they’re bad for the country. Because they show how fake it all is. And it’s a grandstander, and we’ll see how the court rules. You know, then they talk, ‘Oh, freedom of the press.’ But can you really have — is it freedom of the press? It’s actually the opposite. Is it freedom of the press when somebody comes in and starts screaming questions and won’t sit down after having answered a couple of them? And then won’t sit down and then I can’t ask you guys because he’s standing — I don’t think that’s freedom of the press, I actually think that’s the opposite.

THE DAILY CALLER: Which is an important follow-up question, why this administration? This doesn’t seem to be the norm. It certainly wasn’t the norm in previous administrations, that reporters behave in this capacity.

POTUS: Well, I think they behaved badly. I remember Sam Donaldson was terrible at two presidents, and, you know, we tend to forget. I think that now it’s become, with cable television, playing such a role, although, you know, cable television was supposed to be a dying medium. And because of me it’s now hotter than it’s ever been. But someday I won’t be here and it will die like you’ve never seen. And so will The New York Times — will die — and every one of them will just be dead.

I mean, look, I remember picking up before I announced for president, I picked up The New York Times and I said to somebody, ‘Boy, this paper is dead, look at it.’ The paper was dead. It was like a leaflet that you hand out at the supermarket, and now it’s a vibrant paper.

But you look at the stories, many of the stories on the front page are about me. You know, all my life I told this story, had stories on the front page. A few, not a big deal. Which wasn’t bad, you know, maybe seven, but, you know, a few. And, you know, now if I have a few each day it’s surprisingly low.

But it has made a big difference.

THE DAILY CALLER: Sir, I do want to turn to policy.

POTUS: That’s why I always joke when I say they’ll all be endorsing me. Cause I don’t know what happens to their business after I’m gone.

THE DAILY CALLER: Sir, right now, in 2010 we saw several pieces of major legislation passed in a lame-duck Congress. What can we expect your and the Republican agenda to be in this Congress? Is it going to be an immigration fix? What about criminal justice reform? What are the two to three things you’re looking at?

POTUS: We’re working on many things. Criminal justice reform we’re working on very hard. We have a meeting today, do you know about that? We have a meeting today.

THE DAILY CALLER: We heard about that.

POTUS: Get these two in, alright? I think we have a chance at that. We should be able to fix health care. We should be able —

THE DAILY CALLER: Just one second, sir, on that criminal justice bill. Is that the Jared Kushner-backed bill that you want to focus on?

POTUS: The answer is I’m looking at it very closely, okay? I am. It’s a good thing. You know, Texas is backing it, if you look at Mississippi and Georgia and a lot of other places, they believe in it, those governors, and they’re conservative people. Rick Perry’s a big fan.

You know, a lot of people are backing it. Look at the people that are backing it. Even, you know, like Mike Lee, he votes against a lot of things and we respect Mike and Mike is backing it. We have a lot of people that are backing this.

THE DAILY CALLER: What about immigration, sir? Are you willing to shut down the government if you don’t get a certain set of policies?

POTUS: I may be. I may be. I’ll have to see how it plays out. But I may very well be willing to shut down the government.

I think it’s horrible what’s happening and, you know, building the wall, it’s in smaller stages, we can build it very quickly. I’m building the wall in smaller stages and we moved the military there, we put up barbed wire, we did all sorts of things. You have to have a barrier. You have to have a barrier.

Look, we have a chance of, they can do presidential harassment, put very simply, and I’ll be very good at handling that and I think I’ll be better than anybody in the history of this office. And in a certain way I look forward to it because I actually think it’s good for me politically, because everyone knows it’s pure harassment. Just like the witch hunt, the Mueller witch hunt. It’s pure harassment. It’s horrible. It’s horrible that they’re allowed to get away with it.

Again, not Senate confirmed but, you know. You have 17 people — half, many of them worked for Hillary Clinton, some on the Foundation. The Hillary Clinton Foundation. I mean, you think of it.

So, I think we’ll do very well if they want to play the presidential harassment game. If they play the presidential harassment game I don’t think anything’s going to be done ’cause why would I do that, okay? If they want to get things done I think it will be fantastic, I think we can get a lot done.

I think we can almost get more done because they’re gonna want to prove something, too. So if they wanna do health care, we can do health care. There a very good fixes to health care that could solve a lot of problems. We’ve really, you know, terminated a lot of the Obamacare, as it was referred to. But we could do a new health care bill that would be fantastic that could take everybody’s — that could incorporate good pieces of everybody’s good ideas.

So there’s a chance at that, there’s a great chance at comprehensive immigration reform. If they wanna do it, they wanna do it, they wanna do it right. And there’s a good chance at doing things that maybe you couldn’t do.

Don’t forget, I didn’t really have a majority. I had one senator. And I had a few Republicans in the House. You know, a very small number. Um, and now the pressure’s on them because they’ve gotta come to me with things.

Hey, the beauty is, and I’ve said this, you heard me at the news conference, I don’t know if you agree with me — let’s say I won with two Republicans or three. I’d have to make deals with Republicans. I’d have guys coming to me, you know, out of that group there’ll be people. Let’s not say they’re good or bad but they’re people: ‘well I don’t want to do this.’ Well, I’m gonna have three or more. I mean, literally, unless I had like a 25 majority, you know, something substantial, they would come to me and they would say, ‘well, I don’t like it.’ You wouldn’t even be able to get something through there. It would be too close.

Where I am now, when they have a small majority, I can sit back and say, ‘hey.’ And the beauty is when it gets passed, when we pass things, we’ll get it passed in the Senate, which now we can’t because we need 10 Democrat votes. Because we’ll have Democrats and I’ll be able to get enough Republicans to pass.

But the beauty is, the beauty is that we actually have something that can work much better than it worked before, because before it was politically very difficult for a lot of people.

THE DAILY CALLER: While we’re on the subject of Congress, I do want to get — does Kevin McCarthy have your full endorsement in the speaker’s race?

POTUS: Well, I didn’t endorse because I stay out of it, but I like Kevin a lot and I like Jim [Jordan] a lot. I like both of ’em.

THE DAILY CALLER: How would you like them to work it out?

POTUS: Who else is running, nobody, right?

THE DAILY CALLER: That’s all there is right now.

POTUS: Well, I like both of ’em a lot. I think Jim is a fantastic guy and I think Kevin’s a fantastic guy. They’re very different but Kevin is a very political person, which is good. He’s a very honorable guy, and I think he’s gonna do great, and it looks like, you know, he’ll probably get it.

THE DAILY CALLER: Would you like to see Jim on the ranking member on Judiciary?

POTUS: I would like to see Jim in a high position ’cause he deserves it. He’s fantastic, but I haven’t gotten into the endorsement or not. I just like both of ’em too much, too much to get very much involved. It’s something I shouldn’t be involved in. But Jim is a fantastic guy and Kevin is a fantastic guy and they’re very different and they complement each other.

THE DAILY CALLER: Broward County election commissioner Brenda Snipes is in violation of Florida law. She’s in violation of Florida reporting laws, she’s in violation of a judge’s order. She’s also reportedly mixed in illegal ballots with legal ballots and asked for them to be counted. Is she behaving criminally and should she be removed?

POTUS: Look, you know, the bottom line — it’s, she’s a disaster. You look at her past, she’s a disaster. Even with me. I won Florida and, you remember? That area, Broward, didn’t come in. It didn’t come in. I think Palm Beach was like — they wouldn’t call Florida, I won. Then it got to a point where I won by enough that all the votes of the people that lived there would, you know, in other words — you can only put in so many votes, although she may change that system.

You can only put in a number of people that are registered voters or live there. Now they’re, I guess they were trying to take illegal voters but these are — I’ve been saying, this is a problem all over the country, by the way. This is what I’ve been saying.

This is a problem in California that’s so bad of illegals voting. This is a California problem and if you notice, almost every race — I was watching today — out of like 11 races that are in question they’re gonna win all of them.

The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes, which is what I’ve been saying for a long time. I have no doubt about it. And I’ve seen it, I’ve had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.

The disgrace is that, voter ID. If you buy, you know, a box of cereal, if you do anything, you have a voter ID.

Well, over here, the only thing you don’t is if you’re a voter of the United States. A voter in the United States of America. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. Really a disgrace. And they try to shame everybody by calling them racist or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.

If you look at what happened in New Hampshire, where thousands of people came up and voted from a very liberal part of Massachusetts and they came up in buses and they voted. I said, ‘what’s going on over here,’ my people said, ‘you won New Hampshire easily except they have tremendous numbers of buses coming up.’ They’re pouring up by the hundreds, buses of people getting out, voting. Then they’re supposed to go back within 90 days. And of the people that are supposed to go back, almost none of them do. In other words, they go back after the vote is over. They go back — and I think it’s like three percent — I mean, almost nobody goes back to show that, you know, that they were allowed to vote. And so what do you do? Recall the election. Recall the election. I mean, there, you should be able to recall the election.

THE DAILY CALLER: You think they should call Florida right now, sir?

POTUS: Uh, I think they should’ve called Florida election evening. Well, many votes were added to that, and, you know what’s going on. And now they have mixed them up. You said it better than I did. They mixed the votes up and now you can’t find the ones that were put in, they just put ’em into a batch.

When they call this woman incompetent, they’re wrong. She’s very competent but in a bad way.

THE DAILY CALLER: Should she be removed from office?

POTUS: Oh, she should have been removed — I think she should have been removed in the middle of this mix-up.

THE DAILY CALLER: How do you prevent this in 2020? From happening when you run for re-election?

POTUS: First thing you do is fire her and her cronies. You get ’em out of — you get ’em out. And it should have been done, I mean, if there’s anything really that I would be — because, again, in the 2016 election, you guys remember, remember how long it took to get Florida?

THE DAILY CALLER: It took a long time.

POTUS: Had I not been winning Florida by more than they could — I mean, you can’t produce — if you have a million people, you can’t give 1,200,000 votes, okay? So actually, what happened is they went with fairly accurate numbers because whether I won by 10 votes or by half a million votes it didn’t matter.

But I had, fortunately, enough votes, and they were sitting there waiting. They said, ‘Broward County is not reporting.’ This went on for hours.

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER KELLYANNE CONWAY: The Panhandle came in an hour later.

POTUS: Well, the Panhandle was so devastating to Crooked Hillary, that, frankly, it didn’t make any difference, okay? Because the Panhandle was so — it was like 98 percent. That thing came in, then all of a sudden Broward came in. And I won by, you know, I won by a lot of votes. I call it four Yankee Stadiums.

THE DAILY CALLER: Sir, as a resident of both D.C. and New York City, what do you think about Amazon’s relocation and the decision of both Virginia and New York to give billions of subsidies to Amazon. Do you support that?

POTUS: I think they’re paying a very big price. I think that it was a competition. I know all about those competitions, I’ve been in those competitions, you know, and it’s a lot of people, a lot of cities who are competing for it. They took the best deals.

THE DAILY CALLER: So you support the cities giving them tax breaks?

POTUS: Well, I think they’re giving up a lot. They’re very expensive deals. Only time will tell. Maybe Amazon will have massive competition and they won’t be the same company in five years, in which case it will be a big mistake.

You know, Amazon could have — I see Walmart is doing very well and others are building sites. I think that’s going to be a very competitive business someday, Amazon. And I’m not sure that size necessarily helps when you get —

THE DAILY CALLER: Do you still think they’re cheating the U.S. postal system?

POTUS: Oh, I think they’re getting the bargain of the century. I think that Amazon’s getting — and that’s why I’ve asked for a review of that. And others too, you know, not just Amazon. There are classes of companies that are getting the bargain and I think that — I may be wrong about this, you’ll check — but I think the contract they signed with Amazon was a closed contract. You can’t even see it. It was a sealed contract.

No, I think Amazon has the bargain of the century with the U.S. Post Office, which is losing a fortune.

THE DAILY CALLER: Tucker Carlson had his house attacked, he had a mob outside of his house while his wife was home. They cracked the door — what is this violence? Where does it come from? Do you have a message for Tucker and his family?

POTUS: I do, I spoke to Tucker and I think Tucker’s a great guy and I think it’s terrible, they were actually trying to break down the door.

THE DAILY CALLER: How do you think the police should handle Antifa, generally?

POTUS: These people, like the Antifa you’re talking about, the Antifa — they better hope that the opposition to Antifa decides not to mobilize. Because if they do, they’re much tougher. Much stronger. Potentially much more violent. And Antifa’s going to be in big trouble. But so far they haven’t done that, and that’s a good thing.

But they better hope that the other side doesn’t mobilize, you understand what I’m saying. Because if you look, the other side is the military, it’s the police, it’s a lot of very strong, a lot of very tough people. Tougher than them. And smarter than them. And they’re sitting back and watching and they’re getting angrier and angrier.

THE DAILY CALLER: What’s your takeaway from the 2018 election and what do you think that means for 2020 for you?

POTUS: I think I did very well. Because if you look at — Obama was 60-something odd House seats and lost seven Senate seats. So we picked up three or four Senate seats depending on how it all goes — it’s a big pickup. In fact, they say in 80 years I think the presidential party’s only picked up two Senate seats, I picked up three. I mean, assuming that they don’t do any further shenanigans in Florida.

Almost picked up Tester. Almost picked up, you know, if you look — and that was somebody that wasn’t even in play. And that was another one at the very last moment, all of a sudden, that was over. Almost picked up Arizona and that was another one that I question, I have to question that more strongly than our candidate, a wonderful person. But she didn’t question strongly, so I’m not going to, but I think that was very odd the way that all happened in Arizona. But we picked up — I mean, it looked like we picked up five. But probably three. It’s a lot.

I think this — if I didn’t go around, and you were there, you saw the crowd — in the history of politics, and I say this proudly, I wasn’t even running. In the history of politics nobody’s ever gotten crowds like that or close because you were in those stadiums and those arenas, but outside you had many more times — you know, in Houston we had 109,000 people sign up for 22,000 seats. We actually took ads saying, ‘please don’t come’ and that helped Ted Cruz a lot.

So if you look at Ted Cruz, and you look at some of the people that won, they wouldn’t have won without my helping them. And then you look at the new senators, you look at Indiana, Donnelly was not going to happen. Nobody said Donnelly was going to lose. Nobody said — even look at a case of a congressman. I couldn’t help too many congressmen because I don’t have that much time. The only congressman I went for was Andy Barr and that was in Kentucky, Mitch was there but he wasn’t running, and Rand Paul was there. Good guy, Rand Paul, by the way. And he was there, and the only congressman — I specifically went, there was no senator running in Kentucky, it was Andy Barr, and he won nicely. And he was down 10 and he won his race.

Every place I went, look at Georgia, I’m assuming he wins. That’s another one now they’re trying to play around with the votes. Honestly, it’s a disgrace what’s going on. Oprah went, Obama went, and Michelle Obama went. They went, and they spent a lot of time, and I went and did a rally, and the real number was probably 55,000 people, cause, you know, were you there in Georgia?

THE DAILY CALLER: Not Georgia, sir.

POTUS: Because we had a hangar, another hangar holding 18,000 at the top of the hangar. These are massive, like 747 hangars. It went way back, and he won. And everybody said he wasn’t going to win. But they had Obama, Mrs. Obama and Oprah. Oprah spent three days there and every place I went, we won or came real close with areas, like, as an example, Tester.

Tester, nobody wanted even to contest it. Well, look at what happened in North Dakota with Heidi. Heidi, they said don’t contest. One year ago when we were looking, they all said don’t contest Heidi, she can’t be beat. She lost by a lot. I went there three or four times.

I mean, the truth is, every place I went, we either won or did well or did really well. If I didn’t go, if I didn’t do those stops — I did 31 stops in 30 days or something like that. If I didn’t do those stops, I think we would’ve lost 10 Senate seats, seven to 10 Senate seats, and we would’ve lost 60 to 70 House seats or more.

By doing the stops, then again a lot of times I’d have the congressmen in the room, so they wouldn’t be the prime focus but I’d get up and I’d be able to talk about them for a couple of minutes apiece, right? If I didn’t do the stops — and I’ve been thanked by a lot of Republicans — if I didn’t do those stops we would definitely not have control of the Senate. It would be a question, so what are we up, three? Two or three. We would be down five or six or seven. And they know that. Nobody has ever had a greater impact.

Well, I’ll give you another. You take Georgia. He was 10 points down when I endorsed him, he ended up winning by 40 points in the primary. He’s now in, but he was 10 points down. It was 70 to 30, something like that, 70-30 or 70-40, maybe 70-40. But it was an easy win.

Take DeSantis. Ron DeSantis was a three, had no money. He was running against in the Republican primary, who was at 31 and he had $21 million cash in the bank. The Department of Agriculture, right? Nice guy, too. But I didn’t know him so I don’t feel guilty. I endorsed DeSantis. I endorsed DeSantis and he won by 20 points. Okay, it wasn’t even a race. And his opponent, who I spoke to afterward because he is a nice guy, he said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ He said, ‘you endorsed him, the race was over.’

There’s never been an impact — I don’t say it braggingly. I mean, it’s hard for me to say it because I’d rather have them say it but they don’t say it very well. No, there’s never been a story, nobody ever writes it.

But you take a look at the races that I was involved in, I had a massive impact. Then they said, ‘well, DeSantis is not gonna make it in Florida, he’s never gonna get elected.’ So I went down and made a speech, he got elected, he won. Now they’re trying to take votes away from him, it’s a disgrace what’s going on, but it looks like he’s gonna be good and hopefully, Rick [Scott] is gonna be good. Maybe the machines are bad, now the machines are all smokey, they’re all — it’s crazy. Honestly, it’s a disgrace.

Georgia, what they’re doing is a disgrace, and Florida, what they’re doing to the two people — no, to the three. Look at what they’re doing, how about the agriculture guy. He was leading all night long and then he ends up losing by 5,000 votes because nobody was watching that one. That’s a very important position in Florida, right? Pretty impressive if I do say so myself.

Note that he admits he hired Whittaker to stop the Russia investigation in the same way he admitted he fired Comey over the Russia investigation. And he threatens violence from the police.

Maybe Trump isn’t just concerned about the election results and the flipping of the House. We all know that Trump has “spent the last three days meeting with his personal legal team, crafting answers to written questions from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III”, according to the New York Times:

When he returned to Washington, Mr. Trump stepped into closed-door sessions with his personal lawyers and worked on drafting written answers to questions from the Mueller team, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign. The president’s legal team and aides have pleaded with him for months to avoid writing Twitter posts about Mr. Mueller. But by Thursday morning, the president returned to attacking the inquiry and Mr. Mueller.

***

Mr. Trump’s lawyers believe that the special counsel investigation is winding down, and they finally agreed to answer written questions after months of back-and-forth with the Mueller team. Mr. Mueller has been asking to interview the president for nearly a year, and Mr. Trump’s team has delayed responding.

Mr. Mueller wants to ask the president questions about whether there was any obstruction of justice during the course of the investigation, which began late in the Obama administration. Mr. Mueller wants to ask the president about any possible coordination with Russia during the election campaign, as well.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had been prepared to send responses to questions from Mr. Mueller by the middle of this week, but so far they have not. Mr. Mueller had agreed in September to allow Mr. Trump to respond to questions about ties between his campaign and Russia in writing and put off the issue of whether Mr. Trump would have to answer ones about whether he obstructed justice.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have long been concerned that the president would make a false statement in an interview with Mr. Mueller’s investigators, which could be a felony.

It is quite possible — indeed likely — that Trump and his lawyers are at odds about how to answer these questions. Trump doesn’t just lie to others — he lies to himself. That causes a problem for his lawyers, who surely realize that Mueller already KNOWS the answers to the questions he asked.

So Trump’s erratic (even for him) behavior may be cause, in whole and in part, to the pressure he is feeling from Mueller.

Trump wants everyone to thing that Mueller is a rage-filled maniac (projection is Trump’s forte). But I don’t think Mueller and his team are feeling the heat.

The logic here is ultimately pretty simple: the president is privy to certain information in advance of the media, and thereby the public. Therefore, he lashes out ahead of bad news in order to get ahead of the story. If family is involved, all the more reason for him to be angry and motivated. It makes a great deal of sense, and Trump has done it time and again.

 

The Country Turned Upside Down

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The dysfunction of the White House — both internally and externally — cannot be understated. Some days it is just better to step back and take a photo of it from afar.  Historians, this is a day with virtually NO breaking news….

Digby:

Trump feels betrayed by all those Republicans who failed to win and made him look like a loser. He’s been stabbed in the back by Emmanuel Macron, his little buddy, who hasn’t found that flattering Trump got him anywhere and has stopped trying. Kim Jong-un, the man who sends him “beautiful letters” after the two of them “fell in in love,” is making a fool of him by continuing to build missile sites after Trump announced to the world that North Korea’s nuclear threat was over. Then there’s the latest in a long line of former intimates who’ve turned state’s evidence, possibly including his old pal Roger Stone, who appears to be on the verge of indictment. Firing Sessions, the man who committed the original sin of following the rules instead of being his “Roy Cohn,” hasn’t made him feel any better.

I suspect the biggest reason for all this is the ultimate betrayal: His followers failed him by not voting in great enough numbers to defy all the predictions and prove that he is the biggest winner in American political history. He may not be stable and he may not be a genius, but right now he knows that he looks like a loser. Perhaps he also instinctively realizes that may just break the spell some of his voters have been under since he was unexpectedly elected two years ago — the belief that even though he is personally a mess and his administration is nonstop chaos, he’s an unbeatable giant-slayer, an omnipotent superhero who transcends the normal definition of leadership. He lost, and his followers will never see him the same way again.

Once a con man is exposed, he blows town and moves on to the next mark. But Donald Trump is the president of the United States. He’s trapped and he has nowhere else to go.

Angry Trump To Fire More People?

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

There are several reports alleging that Trump is about to shit-can chief baby-cager Kirstjen Nielsen and possibly her mentor John Kelly too. Nielsen’s ass is in the hot seat because it turns out that even monstrous treatment of desperate people won’t stop them from trying to escape the intolerable conditions in their home countries.

We’ve heard these reports before — especially about John Kelly being fired — and nothing has ever come of it. By most accounts, Kelly’s job has been hanging by a thread for almost a year.

But Nielsen is another matter. Someone has to take the fall for the failure of Hair Furor’s genius scheme to torture poor and brown people away from our borders, and Nielsen it is. Here’s hoping she spends the next 40 years regretting the decision to hitch her star to the orange shit-wagon.

ABC News says the latest dispute with Kelly arose over a dust-up with the Third Lady:

“There have been instances where the East Wing staff were not treated as equals to the male-dominated decision makers in Chief Kelly’s office,” one White House official said. “Promotions were denied then finally granted after months of requests,” the official said.

Melania Trump raised concerns with her husband earlier this year, amid the height of the controversy over his alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, that Kelly had repeatedly denied her requests to promote some of her aides, two White House officials told NBC News.

The requests languished for months as Kelly insisted there weren’t enough available positions for the first lady’s aides to have senior titles, these people said. During this same period however, West Wing officials working for Kelly received promotions, the White House officials said.

Having learned of the dispute, the president was furious and told Kelly to give the first lady, who has a smaller East Wing staff than her recent predecessors, what she wanted, these people said. “I don’t need this shit,” Trump told Kelly, according to one person familiar with the conversation.

Oh, but that’s not all. Melania doesn’t like someone else:

First lady Melania Trump demanded the ouster of National Security Adviser John Bolton’s top deputy, Mira Ricardel, on Wednesday as reports swirled about an imminent shakeup of President Donald Trump’s administration.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement in response to a question about reports the first lady had sought Ricardel’s removal.

Ricardel, Bolton’s top deputy, clashed with the first lady’s staff after threatening to withhold National Security Council resources during Melania Trump’s trip to Africa last month unless Ricardel or another NSC official was included in her entourage, one person familiar with the matter said.

Sure. Why the fuck not?

At some point, a normal person would wonder “Hey, maybe the problem is ME”.  But not in the Trump White House.  And so the revolving door of incompetent nutjobs continues.

UPDATE — Tharrrr she goes….

Democrats Are Still Winning the 2018 Election

Ken AshfordElection 2018Leave a Comment

Testy Trump is tweeting about criticisms that he didn’t attend an event in Paris to honor WWI fallen soldiers.  He didn’t go because of rain — yet all the other world leaders somehow managed to make it.

“Cemetery” is a hard work to spell.

Why is Trump so testy?  Probably because Democrats are still winning the 2018 elections, which were held a week ago

Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat and former social worker, scored a groundbreaking victory in the race for a Senate seat in Arizona, defeating her Republican opponent after waging a campaign in which she embraced solidly centrist positions.

Ms. Sinema’s victory over Martha McSally, a Republican congresswoman and former Air Force pilot, marks the first Democratic triumph since 1976 in a battle for an open Senate seat in Arizona. Ms. Sinema takes the seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, a Republican who is leaving the Senate after repeated clashes with President Trump.

Ms. Sinema’s victory guarantees the Democrats at least 47 Senate seats. Republicans control 51, with two still undecided: Florida, where there is a recount, and Mississippi, where there is a runoff.

That’s a flip of a seat from Republican to Democrat in the Senate.  Democrats will still be down

There are still ten undecided seats in the House, but as of now, Democrats are up 31 seats.  Florida and Georgia are still undecided for governors.

CNN Sues Trump For Barring Jim Acosta

Ken AshfordConstitution, Fake News, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

This is a fight that Trump probably wants, since the “Fake News” — in particular, CNN — is a punching bag he likes to use.

CNN has filed a lawsuit against President Trump and several of his aides, seeking the immediate restoration of chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s access to the White House.

The lawsuit is a response to the White House’s suspension of Acosta’s press pass, known as a Secret Service “hard pass,” last week. The suit alleges that Acosta and CNN’s First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated by the ban.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning.

Both CNN and Acosta are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. There are six defendants: Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, the director of the Secret Service, and the Secret Service officer who took Acosta’s hard pass away last Wednesday. The officer is identified as John Doe in the suit, pending his identification.

The six defendants are all named because of their roles in enforcing and announcing Acosta’s suspension.

Is it a decent lawsuit?  Yes.  The main case that bears on this is Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124 (D.C. Cir. 1977), which reasoned as follows:

Appellants argue that because the public has no right of access to the White House, and because the right of access due the press generally is no greater than that due the general public, denial of a White House press pass is violative of the first amendment only if it is based upon the content of the journalist’s speech or otherwise discriminates against a class of protected speech. While we agree with appellants that arbitrary or content-based criteria for press pass issuance are prohibited under the first amendment, there exist additional first amendment considerations ignored by appellants’ argument.

These considerations can perhaps be best understood by first recognizing what this case does not involve. It is not contended that standards relating to the security of the President are the sole basis upon which members of the general public may be refused entry to the White House, or that members of the public must be afforded notice and hearing concerning such refusal. The first amendment’s protection of a citizen’s right to obtain information concerning “the way the country is being run” does not extend to every conceivable avenue a citizen may wish to employ in pursuing this right. Nor is the discretion of the President to grant interviews or briefings with selected journalists challenged. It would certainly be unreasonable to suggest that because the President allows interviews with some bona fide journalists, he must give this opportunity to all. Finally, appellee’s first amendment claim is not premised upon the assertion that the White House must open its doors to the press, conduct press conferences, or operate press facilities.

Rather, we are presented with a situation where the White House has voluntarily decided to establish press facilities for correspondents who need to report therefrom. These press facilities are perceived as being open to all bona fide Washington-based journalists, whereas most of the White House itself, and press facilities in particular, have not been made available to the general public. White House press facilities having been made publicly available as a source of information for newsmen, the protection afforded newsgathering under the first amendment guarantee of freedom of the press, see Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681, 707, 92 S.Ct. 2646, 33 L.Ed.2d 626 (1972); Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 829-35, 94 S.Ct. 2800, 41 L.Ed.2d 495 (1974), requires that this access not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons.

So does the Trump Administration have a “compelling governmental interest” — not related to viewpoint — that would warrant the revocation of Acosta’s press pass?

Not even a little. There was one incident — a very questionable one — where Acosta refused to hand the mic over to a White House aide who was trying to take it from him. Not very disruptive. Not part of a pattern. And the fact that everybody is micro-examining YouTube footage of it and arguing about frames-per-second only adds weight to the argument that Acosta’s supposed “infraction” was, at BEST, de minimis.

Even if the White House could be justified in their decision — and they would look silly and petty in trying — they don’t seem to have complied with the necessary procedure spelled out by the Sherrillcourt:

We think that notice to the unsuccessful applicant of the factual bases for denial with an opportunity to rebut is a minimum prerequisite for ensuring that the denial is indeed in furtherance of Presidential protection, rather than based on arbitrary or less than compelling reasons.

There seems little doubt that CNN will prevail, but like I said, Trump wants the fight, even if he loses. Which he is sure to do.

Here’s the complaint:

The Psychology of Trump Supporters

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Wow. This is too good NOT to post here. It hits it all.  From Raw Story:

It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters’ unbridled allegiance.

The psychological phenomena described below mostly pertain to those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff. These are the people who will stand by his side no matter what scandals come to light, or what sort of evidence for immoral and illegal behavior surfaces.

1. Practicality Trumps Morality
For some wealthy people, it’s simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not matter if he’s a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.

2. The Brain’s Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump
According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.

3. America’s Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities
Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because he’s so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

4. “Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.”
Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight, and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.

5. The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat
Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

6. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat
A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump’s fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitably of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn’t lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

7. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise
Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

8. Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement
Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

Common explanations for Trump’s popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.

These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as “relative,” as opposed to “absolute,” because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.

9. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others
Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one’s own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it’s important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that “…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.” This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters’ physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #12.

10. Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable
While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of “odd beliefs and magical thinking.” One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

11. Trump Taps into the Nation’s Collective Narcissism
Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one’s national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the ‘true identity’ of a nation — the ‘ingroup,’ in this case White Americans — perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them ‘unrightfully.’ This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).

study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward ‘outsider’ groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being “true patriots” or “real Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

12. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others
Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

In Trump’s speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 survey study of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

13. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome
Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome —  a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. President Trump’s speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like “losers” and “complete disasters,” are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise

14. Racism and Bigotry
It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump’s supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that many do not. It is a well-known fact that the Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with “dog whistles” — code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.

While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trump’s signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. There’s no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims “dangerous” and Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “murderers,” often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.


Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyAzarian. 

Maybe it is because I have a background in psychology and sociology, but the people who curate this stuff –Bobby Azarian, in this case — do a great public service.

It Really Looks Like The Elections Hit Trump Hard

Ken AshfordElection 2018, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Either that, or he is not well.

It is worth noticing this series of events over the last week:

  1. Trump held a news conference after the midterm elections in which his affect was clearly depressed, until he engaged in a confrontation with CNN’s Jim Acosta.
  2. The president traveled to Paris to take part in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended WWI. He cancelled his plans for a military parade, saying that he would honor the military in Paris instead.
  3. On Saturday, Trump skipped the ceremony at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France. The White House suggested that it was because of the weather, but that didn’t stop other world leaders or Trump’s staff from attending the event.
  4. The president arrived two hours late to a dinner that evening with world leaders.
  5. The White House announced that the president will not attend the ASEAN of OPEC summits in mid-November.
  6. Monday morning brought this announcement:

It is hard to avoid the idea that there is a pattern to all of this. Based on his affect during the press conference last Wednesday, I asked whether or not Trump was depressed. That seemed to be the conclusion that a lot of people reached for various reasons. These last five days have only heightened that concern. It is a very real possibility that Trump is decompensating.

In medicine, decompensation is the functional deterioration of a structure or system that had been previously working with the help of allostatic compensation. Decompensation may occur due to fatigue, stress, illness, or old age. When a system is “compensated”, it is able to function despite stressors or defects. Decompensation describes an inability to compensate for these deficiencies.

At this point, it appears that the president will still attend the G20 meeting in Argentina at the end of November, where he’s expected to meet with Putin. It will be interesting to watch whether or not Robert Mueller releases any information prior to that date, which is probably what is causing the decompensation in the first place.

Well, You Don’t See THIS Often

Ken AshfordSocial NetworkingLeave a Comment

Facebook is down.

Daily Mail:

Facebook users around the world have been left in a ‘total blackout’ after the site crashed early Monday afternoon.

The site went down just before 1 p.m., affecting users from the United States and South America all the way to Europe.

Those who attempted to access the desktop site are met with a message saying ‘Sorry, something went wrong,’ while mobile users appear unable to refresh the News Feed.

Election 2018 Ain’t Over

Ken AshfordElection 2018Leave a Comment

Fucking Florida.  Fucking Palm Breach County. Fucking Broward County. Fucking Recounts. Fuck Fuck Fuck.

On the one hand, there is a process that has to be followed for close races, so those procedures need to be followed. But already, just like in the Bush-Gore race, the lawsuits are flying faster than a wet cat in the shower.

At issue are three Florida races — senator, governor, and (yawn!) Florida’s secretary of agriculture.  And one Georgia race — the governorship.

What doesn’t help is this bullshit from Trump:

Ballots are the new caravan.

The president’s desire to use results from Election Night, which he tweeted on Veterans Day, would disenfranchise many votes that are counted after Election Day, including voters serving overseas in the military. Overseas and military ballots can arrive until Nov. 16 and will be counted, as long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day.

Additionally, there is no evidence that ballots “showed up out of nowhere,” but rather ballots continued to be counted days after the election — largely mail-in, absentee and provisional ballots in slow counties like Broward and Palm Beach, which lean Democrat. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has no open investigations into any claims of potential fraud, ABC News confirmed Sunday afternoon.

Trump has made claims of improper election results before, most notably after the 2016 election, when he said there were more than three million illegal votes cast — about the same number more votes Hillary Clinton received in the popular vote. However, his own voter fraud commission disbanded over the summer after many governors refused to cooperate and the group was unable to provide any evidence to back up that claim.

So where are we?

Palm Beach and Broward counties have until Thursday at 3 p.m. to finish their recounts, but Palm Beach County election officials expressed concern over the weekend that they wouldn’t be able to run more than 8.2 million ballots through the machines in time. It’s not clear what might happen if the deadline is missed, but legal action to extend the count was likely.

According to Florida Secretary of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell, who said Florida state law doesn’t grant her office the power to extend recount deadlines, if a county doesn’t submit results by the deadline, the election results revert to the count fro Election Day.

An automatic machine recount began Saturday in the Senate and gubernatorial races, as well as the statewide race for agriculture commissioner, because each was within the margin of 0.5 percent.

In the gubernatorial race, former Rep. Ron DeSantis leads Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, by 0.41 percent, according to the Florida Division of Elections as of Monday morning. Gillum replaced his concession from Election Night over the weekend with an “unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote.”

In the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson is edging closer to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who leads by just 0.15 percent, as of Monday morning.

To be continued no doubt.

UPDATE — ah…. a sane man:

At Least 31 Dead In California Wildfires

Ken AshfordDisastersLeave a Comment

At least 31 people are dead as entire California cities flee wildfires

Over the weekend, three major wildfires in California wreaked havoc.

So far, more than 190,000 acres have burned, and 272,000 people have been evacuated. Around 8,200 firefighters are battling the flames, according to state officials.

In Northern California: A blaze dubbed the Camp fire has destroyed 6,700 structures, making it the single most destructive fire in the state’s history. At least 29 people died as the flames swept into the town of Paradise. This makes it the third-deadliest fire in the state’s history.

In Southern California: Two wildfires, the Woolsey fire and the Hill fire, have caused more than 200,000 residents to flee their homes. This includes people living in Thousand Oaks, where they had to evacuate less than a day after a mass shooting.

The Woolsey fire is around 15% contained. Many celebrities have had to abandon their homes because of it, including the Kardashians, Jake Paul, and Lady Gaga.

Trumps’ initial response was to blame people, rather than acknowledge those who died. He finally acknowledged first responders, but still said nothing about the loss of life.

What a dick.

Anyway, this thing is far from over.

Evacuation videos:

GRAPHIC VIDEO below (will probably be taken down) shows bodies:

Trump’s Eyes

Ken AshfordForeign Affairs, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

How Trump looks at allies versus Putin

This was in France this weekend as world leaders gathered to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One.

The overseas trip, largely ceremonial for everyone, was a complete disaster for Trump, starting with his failure to show up because of rain:

He began his visit with a tweet slamming the French president’s call for a European defense force, arrived at events alone and spent much of his trip out of sight in the American ambassadors’ residence in central Paris. 

Then there was the part where French President Macron lambasted Trump’s brand of nationalism in front of Trump, comparing nationalism and patriotism.

Even Trump and Putin canceled a scheduled meeting, after the French Gov’t asked them not to meet.

Trump was terse during some of his private conversations with world leaders, according to people with direct knowledge of his visit. One of the people described the president as “grumpy.” They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

The president and first lady Melania Trump had traveled to the commemoration separately — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited security protocols, which appeared to be a lie — from the other dignitaries, who had traveled together by bus from the Élysée Palace.

This is as good a place as any to post this

UPDATE: The afraid-of-rain president is avoiding Veteran’s Ceremonies HERE too.

Weekly List 104

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

In the midterms this week, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, picking up between 35-40 seats, in an election dubbed “The Year of the Woman.” A history making 100 plus women will head to the House next session, as Democrats celebrated their upcoming check on Trump for the first time since he took office. As the week ended, senate races in Florida and Arizona and governor races in Florida and Georgia were still undecided, as Trump and his allies stoked false claims of voter fraud and interference by Democrats.

Americans did not get a chance to catch their breath, as the next day Trump took a major step towards ending the Mueller probe, forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and installing a crony who has been critical of the probe, and talked of starving it of funding to end it. Grassroots activists mobilized with protests nationwide to “Protect Mueller.” Post-election reporting indicated Trump is “depressed” ahead of possible indictments coming soon from the Mueller probe, including possibly of his son, Donald Jr.

  1. In Tallahassee, Florida, Scott Beierle, 40, shot and killed Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21, and injured five others at a hot yoga studio, before killing himself.
  2. Beierle had recorded numerous misogynistic and racist videos, and had been accused of touching women’s buttocks without their consent. He expressed his disgust at women online and urged ‘incels’ to fight back.
  3. In an extensive article, the New York Times Magazine reported on the rise of white nationalism, and how U.S. law enforcement failed to see the threat coming, and now do not know how to stop it.
  4. White nationalism is no longer on the fringes, but has entered the political mainstream. A report produced by the Brennan Center for Justice calls out the DOJ for its “blind spot” when it comes to domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
  5. On Saturday, at a campaign rally in Florida, Trump bragged about sending the U.S. military to the border, as troops began putting up chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire earlier in that day.
  6. Trump also said it’s “a little suspicious how those caravans are starting,” insinuating, without evidence, that the Democrats were behind it.
  7. WAPO reported Trump’s military deployment, along with National Guard forces at the U.S.-Mexico border since April, could cost $200 million by the end of the year. Trump has asked the military to slash next year’s budget.
  8. NYT reported that according to analysis of data, the Trump regime has sharply lowered financial penalties against banks and big companies accused of malfeasance, mirroring the regime’s deregulatory agenda.
  9. Under Trump there has been a 62% drop in penalties imposed by the S.E.C., and a 72% decline in corporate penalties from the Justice Department’s criminal prosecutions.
  10. On Sunday, without citing evidence, using his position as Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp’s office announced the Democrats were under investigation for allegedly trying to hack the state’s voter registration files.
  11. Trump appeared with Kemp at a campaign rally, but neither made mention of the investigation. Late Sunday, a spokesperson for Kemp said a person named Rachel Small had allegedly talked about trying to hack Kemp.
  12. On Sunday, Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose tweeted that Trump should stop his “unauthorized use” of the band’s music at his rallies “without the songwriters’ consent,” adding “Can u say ‘shitbags?!’ ”
  13. On Monday, NBC and Facebook said they would stop running a 30-second inflammatory ad by Trump’s political team that featured Luis Bracamontes, saying it was racist. Both had run the ad over the weekend.
  14. Later that morning, Trump ally Fox News also said it would stop running the ad on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. CNN had refused to run the ad from the start, calling it “racist.”
  15. When asked about the ad being pulled by reporters later Monday, Trump responded, “You’re telling me something I don’t know about,” adding “We have a lot of ads, and they certainly are effective, based on the numbers.”
  16. When asked about critics who called the ad offensive, Trump responded, “A lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive a lot of times so, you know.”
  17. On Monday, HuffPost reported hundreds in armed militia groups are headed to U.S.- Mexico border following Trump stoking fear of the “caravans,” sparking concern from the U.S. military.
  18. On Monday, in a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department plans to monitor voting and investigate voter fraud, without specifying what fraud-related issues the department will be looking for.
  19. Sessions also said, “we are using every lawful tool that we have, both civil and criminal, to protect the rights of millions of Americans to cast their vote unimpeded,” and “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated.”
  20. Shortly after, Trump tweeted “Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place,” adding anyone caught will be subject to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.”
  21. In another tweet, Trump accused CNN of airing “Fake Suppression Polls” and engaging in“false rhetoric,” although he provided no evidence or explanation of what he was referring to.
  22. On Monday, the Des Moines Register reported DOJ personnel will be sent to a county in northwest Iowa, which has a large population of immigrants, to monitor the vote.
  23. On Saturday, Trump tweeted “rumor has it that Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana is paying for Facebook ads,” adding, “Donnelly is trying to steal the election? Isn’t that what Russia did!?
  24. On Monday, WAPO reported that members of Russia’s lower house of parliament will be in the U.S. to help certify the integrity of the midterms, ensuring that the vote lives up to international democratic standards.
  25. The news was first reported by Russia-state media outlet Tass, which said two member of parliament will be examining cybersecurity, gerrymandering, voting rights, and campaign financing in the U.S.
  26. On Monday, Trump told reporters he “probably” will not be meeting with Vladimir Putin this weekend in Paris as scheduled, saying instead they will meet at the G20.
  27. On Monday, Facebook announced on the night before midterms it pulled down 115 “inauthentic” Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns “they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency.”
  28. After being out on the campaign trail for Democratic candidates in recent days, Obama gave his closing argument for voting in a series of tweets, including, “The character of our country is on the ballot.
  29. On Monday, Vanity Fair reported Trump has been working to absolve himself of any blame if the GOP loses the House. Trump claims he has brought crowds and excitement, and it would be worse without him.
  30. A West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee said with Mueller likely reporting his findings shortly, that other than Trump, Roger Stone and Donald Jr.will face the most exposure.
  31. Concern is Mueller will be able to prove that Donald Jr. perjured himself to investigators when he said he did not tell Trump beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
  32. On Monday, in an interview with Sinclair Broadcasting, Trump said of his tone during his first two years in office, “I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do.”
  33. On Monday, in an apparent last-minute pitch to women who polls show overwhelmingly support Democrats this election, Trump brought Ivanka, Kellyanne Conway, and press secretary Sarah Sanders to a rally in Indiana.
  34. On Monday, watchdog group CREW reported Ivanka’s fashion brand won first trial approval for 16 new trademarks from the Chinese government in October, the largest number in a single month since Trump took office.
  35. On Monday, Fox News host Sean Hannity, who said in a tweet that he would not appear on stage with Trump, campaigned on stage with him in Missouri the night before midterms.
  36. Hannity’s first remark on stage was “by the way, all those people in the back are fake news.” Following Hannity, Trump introduced Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, and praised her opening monologues as “always brilliant.”
  37. CNN Business reported Fox News staffers have anonymously expressed outrage over Hannity’s rally appearance, saying “a new line was crossed,” and “I am so f — -ing mad.” Hannity was supposed to interview Trump.
  38. On Tuesday, Fox issued a statement saying, “Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” adding “This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
  39. On Tuesday, WSJ reported Taiwanese supplier Foxconn, which Trump has used as an example of bringing jobs to the U.S., is considering bringing Chinese workers to Wisconsin due to the tight U.S. labor market.
  40. A report by the Lexington Herald-Leader found that Kentucky has fewer coal jobs than when Trump took office, shrinking from 6,550 jobs in the first quarter of 2017, to 6,381 this past quarter.
  41. On Tuesday, Le Monde reported Dmitri Rybolovlev, the Russian oligarch who purchased a mansion from Trump in 2008, was detained in Monaco, and is under investigation for corruption and influence peddling.
  42. On Tuesday, voting irregularities were reported in several states. Several states extended voting hours including two precincts near Spelman and Morehouse College in Georgia, and Harris County in Texas.
  43. On Tuesday, in the midterm elections, Democrats took back control of the House, while Republicans kept control of the Senate. As of Saturday, Democrats had picked up 35 House seats, with more counts pending.
  44. In an election some dubbed as the “Year of the Woman,” for the first time in history, there will be more than 100 women in the House, including the first Muslim American (two) and Native American (two) women.
  45. A total of 34 new women won House seats, 33 of whom are Democrats, beating a previous high set in 1992, with close races still to be decided. Most of the women replaced incumbent men.
  46. They join 66 House women who were re-elected. There will be at least 100 women in the House next session, the largest number in U.S. history. The party gap is large: Democrats 87, Republicans 13, with races pending.
  47. Democrats also did well at the state level, flipping seven governorships, six state legislative chambers, and more than 300 state House and Senate seats.
  48. Democrats also added control of the trifecta — the legislative chambers and the governor’s office —  in seven more states: Maine, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, and New York.
  49. With Democrats having 26 senate seats in play to Republicans having just 8, Democrats won 8 of the 10 senate seats in swing states, with the final two, Arizona and Florida, still undecided by weeks end.
  50. WSJ reported following midterm success, and after another mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, the Democrats plan to pursue the most aggressive gun-control legislation in decades.
  51. In the midterms, Democrats beat at least 15 House Republicans with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, while the candidates elected to replace them all scored an “F” NRA rating.
  52. On Wednesday, Vanity Fair reported according to friends who watched the midterms with Trump at first “his mood was great,” thinking he could defy political gravity, “but that was before everything went bad.”
  53. Trump insiders fear the White House is not set up to defend itself from the Democrat House onslaught. Trump reportedly is thinking what they could they release about him, and how does it work politically for him.
  54. Insiders also reportedly say Trump is “very depressed” about Donald Jr. possibly facing indictment. According to three sources, Donald Jr. has told friends he could be indicted as early as this week.
  55. On Wednesday, Trump warned House Democrats about investigating him, tweeting if they “waste Taxpayer Money investigating us,” then “we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them.”
  56. Trump also tweeted to warn “pundits or talking heads” against not giving “us proper credit for this great Midterm Election,” saying, “just remember two words — FAKE NEWS!”
  57. On Wednesday, the Department of Defense dropped the term “Operation Faithful Patriot” for the deployment of 5,200 military at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the operation will now be referred to as “border support.”
  58. On Wednesday, Trump held a post-midterms press conference and was openly hostile to the media. Trump attacked CNN saying, “When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.”
  59. Trump also attacked CNN’s Jim Acosta, telling him to put down the mic, and saying “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person.”
  60. When NBC’s Peter Alexander defended Acosta, Trump went after him as well, saying “Well I’m not a big fan of yours either, to be honest with you. You aren’t the best.”
  61. Trump attacked Yamiche Alcindor of ”PBS Newshour” when she asked about his using the label “nationalist,” responding, “That’s such a racist question,” and “I love our country. I do. You have nationalists. You have globalists.”
  62. Trump called out the Republicans by name who lost in midterms after rejecting his support, saying “They did very badly,” adding “I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad.”
  63. Trump threatened to retaliate against Democrats if they investigate him, saying “if they do that then all it is is a war-like posture,” and “They can play that game but we can play it better. It’s called the U.S. Senate.”
  64. Trump also said the Mueller probe is a “hoax,” and “a disgrace, it should have never been started because there was no crime,” saying the only reason he has not fired Mueller is because it might make him look bad.
  65. On Wednesday night, the White House revoked Acosta’s press credentials. Press secretary Sanders accused Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman” who was trying to take the microphone as the rationale.
  66. On Thursday, reporters and new organizations of all political leanings slammed the White House for barring Acosta. The White House Correspondents’ Association also condemned the move.
  67. On Thursday, a CNN executive accused the White House of using a ‘doctored’ video to justify revoking Acosta’s press credentials.
  68. On Wednesday, at Trump’s request, Sessions resigned as attorney general. Sessions’s resignation letter reads, “Dear Mr. President, At your request, I am submitting my resignation.” The letter is not dated.
  69. WAPO reported Sessions received a call from Chief of Staff John Kelly on Wednesday morning telling him Trump wanted him to resign. Sessions wanted to finish the week, but Kelly said Wednesday would be his last day.
  70. Shortly after, Trump tweeted that Sessions would be replaced on an acting basis by Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, and added “a permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
  71. A DOJ official said Whitaker would assume authority over the Mueller probe, and that his role will be subject to the normal review process for conflicts.
  72. Trump has told advisers that Whitaker is loyal and would not have recused himself in Sessions’ shoes. Rod Rosenstein went to the White House that afternoon for what an official said was a pre-scheduled meeting.
  73. Whitaker has said in the past the Mueller probe has gone too far, should be given a budget “so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt,” and that the finances of the Trump family should not be under scrutiny.
  74. On Wednesday, Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff, and Elijah Cummings, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, sent letters to top White House officials demanding that they preserve records following the firing of Sessions.
  75. On Wednesday, Guardian reported Whitaker was paid to sit on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, which was ordered in May to pay a $26 million settlement as part of a vast scam of aspiring inventors.
  76. Emails filed in federal court show from August 2015 Whitaker used his role as a former federal prosecutor in a threatening email to a customer of World Patent, who had complained to the Better Business Bureau.
  77. On Thursday, CNN reported Trump had already begun reviewing with his lawyers the written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller when he fired Sessions.
  78. Roger Stone continues to be a focus. On Thursday, Mueller’s team is set to appear in court to defend its authority as another one of Stone’s former associates aims to quash a subpoena for grand jury testimony.
  79. As Mueller’s team begins to write its final report on the Russia probe, the White House is looking to hire as many as two dozen lawyers for the counsel’s office as Democrats take control of the House.
  80. On Thursday, George Conway and Neal Katyal, Obama’s former solicitor general, wrote in an op-ed that Trump’s appointment of an acting attorney general, bypassing the Senate, is unconstitutional and illegal.
  81. The two lawyers also asserted in their op-ed that since his appointment is unconstitutional, anything Whitaker “does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.”
  82. On Thursday, The Daily Beast reported that in a summer 2017 interview on a conservative political talk-radio show, Whitaker said “The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign.”
  83. On Thursday, NYT reported in a 2014 interview, Whitaker said the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch,” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts.
  84. On Thursday, CNN reported Whitaker has close personal ties to Sam Clovis, who has been interviewed in the Mueller probe. Whitaker was Clovis’ campaign chair in 2014 when he ran for state treasurer in Iowa.
  85. Des Moines Register republished a 2014 article on Whitaker, in which he says he would only support federal judges who have a Biblical view: “If they have a secular world view, then I’m going to be very concerned.”
  86. On Thursday, “Protect Mueller” demonstrators took to the streets in cities and towns across the country to protect the Mueller investigation, after the departure of Sessions and appointment of Whitaker.
  87. According to protest organizers, progressive groups were able to mobilize about 100,000 people at approximately 900 nationwide “rapid response” rallies just one day after Sessions’ resignation.
  88. On Friday, CNN reported that the backlash to the Whitaker appointment has caught the White House by surprise and raised concerns about his ability to remain in the post if he remains in the headlines.
  89. On Friday, speaking to reporters, Trump tried to distance himself from Whitaker, saying “I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” and “I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker” about the federal probe into Russian election interference.
  90. On Friday, Vox reported Whitaker privately advised Trump last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries like Hillary Clinton.
  91. At the same time, Whitaker, as chief of staff to Sessions, was advising him and Rosenstein on how to counter Trump’s demands that the DOJ open an investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign.
  92. When asked by CNN’s Abby Phillip, who is a Black woman, whether he wanted Whitaker to “rein in Mueller,” Trump responded, “What a stupid question,” adding “You ask a lot of stupid questions.”
  93. When asked about revoking Acosta’s press credentials, Trump attacked reporter April Ryan, also a Black woman, saying “you talk about somebody that’s a loser. She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.”
  94. In two days, Trump has aggressively attacked three Black women reporters: PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, Phillip, and Ryan. In an op-ed Ryan wrote of Trump long track record of publicly insulting Black women.
  95. Trump also threatened to revoke the credentials of additional White House reporters if they did not “treat the White House with respect,” saying “When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place for me.”
  96. On Friday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected calls to pass legislation to protect the special counselafter several Republicans called on him to do so, saying, “It’s going to be allowed to finish.”
  97. McConnell also dismissed concerns over Whitaker’s appointment, saying he serves at the pleasure of Trump, and adding “I think this will be an interim, a very interim AG.”
  98. On Friday, the WAPO Editorial Board wrote that even as legal experts spar over whether his appointment without a Senate confirmation is constitutional, Whitaker is unfit for the job.
  99. On Wednesday, the Trump regime rolled out a rule that will exempt employers from providing insurance coverage for birth control if it conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.
  100. The rule, which will take effect in 60 days, would roll back an Obama-era birth control rule which required employers must cover all forms of contraception under Obamacare.
  101. On Wednesday, Patrick Casey, head of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, whose members marched in Charlottesville in 2017, posted a picture on Twitter of himself standing in front of the White House.
  102. In the tweet, Casey writes, “Evropa has landed at the White House!” The group’s motto, “You will not replace us,” echoes the “Jews will not replace us” chants of white supremacists in Charlottesville.
  103. On Thursday, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford said she is continuing to receive death threats. Dr. Ford has had to move four times, and has been unable to return to her job as a professor at Palo Alto University.
  104. On Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized after breaking three ribs. Trump told reporters, “I wish her well. She said something very inappropriate during the campaign.”
  105. On Thursday, the San Francisco Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump regime must preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program begun under Obama.
  106. The ruling rejected the regime’s claim that ending DACA was not reviewable by the courts. The regime took the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to review the case before the appeals court had ruled.
  107. On Thursday, the Trump regime invoked national security powers meant to protect the against threats from abroad, saying Trump can deny asylum to anyone who does not enter the country at an official port of entry,
  108. Trump is reportedly planning to deny asylum to migrants from Central America, whom he dubbed the caravans. The new rules draw upon the same authority he used to ban travel from Muslim countries in his Travel Ban.
  109. On Friday, in a setback for the Trump regime, a federal judge blocked construction on the 1,179-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the regime failed to follow established rules and procedures for decisions like these.
  110. The judge said the Trump regime failed to present a “reasoned explanation” for the move and “simply discarded” the effect that construction would have on climate change.
  111. When asked by reporters about the ruling, Trump said “It was a political decision made by a judge,” adding, “I think it’s a disgrace.”
  112. On Friday, WAPO reported that in former First Lady Michelle Obama’s new memoir she says she will never forgive Trump for advancing the false birther claim about her husband, which endangered her family.
  113. When asked about this by reporters, Trump said Michelle was undoubtedly paid a lot of money to write her book, and shifting to Obama said, “I’ll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military.”
  114. Trump also told reporters that he won the election not because of collusion with Russian, but because he was the better candidate and Clinton “didn’t know what the hell she was doing.”
  115. When asked about Acosta, Trump said “he’s a very unprofessional guy,” and denied the video was altered, saying “Nobody manipulated it. Give me a break,” adding “It wasn’t doctored. They gave a close-up view.”
  116. Trump was also agitated that the Florida and Arizona senate races, which appeared to go Republican on election night, still had outstanding votes to be counted and were undecided.
  117. Of Arizona, where counting of mail-in ballots continued, Trump said Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s votes seemed to be coming “out of the wilderness.”
  118. On Friday, in a series of eight tweets, Trump tweeted, “Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption — Call for a new Election?” adding, “We must protect our Democracy!”
  119. Trump appeared to be referencing a Fox News segment discussing a lawsuit by the Arizona GOP on Wednesday over the counting of mail-in ballots, which was later settled Friday, allowing the votes to be counted.
  120. Trump said “what’s going on in Florida is a disgrace,” adding of Republican Rick Scott, “He easily won, but every hour he seems to be going down,” and “I think people have to look at it very cautiously.”
  121. Trump had tweeted Thursday night, “Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!”
  122. On Friday, Trump also tweeted about the Georgia governor race where Brian Kemp declared victory but votes are still being counted, saying Republican Kemp “ran a great race in Georgia — he won. It is time to move on!”
  123. Trump also tweeted, “You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia — but the Election was on Tuesday?” and “Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!”
  124. Trump tweeted Democrats sent their “best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias,” to Broward County, then they started “miraculously” finding votes, adding “I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!”
  125. Trump also tweeted, “Rick Scott was up by 50,000+ votes on Election Day, now they “found” many votes and he is only up 15,000 votes. “The Broward Effect,” adding “How come they never find Republican votes?
  126. Trump tweeted in 2016 he was winning by so much in that Broward County, which was “probably getting ready to do a “number,” couldn’t do it because not enough people live in Broward for them to falsify a victory!
  127. On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio, in a series of tweets, suggested “democrat lawyers are descending on #Florida” to steal the election. He also referenced Broward County. Trump thanked him in a tweet.
  128. On Friday, standing on the porch of the Governor’s Mansion for a press conference, Scott accused “unethical liberals” of plotting to steal a U.S. Senate seat from him.
  129. Scott said he asked the state enforcement agency under his control to investigate the Broward Supervisor of Elections. A spokesperson for the agency said Scott did not submit a request, adding “We do not have an active investigation.”
  130. On Friday, Hannity said on his show, “This is a disgrace that they get to do this election in and election out,” adding “somebody needs to go to jail here, if this keeps happening.” Scott nodded along as Hannity spoke.
  131. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, without evidence, that there are “shenanigans going on in Broward and Palm Beach,” and in another tweet, “it didn’t work with Kavanaugh and it won’t work with @ScottforFlorida.”
  132. On Saturday, the Florida secretary of state, Republican Ken Detzner, ordered recounts of the senate and governor races, an unprecedented review of two major races.
  133. On Friday, WSJ reported Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence of Trump’s central role in hush payoffsto Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, which violated campaign-finance laws.
  134. In August 2015, as a presidential candidate, Trump met with David Pecker, chief executive of AMI. Pecker offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of women about their sexual encounters with Trump.
  135. The Journal found that Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with Michael Cohen and others. Cohen, Pecker, and Trump no longer speak.
  136. Cohen, who Trump called “my attorney” in April 2018, pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations. Federal prosecutors who investigated Cohen are now examining business dealings by the Trump Organization.
  137. On Saturday, in a tweet, Trump attacked authorities in California, claiming “gross mismanagement of the forests” is the cause of the state’s wildfires, and threatening federal aid, “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
  138. Nine people have died, hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated in a spate of wildfires this week as a result of the Camp Fire in the area of Paradise, California.
  139. On Friday, Trump traveled to Paris for ceremonies to honor the military in World War I as part of Armistice Day. He was scheduled to attend the military parade, after his plans to hold one in Washington were scuttled.
  140. On Friday, shortly after landing in Paris, Trump tweeted French President Macron’s call for a European army is “very insulting,” adding “Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”
  141. Macron has warned his fellow European nations that they can no longer rely on the U.S. to defend them. His latest remarks came after Trump decided to pull out of a key 1987 nuclear treaty with Russia.
  142. On Saturday, Trump canceled a visit to the U.S. military cemetery outside Paris at the site of a 1918 battle in which U.S. and French forces fended off German troops during World War I, due to rainy weather.
  143. The battle, in which more than 1,800 died, looms large in the history of the U.S. Marines Corps. Chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, his wife, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit instead.
  144. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron did attend ceremonies for their fallen at cemeteries outside Paris.
  145. On Saturday, Trump named seven who will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom award. The group includes Miriam Adelson, wife of Sheldon Adelson, both of whom gave $56 million to GOP Super PACs this cycle.
  146. On Saturday, NYT reported that the 5,600 American troops who were rushed to U.S.-Mexico border by Trump have little electricity, will receive no combat pay, and face holidays away from home.
  147. Military morale is an issue. The deployment orders last through mid-December, meaning the troops will miss Thanksgiving, and have little to do beyond providing logistical support, unless Trump declares martial law.

Last Night’s Mass Killing

Ken AshfordCrime, Gun Control, Mental Health, Military IssuesLeave a Comment

Twelve people including a police officer were killed by a veteran of the Marines at a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks, California, late Wednesday, officials said.

Several hundred people were inside the venue, which was hosting a “college country night” for students, police said.

The veteran, Ian Long, 28, who died of a gunshot wound, suffered from PTSD. Long has a history of run-ins with the police as recently as April this year, when deputies were called to his house after reports of a disturbance, Dean said. Long was “somewhat irate,” and “acting a little irrationally,” according to the sheriff, but he was assessed by a mental health specialist who cleared him and didn’t feel further action could be taken. It is unclear if Long shot himself.

The weapon was a Glock 21.



Are We Overly-Concerned About Whitaker?

Ken AshfordConstitution, Courts/Law, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Whitaker as Trump’s new Attorney General. Yes, there is cause for concern since he is a Trump loyalist, but I may be in the minority here in thinking that it is not the “red alert” that others make it to be. Here’s why:

(1) Opining on TV and print about how the Mueller investigation could or should be curtailed is different from actually making the decision. The DOJ culture is incredibly strong and if Whitaker is told by the DOJ Ethics Dept that he has a real or apparent conflict of interest, he might recuse himself and not buck the system and his colleagues. Don’t underestimate peer pressure.

(2) Relatedly, NOT recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation, especially if he is advised to so by his own ethics department, would be a career killer for him.

(3) If he kills the investigation or fires Mueller, he must, by law, justify his decision in writing. With reasons. He knows he will have to defend his decision before the Dem-controlled House when the new congressional session starts in January, which might be difficult if ethics experts in his own department have told him he has a conflict of interest and should recuse himself for oversight of the Mueller investigation.

(4) He can’t “starve” the investigation by cutting off funding. The investigation is funded until June right now, and that’s plenty of time for Mueller to do what he needs to do.

(5) Besides, Mueller may not need much money since, by most accounts, Mueller is close to done anyway. He has likely written a preliminary report. That’s not going anywhere. Neither is all his work product, which is in the hands of the FBI. Also, Mueller may have indictments ready, or already filed secret indictments. Those can be filed or revealed at a moment’s notice.

(6) Don’t discount the possibility that many Republicans in this Congress, especially those who are leaving or were voted out and who Trump recently mocked, won’t try to do something to protect Mueller. Or even the next Congress, which could bring back a special prosecutor statute and invoke it. Yes, Republicans hold the Senate, but not by much, and they aren’t ALL Trump loyalists (Mitt Romney, for example)

(7) District offices, like the Southern District of New York (SDNY) are technically under the control of the Attorney General, but traditionally maintain a lot of independence. A lot of what Mueller has discovered has been “farmed out” to certain districts (like Michael Cohen, being handled by the SDNY rather that the Mueller team). Whitaker was a US Attorney in Iowa, and probably won’t mess with the independence of other non-special-prosecutors.

(8) Whatever Mueller has done can be picked up by the House in January when Dems take over. Unfortunately, the House can’t prosecute people, and therefore lacks the pressure to “flip” them like Mueller has done. But you know who does have that power? State prosecutors who are not under the control of the United States Attorney General at all. If someone committed a federal crime, chances are that they committed a states crime too (for example, if you lied about your income on a federal income tax form, you probably lied about it on your state form as well). So there’s that. Working together, state prosecutors can also investigate Trump-Russia (or just Trump on other issues)

Bottom line. If Trump thinks he can end the “witch hunt” by installing a loyalist as Attorney General, he is very wrong. Even if he manages to get the special prosecutor ousted, he will only prolong his troubles, and perhaps even add to them. Nixon found that out pretty quickly.

Letter from House to Whitaker:

Then again, I could be wrong….

Norm Eisen believes Whitaker MUST recuse…

A just-out NY Times editorial, cowritten by George Conway (Kellyanne Conway’s husband) argues that Whitaker’s appointment is unconstitutional:

Much of the commentary about Mr. Whitaker’s appointment has focused on all sorts of technical points about the Vacancies Reform Act and Justice Department succession statutes. But the flaw in the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, runs much deeper. It defies one of the one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.

If you don’t believe us, then take it from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom President Trump once called his “favorite” sitting justice. Last year, the Supreme Court examined the question of whether the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board had been lawfully appointed to his job without Senate confirmation. The Supreme Court held the appointment invalid on a statutory ground.

Justice Thomas agreed with the judgment, but wrote separately to emphasize that even if the statute had allowed the appointment, the Constitution’s Appointments Clause would not have. The officer in question was a principal officer, he concluded. And the public interest protected by the Appointments Clause was a critical one: The Constitution’s drafters, Justice Thomas argued, “recognized the serious risk for abuse and corruption posed by permitting one person to fill every office in the government.” Which is why, he pointed out, the framers provided for advice and consent of the Senate.

What goes for a mere lawyer at the N.L.R.B. goes in spades for the attorney general of the United States, the head of the Justice Department and one of the most important people in the federal government.

***

We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation. (Yes, he was confirmed as a federal prosecutor in Iowa, in 2004, but President Trump can’t cut and paste that old, lapsed confirmation to today.) For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.

In times of crisis, interim appointments need to be made. Cabinet officials die, and wars and other tragic events occur. It is very difficult to see how the current situation comports with those situations. And even if it did, there are officials readily at hand, including the deputy attorney general and the solicitor general, who were nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Either could step in as acting attorney general, both constitutionally and statutorily.

Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in such a position of grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is President Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always.

Hmmmmmm.

UPDATE — here’s some legal analysis that beats the shit out of my non-legal analysis, from CREW:

[embeddoc url=”http://www.ashford.zone/images/2018/11/Whitaker-recusal-letter_final.pdf” width=”100%” height=”700px” download=”all”
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