Monthly Archives: June 2017

The First Hard Evidence of Collusion

And it comes from the staunch conservative outlet, The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ writes:

Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump.

“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails.

Emails written by Mr. Smith and one of his associates show that his small group considered Mr. Flynn and his consulting company, Flynn Intel Group, to be allies in their quest.

What role, if any, Mr. Flynn may have played in Mr. Smith’s project is unclear. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Smith said he knew Mr. Flynn, but he never stated that Mr. Flynn was involved…

Mr. Smith died at age 81 on May 14, which was about 10 days after the Journal interviewed him. His account of the email search is believed to be his only public comment on it….

In the interview with the Journal, Mr. Smith said he and his colleagues found five groups of hackers who claimed to possess Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails, including two groups he determined were Russians.

“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,” Mr. Smith said…

Mr. Smith said he never intended to pay for any emails found by hackers.

He said he understood the risk in publishing the emails himself. If, under public scrutiny, they proved not to be genuine, “people would say we made them up,” he said, and the whole project would be dismissed as a Republican hit job on the Clinton campaign. In the early 1990s, Mr. Smith helped publicize Arkansas state troopers’ claims that then-Gov. Bill Clinton had enlisted them to arrange trysts with women, an unproven allegation denied by the Clinton White House…

The Journal also reported that “investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.”

In sum, there is evidence that individuals connected to the Trump campaign were seeking stolen emails from Russian hackers and evidence that Russian hackers were trying to provide them to a top Trump adviser.

The Blackmail of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzski

The fallout from Trump’s Twitter attack yesterday on TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzski (mostly the latter) continues, and it doesn’t go well for Trump.  The couple wrote a devastating op-ed in WaPo, the title of which says it all:

They are quite right — Donald Trump is not well.  I question whether he ever was.  But it is what they said this morning on their show that caught my interest, and the interest of many others:

MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski claim President Trump and his White House used the possibility of a hit piece in the National Enquirer to threaten them.

But President Trump has a very different account of what happened. “FAKE NEWS,” he tweeted during “Morning Joe” Friday morning.
The editor in charge of the Enquirer, Dylan Howard, said “we have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.”

Meanwhile, Scarborough says he has proof of the White House threats — “I have texts from your top aides and phone records.”
Scarborough and Brzezinski are essentially alleging a form of blackmail.

The accusation came during a wider discussion about the president’s offensive tweets targeting the co-hosts. It piqued the attention of journalists because it implies that the president is using a friendly media outlet to punish his opponents.

What’s definitely true is this: Trump and the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, are friends and allies. Jeffrey Toobin documented the mutually beneficial relationship in this week’s edition of The New Yorker.

The Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid, frequently promotes the president’s agenda.

Here’s exactly what the co-hosts alleged on Friday’s “Morning Joe.”

“We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys…’ And they said, ‘If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough didn’t name names, but he said “three people at the very top of the administration” called him about this.

“The calls kept coming and kept coming, and they were like ‘Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call him.'”

In other words, grovel to the president and he’ll make the mean story disappear.

Scarborough did not immediately respond to a request from CNN for more details.

But he and Brzezinski also described the alleged discussion in a Washington Post column on Friday.

“This year,” they wrote, “top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.”

Scarborough and Brzezinski are now engaged. The negative article was about their past marriages and the beginning of their relationship. It was published in early June.

Dylan Howard, the chief content officer for the Enquirer’s parent company American Media, said “we accurately reported” the story, but “at no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story.”

Brzezinski suggested otherwise.

“Let me explain what they were threatening,” she said. “They were calling my children. They were calling close friends.”

She said “these calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House where they said ‘Oh, this could go away.'”

In response, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that he is “not aware” of White House officials pressing Scarborough to call up Trump and make nice.

Here’s the video:

The president himself weighed in via Twitter a few minutes later.

Scarborough responded quickly to Trump’s tweet with one of his own:

It get worse.

For Trump.

Redstate talked to Scarborough and asked him about it. This is what Scarborough reportedly said:

“NBC execs knew in real time about the calls and who made them to me. That’s why Mark Kornblau wrote about contemporaneous texts. I showed him and executives as they were coming in to keep them advised.”

Scarborough also said the calls about the National Enquirer story started in late April and early May but that he never placed a call to President Trump, contra Trump’s tweet. “I never called the President about this,” he said. “I challenge him to reveal any phone records showing that I called him. He can’t because I didn’t.”

Blackmail is a very serious charge. The administration will likely face questions about in their latest press briefing and how they respond will be telling.

UPDATE: NY Magazine has news on this, with sources. This seems to be the story — it contradiction that Joe called him to discuss the Enquirer story.

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Daily Beast (which apparently published just before NYMag) has basically the same story.

UPDATE:  A Vanity Fair story adds come color. This is Mika’s perspective…

Healthcare Update

Yesterday was a strange news day and not just because of the Trump’s tweets about Morning Joe.  I want to cover much of it, and it is going to take a couple of posts.

First, healthcare.

The Senate Health Care bill looks dead.  McConnell wanted to get the Senate bill, BCRA, passed before the July 4 extended break.  He wanted it passed without hearings, without debate, without amendments. The CBO score on the bill was horrible, and McConnell could not bridge the gap between the Freedom Caucus (Rand Paul) who thought the Senate version didn’t go far enough, and the moderate Republicans (Susan Collins) who rightly saw the bill as barbaric.  A last ditch effort yesterday led to nothing, and the Senate adjourned.

That didn’t stop Trump from tweeting about health care this morning.

Why this tweet is extraordinary: It’s literally the opposite of what then president-elect Trump told Paul Ryan after he won the election and shortly before Congress went into session. Part of the reason why the House GOP leadership didn’t run with a clean repeal vote, as they’d done many times under President Obama, was because Trump had made it clear to Ryan he wouldn’t sign the bill.

Behind Trump’s tweet: He’s frustrated, like every other Republican involved in the jammed-up health care negotiations. HHS Secretary Tom Price met with senior officials at the White House yesterday, and a source familiar with the meeting said the mood was far more negative than the day before.

Looks like the break is coming and GOP lawmakers are going to get an earful in town meetings at home

https://twitter.com/KenAshford/status/880621298904440832

I Wonder Why Trump Gets Negative Press

This morning:

This, apparently, is what set him off:

Not too bad. I mean, it’s not like they claimed he wasn’t born in America. I guess it was the “little hands” thing that may have done it.

Then again, maybe it was the fact that Hannity went after Joe last night.

In any event, Mr. Unpresidential Thinskin’s response was horrible.

Since I am speechless, I will let Jay Caruso over at the conservative Redstate speak for me:

Unfortunately, for the people who are upset Donald Trump receives very little positive media coverage, they need to cast their gaze at the President and not the media because he brings it on himself time and time again.

Remember, he is the President of The United States of America. He is the Commander-In-Chief. He is the de facto leader of the free world.

***

First of all, that he’s bellowing about Morning Joe means he was watching the show this morning. Why say something about a show you don’t watch?

Second, when the President tweets high school drivel such as this, the media is going to talk about it because it is what he is discussing. Kellyanne Conway tried to argue the media is “obsessed” over the President’s tweets, but the White House said his tweets are official statements. It is not Donald Trump, the reality television host popping off about Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. It is an official statement issued by the President of The United States.

What President Trump said about Mika supposedly bleeding from a facelift is low-grade trash, worthy of anonymous Internet trolls, not the most powerful man in the world.

People will argue, “Oh that’s just the President trolling, and guys like you fell for it.” Yes, silly me. I expect the President of the United States to concern himself with matters related to his office and to conduct himself with a little character and dignity.

How gauche. 

Naturally, what will happen, is the media will focus on this (tada!) because the President thinks tweeting the way guys scribble on the bathroom wall in the 9th grade is the proper way to conduct his daily business. Meanwhile, the people in his administration who are doing real work, aren’t getting credit or media coverage for the work they’re doing because President Jeff Spicoli is too busy making Mr. Hand speculate if he’s on dope.

Grow up, Mr. President.

This is bullying. This is sexist. It may even indicate mental instability.  He thinks that when you read these Mika tweets, you’ll be on his side. In his mind, he’s being persuasive. Imagine being that awful.

Personally, I would love to see him censured by Congress.

Backlash is universally negative.  Mika herself responded this way:

MSNBC:

MSNBC’s competitor:

And from others:

(Lynn Jenkins is a GOP Congresswoman from Kansas)

Coming to his defense:

I’m so glad he has his hands on the red button.  Also,

********************************************************************

MORE:

For the record, “Morning Joe” enjoyed its highest ratings ever in the second quarter of this year and has increased viewership in nine consecutive quarters.  And….

What? You mean Trump lied?

And yeah. I know some people are saying Trump is trying to distract everyone from the horrible healthcare thing, but that doesn’t make sense.  People can focus on more than one thing.  Besides, distract us from what?  Are things happening that we can see or discuss?  Not yet.

UPDATE:  From the Sarah Huckabee press briefing —

I wish someone would ask what it is with Trump and visions of women bleeding.

BONUS UPDATE — Even Hannity!!

… but he adds that he can nevertheless understand how Trump is upset with “Morning Joe” coverage. And then calls media “crybabies”…