...but his babysitters clearly are preoccupied, because he's at his Twitter again. So let's what's on his mind. Here's a nice response:
President Trump is at his Florida golf club this morning, marking his 88th day at a Trump golf property and his 114th day at a Trump property since taking office https://t.co/yKUG9cPeFy pic.twitter.com/kdSl2qASvy— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 29, 2017
And The Weather Channel adds to the fray:
1: This isn’t how climate change works.2: We weren’t paying trillions of dollars. You didn’t understand the Paris Agreement in June and you still don’t. 3: Climate Change is real. It is a serious threat to our children. You need people on your team who can explain this to you. https://t.co/SQG9cMGOGe — Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) December 29, 2017
He's also very concerned about his approval ratings: The problem, of course, is that he is comparing his poll numbers with Rasmussen to Obama's Gallup numbers. The truth is that when you take poll averages, Trump is at 36% whereas Obama, at this point, was at 47.7%. AAAnd he's going after Amazon and/or the Post Office: So much for the businessman not understanding the concept of BULK discounts. Amazon could easily use another carrier. But clearly the most-discussed Trump news this morning is his "surprise" interview with the New York Times, printed last night. It's much-discussed for two reasons: (1) what Trump said and (2) the fact that the reporter didn't push back on anything Trump said. I understand and agree with the criticism of the New York Times reporter. On the other hand, if he had asked questions or pushed back on Trump's "facts", there would have been no interview (or, at least, a very very short one). It is, not surprisingly, fact-free. One media outlet logged 25 outright lies (as opposed to exaggerated claims). In any event, Trump talks about the Russia collusion scandal, insisting 16 times there is no collusion, and relying heavily on Alan Dershowitz's argument that "collusion is not a crime". But most of it is word salad. Let's dip in a little.
1) There is a difference between #weather and #climate. 2) Short-term #cold snaps will continue to occur in a warming climate. 3) 2017 will likely be a top three warmest year on record for the globe. (Graphic: Univ. of Maine - Climate Change Institute) https://t.co/kzuugeXi80 pic.twitter.com/gueOsp4yvu— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) December 29, 2017
"I thought it was a terrible thing he did. [Inaudible.] I thought it was certainly unnecessary. I thought it was a terrible thing."This is Trump talking about his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the decision by Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation! And that, by the way, was a terrible thing.
"Frankly, there is absolutely no collusion. That's been proven by every Democrat is saying it."Not every Deomcrat is saying that, and even if they were, that's not evidence. Certainly, not proof. Yikes!
"Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is."Yeah, he should have been asked for the names of these "great" congressmen, and what makes them "great". Obviously, this is self-serving bullshit.
"I think it's been proven that there is no collusion."Oh, well. Let's move on then.
"She campaigned for the popular vote. I campaigned for the Electoral College."This is sophistry. Of course Hillary campaigned for the Electoral College. She just got the polls wrong.
And you know, it is a totally different thing, Mike. You know the Electoral College, it’s like a track star. If you’re going to run the 100-yard dash, you work out differently than if you’re going to run the 1,000 meters or the mile. And it’s different. It’s in golf. If you have a tournament and you have match play or stroke play, you prepare differently, believe it or not. It’s different. Match play is very different than stroke play. And you prepare. So I went to Maine five times, I went to [inaudible], the genius of the Electoral College is that you go to places you might not go to. And that’s exactly what [inaudible]. Otherwise, I would have gone to New York, California, Texas and Florida.What the hell? It's like a child trying to tell a joke they just heard. They know the parts but they just can't piece it together.
I have no expectation [of Mueller]. I can only tell you that there is absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it. And you know who knows it better than anybody? The Democrats. They walk around blinking at each other.He's very confident. Why???
"I hope that he's [Mueller] going to be fair. I think that he's going to be fair."This is laying the groundwork a little bit. Meaning, if Mueller is NOT fair... But actually, it goes against the attacks that have been laid out by Fox News and Trump apologists -- i.e., that the Mueller investigation HAS ALREADY BEEN unfair. Trump hasn't really joined in that effort publicly, but he has attacked the FBI and the Justice Department.
"I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion."He watches no television? Anyway, that was November when she said that, and what she ACTUALLY said was not in response to COLLUSION, per se. Feinstein was specifically asked if she had seen evidence that the Trump campaign was given Democratic emails hacked by Russia. “Not so far,” she responded.
"I actually think it's turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion."This is Fox News tripe -- i.e., the Democrats and the Russians got together and created a dossier to bring down Trump (although they ended up not using it at all, for some reason). It doesn't pass the laugh test.
"The only thing that bothers me about timing, I think it's a very bad thing for the country. Because it makes the country look bad. It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position."He's setting up the argument that getting rid of the Mueller investigation serves the country's interest, not his own.
"Whatever happened to the Pakistani guy, that had the two, you know, whatever happened to this Pakistani guy who worked with the DNC?. . . Whatever happened to him? That was a big story. Now all of sudden [inaudible]."The "Pakistani guy" is Imran Awan, who was arrested on bank fraud charges in July as he tried to flee the country. Awan had worked for former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, among other Democrats on Capitol Hill. It's a story, just not as big as the President's campaign possibly colluding with Russia.
"Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 emails after she got [inaudible]?"Clinton did delete more than 31,000 emails on her private email server after a review by longtime Clinton confidante Cheryl Mills and Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson determined those emails were entirely personal. Clinton turned over more than 30,0000 emails from that server that she believed had some sort of tie to her professional life. This has been printed over and over again. The FBI looked into it. There's nothing more to say about it. Also, she's not president.
"I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department."This was in response to the reporter saying, "You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?" Trump doesn't answer this question, but merely says he can do what he wants with the Justice Department. Trump is technically right here. If he wanted to fire Sessions or even Mueller, he could. But his use of "absolute right" will unsettle many people who have long held doubts that the President understands that there are real boundaries built into government to avoid the executive seizing total power.
"They made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election that in theory Democrats should always win with the Electoral College."The special counsel was formed by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general in the Trump Justice Department -- an organization with which he has "absolute right to do what I want to do." Mueller, a Republican, had been appointed head of the FBI by a Republican president. The heads of the two congressional committees investigating Russian involvement in the election are Republicans. And so on.
"It's too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it's too bad he recused himself."Oh well.
I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.This is weird. He starts out with what SEEMS like a criticism of Holder/Obama, but ends up being praise. He respects Holder for being loyal to Trump. That speaks volumes about what Trump considers important.
"We hear bulls*** from the Democrats. Like Joe Manchin. Joe's a nice guy."First of all, what other president could get away with saying bullshit? Secondly, he criticizes Manchin and then says he is a nice guy, in the same breath almost. Weird, but very Trumpian.
"I'm the one that saved coal."Oh, really?
"We've essentially gutted and ended Obamacare."Nope! But it will hurt it.
"I know more about the big bills ... [Inaudible] ... than any president that's ever been in office."This, from the guy who, one month into office, suddenly discovered that healthcare was very complicated.
But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.And yet, he can't articulate anything that is true.
"Obamacare is essentially ... you know, you saw this ... it's basically dead over a period of time."Not really.
"He treated me better than anybody's ever been treated in the history of China."Trump, in addition to knowing healthcare and tax law and everything else, also knows the entire history of China.
"In fact, I hate to say, it was reported this morning, and it was reported on Fox."Fox & Friends... better than a PDB.
"Another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes."The cynicism here is towering. And it reveals Trump's basic belief that everything and everyone is solely motivated by profit. ********** Speaking of interviews, at a West Palm Beach fire station on Tuesday, Trump said, "You know, one of the things that people don’t understand — we have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman." Nope Truman: 240-250 Carter: 249 HW Bush: 242 Clinton: 209 Reagan: 158 Obama: 124 W Bush: 109 Trump: 96 But, bluster aside, Trump and his minions are still up to no good: 2018 is going to be unbearable.
This is something many conservatives tell themselves, but it’s not even slightly true. Trump is changing conservatism into something different. We can all observe that. Will it snap back afterward? You can believe this only if you imagine that ideologies exist independently of the human beings who espouse them—and that they can continue unchanged and unchanging despite the flux of their adherents. In this view, millions of American conservatives may build their political identities on enthusiastic support for Donald Trump, but American conservatism will continue humming in the background as if none of those human commitments mattered at all. This is simply not true. Ideas are not artifacts, especially the kind of collective ideas we know as ideologies. Conservatives in 1964 opposed civil-rights laws. Conservatives in 1974 opposed tax cuts unless paid for by spending cuts. Conservatives in 1984 opposed same-sex marriage. Conservatives in 1994 opposed trade protectionism. Conservatives in 2004 opposed people who equated the FBI and Soviet Union’s KGB. All those statements of conservative ideology have gone by the boards, and one could easily write a similar list of amended views for liberals. Conservatism is what conservatives think, say, and do. As conservatives change—as much through the harsh fact of death and birth as by the fluctuations of opinion—so does what it means to be a conservative.
1) A very great many conservatives seem to hope that after this Trump unpleasantness is over, they can retrieve their former icons from the attic, dust them off, and reinstall them in the living room, good as new.— David Frum (@davidfrum) December 20, 2017
I think this is correct. This post is entitled "Can Conservatism Survive Trump?" and I agree with Frum that the answer is "YES, but only because Trumpism IS conservatism." I guess the big unknown is... so what happens to centrist Republicans like Frum -- of which there are many (not only in the world of punditry, but in the country)?
2) I think that is wrong. The most important fact about the American Right post-Trump will precisely be that it supported & protected the Trump presidency. The Right will attract people who admire Trumpism; repel those who reject it. Movements are what their members make them.— David Frum (@davidfrum) December 20, 2017
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, inserted language into the final tax bill that would enrich three different constituencies: fossil fuel firms, Republicans’ major campaign donors and a handful of Cornyn’s GOP congressional colleagues including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and two other Texas lawmakers in the House. Cornyn originally added the language in an amendment to the Senate bill at the same time his former chief of staff was lobbying both the House and Senate on the tax treatment for those same oil and gas partnerships. Cornyn’s amendment ensures Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), which are publicly traded partnerships that aren’t required to pay corporate income taxes, get the “pass-through” tax break in the final tax bill. Congressional Republicans have settled on a 20 percent deduction for some types of pass-through entities in their final tax bill as a way to give those businesses, which don't pay corporate taxes, some of the tax relief the bill gives to corporations, which do pay the corporate levy. MLPs were first created in the 1980s, but by the end of the decade lawmakers, worried about revenue loss, restricted their use to certain industries — primarily natural resource extraction. Today they are mostly used by investors in oil and gas pipelines, who use the vehicles to raise capital and avoid corporate taxes. An International Business Times investigation last week revealed that 16 members of Congress — 13 Republicans and three Democrats — are invested in between $4.6 million and $10.6 million worth of MLPs. Those lawmakers stand to benefit from Cornyn’s amendment, which reduces levies on income from MLPs, leaving more money for distributions to investors. Reps. David Trott of Michigan and Thomas MacArthur of New Jersey and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, all Republicans, are among those who may see the biggest tax reductions.This may be the only piece of major legislation that Trump will pass, and aside from PERSONALLY benefiting from it, Republicans and Trump are really screwing the lower and middle class. It is a dishonest power and money grab by -- and on behalf of -- the already powerful. As for "inducements," well, there are those long-term investments of tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions (enabled by the collapse of all the guardrails around political money) from wealthy individuals and regiments of interest groups. They will have a merry holiday season if the bill passes as expected. This legislation proves that Washington is, indeed, the "swamp" President Trump described during the campaign. But instead of draining it, he and his partisan allies have jumped right in. Actually, they have polluted it further. A prime example of this subtle corruption is how the "compromise" bill deals with the radical scaling back of the deduction for state and local taxes ("SALT"). Gutting the SALT tax break sets back the common good because doing so penalizes states that (a) have progressive income taxes, and (b) have somewhat larger governments and thus tend to invest more in education, infrastructure and programs for the needy. While California, New York and New Jersey are hit hard, many other states are hurt, too. But instead of restoring all or most of the lost deduction, Republicans offered a fig leaf compromise. Originally, the Senate bill reduced the amount that could be deducted to $10,000 and restricted it to property taxes. The new version keeps the cap while allowing the deduction to be used for sales and income taxes as well. For most taxpayers who use the existing deduction, this doesn't solve their problem. One estimate from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that 1.89 million Californians would still see their taxes rise under the new provision, only a modest drop from the 2.36 million who would have had a tax increase under the version confined to property taxes. Any California representative who votes for this is voting against the interests of the state. Ah, but the Republicans did want to respond to rich New Yorkers and Californians who were howling to their usual GOP benefactors, including Trump, about their lost SALT deductions. So rather than offer general relief, the Republicans sliced the top income tax rate -- for couples earning $600,000 or more -- from the current 39.6 percent to 37 percent. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, could not really explain why only the best off got real help, arguing lamely that middle-income people got other benefits from the bill. The shamelessness of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's description of the bill on CNN Sunday as "a very large tax cut for working families" is quite staggering. Consider that this confection of loopholes gives lawyers at big firms many paths to lower taxes, but not much to the people who clean their offices. Soon, all Americans will demand the right to transform themselves into "pass-through" legal entities. The bill's champions claim that the big corporate tax cut will lead to massive new investment. But, as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (no enemy of business) pointed out, corporations are already "sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion." Bloomberg added: "It's pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth." And imagine: The "Make America Great Again" crowd appears to have designed a corporate tax system that creates new incentives to "shift profits and operations overseas," as former Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling argued in a careful analysis. Trump probably doesn't even know this. The key to corruption is operating in the dark. This bill is a mess of opaque provisions that almost no one outside the ranks of tax lobbyists understands -- because many of these giveaways were written or inspired by lobbyists themselves. Needlessly rushing a massive special-interest tax bill through Congress is the antithesis of good government. This doesn't seem to matter anymore, even to Republicans who built reputations as champions of moderation, openness and rectitude.
To insure that the final bill would have enough votes in both chambers, the conference committee larded the bill with various additional handouts. They reduced the top rate of income tax to thirty-seven per cent, compared to 38.5 per cent in the Senate bill. (Currently, the effective top rate is close to forty-one per cent.) And they did a big favor to large businesses by getting rid of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax, which many of them could have ended up paying because their tax rates under the new system will be so low.
The principle of simplifying the tax code met the same fate as the principle of fiscal responsibility: it was jettisoned. Originally, the White House proposed reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to three. The final bill contains seven brackets: ten per cent, twelve per cent, twenty-two per cent, twenty-four per cent, thirty-two per cent, thirty-five per cent, and thirty-seven per cent.
According to its authors, the bill will also increase the budget deficit by about $1.5 trillion over ten years (it's actually closer to $2 trillion), which means that -- years from now -- Republicans will use that as an excuse to cut social services.Details aside, here in broad numbers is the bill’s impact 10 years from now, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center: Nearly 70 percent of families with incomes of between $54,700 and $93,200 a year would pay more in taxes than they would under current law. By contrast, 92 percent of families whose incomes put them in the top 0.1 percent of the country would get a tax cut averaging $206,280. As for fairness, that principle was junked a long time ago. The final bill reflects the same principle as the previous two G.O.P. bills: Dom Perignon for the plutocrats, cheap swill for the masses. The bill is also cruel. In abolishing the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to purchase health insurance, it will make individual plans even more costly and more difficult to obtain, especially for sick people. This isn’t just a tax bill. It is a backdoor effort to overturn the principle of universal access to health care. This truly is the moment that Paul Ryan has been waiting for his whole life, not to mention his political career. The man has no soul:
Despite protests, it will pass.
Today has been a moment decades in the making. Let's get it done. pic.twitter.com/abuqrCEMPb— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 19, 2017
UPDATE: Tax Policy Center Analysis -- [embeddoc url="http://www.ashford.zone/images/2017/12/2001641_distributional_analysis_of_the_conference_agreement_for_the_tax_cuts_and_jobs_act.pdf"] By the way, note that everyone gets a nice tax cut next year (mid-term elections) and the worst effects don't really come in until later -- except for the wealthiest. But by 2027, over half of all Americans — 53% — would pay more in taxes under the tax bill agreed to by House and Senate Republican. UPDATE: 12 principled Republicans
MOMENTS AGO: Chants of "kill the bill, don't kill us!" break out in House of Representatives ahead of vote on major tax bill - ABC News pic.twitter.com/ftoAXyIb60— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) December 19, 2017
Paul Ryan bangs the gavel like it is Christmas. 12 Republican "no" votes mostly from populous states (because of the SALT issues mentioned above): UPDATE AGAIN: Oooops. The House vote was a waste of time, as it turns out. The bill they voted on did not comply with Senate rules (this is what happens when major legislation is passed without proper review and vetting). But the Senate voted in the wee hours of the morning (December 20) by a 51-48 margin, strictly on party lines (Sen. McCain [R-AZ] is recovering from brain cancer treatment and didn't vote). The House is expected to re-vote December 20 with approval, and the the White House will take a victory lap in the afternoon.
BREAKING: House passes first rewrite of nation's tax laws in three decades, providing steep tax cuts for businesses, the wealthy.— The Associated Press (@AP) December 19, 2017
Those investigations [of Manafort and Flynn] would go on even if Mueller leaves. When the Justice Department initiates an investigation, it can’t be closed without following a set of procedures that ensure cases aren’t shut down for improper reasons. If a case is opened, it can’t be “declined” — closed without bringing charges — without a detailed justification for closing the case. As a former federal prosecutor, I’ve declined my share of cases, and it takes time. Declining even a routine case requires a written explanation justifying the declination, citing specific reasons that are consistent with Justice Department guidelines. In more complex or high-profile matters, much more extensive memorandums are prepared. Once in my career, I inherited a complex case that another prosecutor unsuccessfully sought to decline, and I ultimately charged the case. Any cases Mueller’s team is working on wouldn’t magically decline themselves if Mueller is fired. The reports of interviews in the FBI computer system wouldn’t delete themselves. The documents and other evidence collected by Mueller’s team of FBI agents and prosecutors wouldn’t destroy themselves, either. In fact, Justice Department procedure is to retain evidence for years even after a file is closed. Whenever I closed a file, I had to specify how many years the evidence would be retained. Trump’s legal team is probably aware of all of this and has probably considered exactly what would happen if Mueller was removed. While I doubt they’ve communicated all of the specifics to him personally, their strategy is surely informed by a knowledge of how the Justice Department works and a desire to contain any damage caused by Mueller’s investigation. Firing Mueller would put Rosenstein in charge of the investigations instead of Mueller. Rosenstein recently defended Mueller before Congress and strongly suggested that he approved of the direction of the investigations. If Trump fired Mueller, Rosenstein could appoint a replacement. Or if Trump ordered the repeal of the special counsel regulations governing the investigations, Rosenstein could appoint a Justice Department prosecutor to oversee the investigation. What if Trump fired Rosenstein and Mueller? Or fired Sessions and Mueller? Firing Mueller would generate massive protests and could spur Congress to take up new legislation to establish an independent counsel. If Mueller was fired improperly, he or others could initiate legal action to fight the termination, keeping the story in the headlines. Firing him would give Trump the opportunity to replace Mueller with someone who was determined to undermine the investigation. But it would have significant downsides. For example, if the new special counsel swiftly ended the investigations, Congress and the public might conclude that Trump and/or his associates were guilty of serious crimes and that replacing Mueller was part of a coverup. If the new special counsel improperly terminated an investigation, prosecutors and FBI agents might come forward and accuse him or her of wrongdoing. That could ultimately generate new criminal liability for anyone involved. If a new special counsel permitted the investigations to go forward, though, that could be the worst of all worlds for Trump. Democrats would assume that the new special counsel was biased on Trump’s behalf, and Republicans would be less likely to distrust a new special counsel than they are to distrust Mueller, who has been the subject of intense attacks in conservative media. So if a new special counsel found that there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump, the decision would be called into question, even though a similar determination by Mueller would be hard for Democrats to second-guess. On the flip side, if a new special counsel took aim at Trump and his inner circle, it would be harder for Trump to call it a “witch hunt.” All that means is that ultimately, keeping Mueller around but continuing to attack him and the FBI is probably Trump’s best strategy.I think this is right. Rather than fire people, which won't END anything, but rather, stir up EVERYTHING, the tactic is to sow public doubt about Mueller and his prosecutors in advance of upcoming criminal trials — and to give the president political cover if he wants to start issuing pardons to any current or former aides swept up in the Russia scandal. This thing is heating up.
In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.
Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.
For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.
The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.
The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.
Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, said he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Mr. Reid said in a recent interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”
Two other former senators and top members of a defense spending subcommittee — Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat — also supported the program. Mr. Stevens died in 2010, and Mr. Inouye in 2012.
This is the sort of story that would make the 12 year old me talk non-stop. I have largely become agnostic about whether or not we are being visited. Still, I find the videos compelling.The section of the Pentagon still exists, although officially, it was defunded in 2012. The truth is out there.
- The rising conservative drumbeat to discredit the investigation and the investigators is gaining GOP converts.
- Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the chamber's #2 Republican, said on ABC yesterday that it would be "a mistake" to fire the special counsel. But Cornyn tweeted a day earlier: "Mueller needs to clean house of partisans."
- Trump said yesterday when asked about the tens of thousands of transition emails Mueller had obtained from the GSA, which ran the server: "Not looking good. It's not looking good. It's quite sad to see that. My people are very upset about it. ... A lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad."
- A source close to the White House said: "You're starting to win over mainstream conservatives to the backlash over overreach."
- The source said that Trump, not known for patience, has attacked the investigation but mostly resisted personalizing attacks on Mueller. One sign: Trump isn't calling Mueller by a demeaning nickname.
- "[T]he F.B.I. has handed them fresh ammunition to claim that the agents investigating the president may be biased."
- But, but, but: "Legal experts said there was no indication that Mr. Mueller, who has wide power to obtain documents through written requests, subpoenas and search warrants, improperly obtained the transition emails."
- Watters: "Is the FBI part of the resistance? It's like the FBI had Michael Moore investigating the president of the United States. ... The investigation into Donald Trump's campaign has been crooked from the jump."
That optimism has left some of the President’s friends and advisers worried the deadline could come and go, leaving Trump frustrated and more prone to rash behavior than ever before, including potentially firing Mueller. … Three sources familiar with the President’s recent conversations about the investigation said Trump has become convinced that he will receive a letter of exoneration, which would be unusual. One source worried Trump would have a “meltdown” if that doesn’t happen.By the way, Trump has entertained trying to remove Mueller before. The fact that his own friends and advisers see it as a real possibility perhaps suggests we should prepare for the worst. This weekend, Trump repeated his "no collusion, no collusion" mantra, despite the fact that two of his closest campaign advisers have pleaded guilty to what amounts to collusion. In related news, we learn this morning that in the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would likely try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, according to multiple government officials familiar with the matter. The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies. Trump was "briefed and warned" at the session about potential espionage threats from Russia, two former law enforcement officials familiar with the sessions told NBC News. A source close to the White House said their position is that Trump was unaware of the contacts between his campaign and Russians.
UPDATE #2 • 13 of 14 train cars jumped the tracks • 5 motor vehicles were struck by the derailed train • 2 semi trucks also hit FINAL UPDATE: 3 dead Train was going 80 mph on a 30 mph bend
The president is using the Washington state train derailment to push his infrastructure plan. https://t.co/Rm8uP7qsWx— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 18, 2017
I have not watched all of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. But I watched three hours of it, and that was quite enough to convey the disturbing and dangerous nature of the current moment. It was enough to highlight the apparent breadth of the congressional Republican effort to delegitimize the Robert Mueller investigation. The attacks on Mueller and his staff and allegations of supposed conflicts of interest were not the province of a fringe but a matter of an apparent consensus among House Republicans, at least on the famously partisan judiciary committee. It was enough to loose upon the world an almost hysterical attack on an FBI agent and an FBI attorney in the presence of little evidence that either has done anything wrong—as opposed to merely ill-advised and unfortunate—and in the midst of an ongoing inspector general investigation that has not yet reached any conclusions. It was enough to lay bare the absurdity of Republican demands for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate a series of matters about which there is not even the barest allegation of criminal conduct—let alone a predicate for an actual investigation. It was enough to bring to the surface the bizarre fixation in the Republican caucus on conspiracy theories involving Fusion GPS, the so-called Steele Dossier, FISA surveillance, and the Mueller investigation. And it was enough to make clear, yet again, that Rod Rosenstein is a man out of his depth and to make one sympathize for him at the same time. My enthusiasm for Rosenstein these days is altogether under control. And his behavior in this episode, in particular, has hardly done him credit. The release of private correspondence between two Justice Department employees whose correspondence is the subject of an active inspector general investigation is not just wrong. It is cruel. It is not the practice of the Justice Department to turn over to Congress—let alone to give to reporters—active investigative material related to the private communications of its own employees. Justice Department and FBI employees have the right to their political opinions. To the extent their private political expressions for some reason make it impossible for them to work on a certain matter, they certainly have the right to have that determined without having their careers ruined and their names dragged publicly through the mud by politicians who know nothing about the circumstances in question. I don’t know whether agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page did anything improper, or merely engaged in ill-advised and foolish communications that did not impact their work. I have no quarrel with Mueller for removing Strzok from the investigation, whether for substantive or appearance reasons. But I do know this: these questions deserve to be adjudicated within the confines of a serious internal investigation, not a partisan circus. Rosenstein here has, at a minimum, contributed to that circus—at the expense of his own employees. In throwing a career FBI agent and career FBI lawyer to the wolves by authorizing the release to the public of their private text messages—without any finding that they had done anything wrong—he once again sent a message to his workforce that he is not the sort of man with whom you want to share your foxhole. The DOJ and FBI workforces will not forget that. Nor should they. And that said, I found it impossible to watch yesterday’s hearing without a certain amount of sympathy for Rosenstein’s predicament. Whatever one says about his conduct, he is squeezed between the jaggiest of rocks and the hardest of hard places here. He is evidently trying to protect the Mueller investigation, and to his credit, he yesterday stood up strongly for the investigation’s integrity and for Mueller’s personal integrity. In doing so, he is exposing himself to the risk of being fired at any moment—and he is acting with an awareness that he may need to resign at any moment when ordered to do something inconsistent with his commitments. He is working for a man who is behaving completely unreasonably, even in public; one can only imagine how much worse is Trump’s behavior in private. What’s more, the congressional Republicans who should be protecting the integrity of the work of Rosenstein and his department—particularly in the House but also increasingly in the Senate—are not only failing to do so, they are braying for actions inimical to the very idea of independent law enforcement. They are doing it about someone, Mueller, with whom they have long experience and about whom they know their essential claims to be false. To make matters worse, Rosenstein is quite constrained in terms of what he can say, so he has to sit and answer in platitudes attacks that require an energetic defense. Yes, it would be desirable if the campaign contributions of Mueller’s staff reflected more political diversity than they do. And yes, it would be a good thing if the private political expressions of those who later went to work for him happened not to reflect the widely-held views of members of the national security establishment about the man who then became President—or that they had refrained from expressing them. But it would be highly inappropriate for Mueller to recruit on the basis of political orientation. And whatever the staff-level composition of the investigation may be, the law enforcement leadership is hardly a Democratic bastion committed to going after President Trump. Mueller himself is as apolitical a public servant as this country has known in a long time—and to the extent he has a partisan political identification, it is as a Republican. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray are both appointees of Trump himself. To whatever extent Strzok and Page engaged in any impropriety, that impropriety is known because the Justice Department inspector general discovered it, and when Mueller became aware of it, he removed Strzok from his investigation. Most importantly, there is no serious suggestion that any step taken by Mueller’s shop is unjustified. The Mueller investigation will ultimately be measured by its work product, not by the text messages or campaign contributions of its staffers from before the investigation even existed. That work product so far is two guilty pleas for lying to the FBI over contacts with the Russians by the Trump campaign and transition—and one completely shocking indictment involving allegations of massive money-laundering by the Trump campaign’s chairman. At yesterday’s hearing, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan announced about the Mueller probe that “The public trust in this whole thing is gone.” This is actually wrong. In our latest poll on the subject, fully 61 percent of respondents expressed at least some confidence in the Mueller investigation. A similar number expressed at least some confidence in the FBI in connection with the Russia probe. And an even higher percentage, 74 percent, expressed confidence in the FBI generally. The trouble is that if enough members of Congress tenaciously attack the institution over a long period of time, Jordan’s words could acquire the quality of self-fulfilling prophecy. It is an enormously damaging undertaking for members of Congress to self-consciously erode public confidence in federal law enforcement. Even if that doesn’t happen, public confidence in Mueller may not be enough when the President’s political base—in conservative media, in Congress, and the broader political ecosystem—is rallying behind the proposition that the Justice Department, the special counsel, and the FBI are all out of control. The concern, and yesterday’s hearing dramatically highlights that concern, is that if Trump believes he has Republican cover to get rid of Mueller, he may feel emboldened to act against him even in the presence of broader public support.
The Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal valued at $52.4 billion to acquire much of the Hollywood holdings of 21st Century Fox, the global television and entertainment conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family. The deal occurs against a backdrop of swift changes to the industry's finances and uncertainty about succession plans at both companies. The sale represents a stunning turn of events for Murdoch, a reversal of decades of alternately calculated and impulsive expansion of a sprawling media empire that started with a single afternoon paper in a forgotten city on the southern coast of his native Australia.Does this mean Fox News is going to be normal and nice? Nope.
The most profitable and controversial part of the Fox empire — Fox News —would not be part of the deal. Yet the family is selling off other defining properties, including the movie studio 20th Century Fox. The deal is expected to face regulatory scrutiny, as it would greatly concentrate similar holdings in Disney.Still, what does this say about the Murdochs? Money problems? Maybe Fox's days are numbered too.
2017 Lie of the Year: Russian election interference is a 'made-up story'No, it's not. We don't know the extent of Russian interference, or whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded in the interference, but it is not a "made up story". Politifact has made this assertion the "lie of the year":
A mountain of evidence points to a single fact: Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. In both classified and public reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered actions to interfere with the election. Those actions included the cyber-theft of private data, the placement of propaganda against particular candidates, and an overall effort to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process. Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have held open and closed door hearings to probe Russia’s actions. The congressional investigations are ongoing. Facebook, Google and Twitter have investigated their own networks, and their executives have concluded — in some cases after initial foot-dragging — that Russia used the online platforms in attempts to influence the election. After all this, one man keeps saying it didn’t even happen. "This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won," said President Donald Trump in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in May. On Twitter in September, Trump said, "The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?" And during an overseas trip to Asia in November, Trump spoke of meeting with Putin: "Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn't do that.’ And I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it." In the same interview, Trump referred to the officials who led the intelligence agencies during the election as "political hacks." Trump continually asserts that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election is fake news, a hoax or a made-up story, even though there is widespread, bipartisan evidence to the contrary. When the nation’s commander-in-chief refuses to acknowledge a threat to U.S. democracy, it makes it all the more difficult to address the problem. For this reason, we name Trump’s claim that the Russia interference is a hoax as our Lie of the Year for 2017. Readers of PolitiFact also chose the claim as the year's most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. It seems unlikely — though not impossible — that Russia interference changed the outcome of the election. We at PolitiFact have seen no compelling evidence that it did so. Trump could acknowledge the interference happened while still standing by the legitimacy of his election and his presidency — but he declines to do so. Sometimes he’ll state firmly there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russia, an implicit admission that Russia did act in some capacity. Then he reverts back to denying the interference even happened. It’s not so much that Trump trades in falsehoods — it’s more that he tries to create a different version of reality simply by asserting it.Read the whole thing The Russia lie won overwhelmingly in Politifact's survey of readers:
- KS-4 in 2016: Mike Pompeo 61%, Daniel Giroux 30% (R+31)
- KS-4 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 60%, Clinton 33% (R+27)
- KS-4 in 2017: Ron Estes 53%, James Thompson 46% (R+7)
- GA-6 in 2016: Tom Price 62%, Rodney Stooksbury 38% (R+24)
- GA-6 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 48%, Clinton 47% (R+1)
- GA-6 in 2017 (initial round): Jon Ossoff 48%, Karen Handel 20%, Bob Gray 11%, Dan Moody 9%, Judson Hill 9%.
- GA-6 in 2017 (runoff): Handel 52%, Ossoff 48% (R+4)
- MT-AL in 2016: Ryan Zinke 56%, Denise Juneau 40% (R+16)
- MT in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 57%, Clinton 36% (R+21)
- MT-AL in 2017: Greg Gianforte 50%, Rob Quist 44% (R+6)
- SC-5 in 2016: Mick Mulvaney 59%, Fran Person 39% (R+20)
- SC-5 in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 57%, Clinton 39% (R+18)
- SC-5 in 2017: Ralph Norman 51%, Archie Parnell 48% (R+3)
- NJ GOV in 2013: Chris Christie 60%, Barbara Buono 38% (R+22)
- NJ in 2016 (presidential results): Clinton 55%, Trump 41% (D+14)
- NJ GOV in 2017: Phil Murphy 56%, Kim Guadagno 42% (D+14)
- VA GOV in 2013: Terry McAuliffe 48%, Ken Cuccinelli 45% (D+3)
- VA in 2016 (presidential results): Clinton 50%, Trump 44% (D+6)
- VA GOV in 2017: Ralph Northam 54%, Ed Gillespie 45% (D+9)
- AL SEN in 2016: Shelby 64%, Crumpton 36% (R+28)
- AL in 2016 (presidential results): Trump 62%, Clinton 34% (R+28)
- AL SEN in 2017: Doug Jones 50%, Roy Moore 48% (D+2)