Trump & Administration

All Hail ACHA 2.0

Well, after weeks of secrecy, the Senate version of Obamacare “Repeal and Rewhatever” (PDF) is here. Remember, the House version of the ACHA would result in 23 million people becoming uninsured, and even Trump called it “mean”.  Is the Senate version any better?  Not much:

Here is how the Senate bill works:

  • The Senate bill begins to phase out the Medicaid expansion in 2021 — and cuts the rest of the budget’s program too. The Senate bill would end the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans. This program has provided coverage to more Americans than the private marketplaces
  • It would also cut the rest of the public insurance program. Better Care would also limit government spending on the rest of the Medicaid program, giving states a set amount to spend per person rather than the insurance program’s currently open-ended funding commitment.
  • The Senate bill provides smaller subsidies for less generous health insurance plans with higher deductibles. The Affordable Care Act provides government help to anyone who earns less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($47,550 for an individual or $97,200 for a family of four). The people who earn the least get the most help. The Senate bill would make those subsidies much smaller for many people, and only provide the money to those earning less than 350 percent of the poverty line ($41,580 for individuals and $85,050 for a family of four). The Senate bill will tether the size of its tax credits to what it takes to purchase a skimpier health insurance plan than the type of plans Affordable Care Act subsidies were meant to buy. Essentially, these tax credits buy less health insurance.
  • The Senate bill repeals the individual mandate — and replaces it with nothing. The bill gets rid of the Affordable Care Act’s unpopular requirement that nearly all Americans carry health coverage or pay a fine. This could cause significant disruption in the individual market because it takes away a key incentive healthy people have to buy coverage, meaning only sick people may sign up.  This drives up premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.
  • The bill would cut taxes for the wealthy. Obamacare included tax increases that hit wealthy Americans hardest in order to pay for its coverage expansion. The AHCA would get rid of those taxes. Obamacare was one of the biggest redistributions of wealth from the rich to the poor; the AHCA would reverse that.
  • The Senate bill defunds Planned Parenthood for one year. This would mean Medicaid patients could no longer seek treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics. Experts expect this would result in low-income Americans getting less medical care and having more unintended pregnancies, as access to contraceptives would decline.
  • All in all, the replacement plan benefits people who are healthy and high-income, and disadvantages those who are sicker and lower-income. The replacement plan would make several changes to what health insurers can charge enrollees who purchase insurance on the individual market, as well as changing what benefits their plans must cover. In aggregate, these changes could be advantageous to younger and healthier enrollees who want skimpier (and cheaper) benefit packages. But they could be costly for older and sicker Obamacare enrollees who rely on the law’s current requirements, and would be asked to pay more for less generous coverage.

Shorter story: the rich get tax breaks, the poor and sick get screwed. It’s a reverse Robin Hood bill.

Let’s recall what Sen. Mitch McConnell said about the Affordable Care Act in January:

MCCONNELL: Well, what you need to understand is that there are 25 million Americans who aren’t covered now. If the idea behind Obamacare was to get everyone covered, that’s one of the many failures. In addition to premiums going up, copayments going up, deductibles going up. And many Americans who actually did get insurance when they did not have it before have really bad insurance that they have to pay for, and the deductibles are so high that it’s really not worth much to them. So it is chaotic. The status quo is simply unacceptable.

McConnell was right in every criticism he made of the ACA. Then he turned around and wrote a bill that made every single problem he identified worse.

Republicans have a mere 52-48 advantage in the Senate, so if there are two “no” Republicans, the bill could pass with VP Pence breaking the tie.  But 3 “no” Republicans would kill it (assuming, as I do, that every Dem is a “no”).  Senator Rand Paul (R) has already said “no” because it doesn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare, but that might be posturing.

I wonder if Trump will endorse it.  After all, this is going to be thrown in his face:

Initial reaction is not good, and there are already some bad optics, like Capital Police dragging away protesters who are wheelchair-bound:

Georgia 6th On My Mind

Well today is the big day.  Georgia-6th, a strong Republican district, might actually flip to Democratic in what many see as a referendum on Trump’s presidency.

The truth is, whether Joel Ossoff wins today or loses, it is almost irrelevant.  Polls show him barely ahead but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that a district which “split” on Trump and Hillary (Trump won over Hillary 48% to 47%) but is otherwise a Republican stronghold:

Election results from presidential races:

Year Office Results
2000 President George W. Bush 68% – Al Gore 32%
2004 President George W. Bush 70% – John Kerry 29%
2008 President John McCain 62% – Barack Obama 37%
2012 President Mitt Romney 61% – Barack Obama 38%
2016 President Donald Trump 48% – Hillary Clinton 47%

Tom Price, who left his seat to become Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, has held that seat since 2004, taking 64.5%, 66.0%, and 61.7% in the last three elections (2012, 2014, and 2016).

Even if Ossloff comes close to winning, and he will, this means that many congressional seats that went for Hillary or slightly Trump are in play, and the House can be flipped in 2018.  And THAT means… impeachment.

What’s This Tweet About?

Trump’s not busy enough. He’s got free time to watch TV and get defensive. His tweets this morning railed against the “fake news” media and how there was no proof that his campaign (or, in his phrasing, he himself) colluded with Russia to affect the outcome of the election. (He also incorrectly claimed that the investigation had only been going for seven months: It began last July.)

But one tweet is confusing many people, including myself.

Who is he referring to? We know that the “FBI director” is James B. Comey, whom he fired in early May. But who is “the man who told me to fire the FBI director”?

We know two things about that second person from Trump’s tweet. That person told him to fire the FBI director, and that person is investigating him.

At first pass, that would seem to indicate that he’s referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel, leading the independent investigation into the Russia affair.

Rosenstein also wrote a letter last month outlining concerns about Comey that Attorney General Jeff Sessions then passed on to Trump with the recommendation that Comey be fired.

While that seems like it fits with Trump’s description, then — it actually doesn’t. First of all, Rosenstein’s letter never called for Comey’s firing. (It’s also worth noting that Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he planned to fire Comey anyway.)  Obviously, Trump is trying to rewrite the record here, albeit badly.

Second of all, the description of Rosenstein as investigating Trump is a bit off. The special counsel is investigating Trump, and Rosenstein can fire Mueller if he wishes, but he’s not in charge of that investigation. Rosenstein also has jurisdiction over the FBI’s investigation into the Russia matter.

So maybe Trump’s actually referring to Mueller? Mueller’s certainly investigating him — but there’s no indication that Mueller told Trump to fire Comey.

The safest answer: Trump is referring to Rosenstein — and trying to impugn the deputy attorney general by ensnaring him in the firing of Comey at the outset. Which raises another question …

2. Is Rosenstein’s role in the matter tainted? WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky raised this point on Twitter.

This issue of his letter to Trump about Comey was not a point of concern when Rosenstein first appointed Mueller. Of course, at that point the investigation wasn’t into Trump’s alleged attempt to lean on Comey to curtail the investigation into Michael Flynn. ABC News reported that Rosenstein had privately acknowledged to friends that he might need to recuse himself for that reason.

Which could be true. If Rosenstein letter was part of a “plot” to provide justification for Comey’s firing, that’s problematic for Rosenstein… even if he was not part of the plot.  He may have a conflict being Mueller’s higher-up.

What would happen if Rosenstein were to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel?

The duty would fall to the associate attorney general who was recently appointed, Rachel Brand. A 44 year old conservative, Brand was barely alive when Nixon tried to fire his special counsel.  It is expected that Brand, unlike Rosenstein might be the one to do Trump’s bidding, if he ever decides to fire Mueller.

So, with Trump repeatedly tweeting about this being a “witch hunt”, does that “mystery tweet” today suggest that Trump knows the path to getting rid of the special counsel?

Yes, this IS a reality show.

UPDATE from… uh…. Fox News:

Fox News reports:

A source confirmed to Fox News that Trump’s tweet was referring to Rosenstein. However, a seperate source close to Trump’s legal team said the president was NOT confirming he was under investigation. He was simply referring to the content of a recent Washington Post story.

Trump Does Not Deny He Is Under Investigation

Amid a terrible day involving attempted assassination of Congressmen, one piece of news managed to break through: Trump is under investigation by special counsel Mueller for obstruction of justice.  The obstruction of justice investigation into the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9 with the team actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government. The White House is referring all questions about the Russia investigation to Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.

Already, there is pushback, as the RNC leaked its talking points.

These are horrible talking points. The argument that the investigation is a distraction that is preventing them from carrying out their agenda should be tossed in the trash since an overwhelming majority disapprove of this president, his party, and their agenda. And when the White House’s best defense is complaining about Hillary Clinton while ranting about leaks, they will better off not saying anything. The talking points are bad and likely only to make things worse for Trump.

I will save for some other time another common observation: why the hell is the RNC and Republicans in general hitching their wagon to this sinking ship?

Last night and this morning it looks like there is a concerted effort to smear Mueller.  Hannity got the ball rolling by arguing that Mueller had conflicts and that this was a witch hunt.

This sentiment was echoed this morning by Trump himself…

and Newt Gingrich…

… even thought Newt had a different opinion of Mueller less than a month ago:

And again there is more invocation of this term “deep state”, a nonsense scare phrase which is just a lament USA is a democracy with checks and balances. It’s both deeply silly and profoundly anti-America. Never forget that when Trump sycophants attack “the deep state,” they mean “a government of laws.”

One problem for Trump is that his push back fails to assess the extent of trouble he is in.  It’s not JUST obstruction of justice. As the WaPo article notices, it looks like Mueller is following the money:

Mueller is overseeing a host of investigations involving people who are or were in Trump’s orbit, people familiar with the probe said. The investigation is examining possible contacts with Russian operatives as well as any suspicious financial activity related to those individuals.

So it could get much worse.

Whining about the “deep state” and a “witch hunt” will not win converts and only shore up the most hardcore of his base.  Trump’s approval rating is at 36% and sinking, with a disapproval rating of %60 and climbing.

Trump and his defenders are going with the “they are just making things up to get me” tactic. It won’t work with obstruction of justice, because so much of the evidence against him is known to be true.  Let me explain.

It’s important to remember that, in obstruction investigations, the sum total or pattern of facts is often critical. When you’re doing an obstruction investigation, all the facts are important. Mueller won’t look at this as a discrete series of interactions, and instead is likely to ask, “Is there some pattern of behavior that constitutes obstruction?” If you’re looking for a pattern of behavior that constitutes obstruction, you want to know the entire pattern.

To be sure, some of these facts are in dispute. Trump has denied demanding Comey’s loyalty, and his advisers have said (ludicrously) that Trump merely asked Comey to drop the Flynn probe.

But there is a set of shared facts that are not in dispute, which we can now consult, and those already constitute a pattern of conduct that is deeply problematic, whether or not it ends up amounting to obstruction.

Here are those facts: Trump did fire Comey. Trump and the White House did contradict themselves about the rationale for that firing. They both did originally say that Trump fired Comey at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rod J. Rosenstein, who created a memo detailing that recommendation rooted in Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. After that story fell apart, Trump did subsequently tell NBC News that he was going to fire Comey regardless of any recommendation and that he did so over the Russia probe. Thus, Trump and the White House themselves did create the strong impression that Sessions and Rosenstein may have been involved in creating a cover story for the Comey firing, and this (among other things) did leave Rosenstein no choice but to appoint a special counsel.

That’s a lot that we know about. And who knows who else Trump talked to about firing Comey.

UPDATE:   A late afternoon mini-rant from Trump on Twitter. He’s sticking to the talking points.

Talking point:

Trump:

Wife Melania and their son Barron have now moved into the White House now that the school year is over. it was hoped their presence would calm him down. It didn’t.

The Sessions Sessions

Ok, I’ll liveblog SOME of Sessions hearing before the Senate Intel Committee, but again, I expect he’ll talk about what he wants to talk about and then filibuster (or rely on executive privilege) when trapped in a corner.

2:56 pm

Sessions has no recollection of meeting, talking to Russian ambassador or other Russian official at the Mayflower hotel.


(Kislyak must be the gray-haired guy on the right)

Never discussed anything with any foreign agent about any campaign ever.

Sessions says he was victim of Franken’s “rambling question” after six hours of testimony.  Getting a little faux outraged in his opening statement here. (What Sessions is leaving out is that AFTER his hearing answer to Franken, he also left it out of written answers, which staff vet carefully.)

Sessions says it’s “absurd” to say his recusal should have kept him from participating in the Comey firing. He’s claiming he can narrow his stated recusal *from* campaign matters to *only* the Trump campaign.

Sessions appears to stand by his earlier assertion — that he recommended firing Comey due to his handling of Hillary email investigation.

Sessions pretty much confirms Comey’s conversation with Sessions about problems with the White House (Trump) talking directly to Comey about Russia. Except…

And now he’s talking about drugs and crime and gangs.  Talking a lot about it.  His favorite subject.

Aaaaaand that’s the gist of his statement.  I don’t doubt most of it. In fact, I don’t think Sessions was ever involved in any collusion (even though his inability to remember meetings with Russians is… uh…. troubling).

I’ll update if he says anything different under questioning, but I suspect this is all we will get out of him.

Sessions will not talk about conversations with President — NOT based on executive privilege but based on long-standing Department of Justice “policy”.

I think this is a good summary so far:

Wait…. that’s different from “longstanding DOJ policy”. I mean, it’s bullshit too, but it’s also different.

Oh my God. That’s disconcerting. As is this:

Tom Cotton is really reprehensible.

Kamala Harris is up. She wants to ask questions and he wants to stall and take long answers. She wants documents.

And the Chair admonishes her.

Yup.

Sessions To Testify Before Senate Intelligence Committee

2:30 today.

The thing to remember is that Sessions WANTED this testimony. So this is likely to his benefit. Or Trump’s.

Sessions was once on the periphery of the Trump-Russia scandal. I mean, sure, he failed to disclose at his confirmation hearings that he met with the Russians twice during the campaign. But he fixed that as soon as the Washington Post reported it.

But now there are reports of a third meeting with the Russians. He will be asked about that.

He will be asked to confirm or deny Comey’s testimony — like, did Trump clear the room to talk to Comey alone (as Comey testified).  If he directly contradicts Comey’s testimony, that will be the big story coming out of the hearing today.

He will be asked about Comey’s firing and why he was involved in it. He shouldn’t have been if he had recused himself.

The open question is whether or not Sessions will assert executive privilege relating to the Comey stuff.  And even THAT is problematic for several reasons. First of all, it is the President’s privilege to assert; Sessions cannot assert it for himself or on the President’s behalf. Has he gotten guidance from the President (or the President’s lawyers) on this?  Last week, Deputy AG Robinson tried to assert executive privilege even though the President never gave it with respect to their testimony.

And even if the President asserted executive privilege with respect to his private conversations with Comey, he waived much of that privilege with his tweets, so it is questionable to what extent the privilege exists at all.  Of course, that fight won’t be resolved in the hearing today, so Sessions can assert the privilege all he wants, they will fight about it, but in the end, he can refuse to testify. I don’t think they will try to hold him in contempt of Congress.

So that’s what will happen today. I don’t expect bombshells.

Can Trump Fire Mueller?

This is complicated and I don’t have much time. So hold on.

Trump does not have the legal authority to fire special prosecutor Mueller directly, but that doesn’t mean Trump can’t TRY.  For Trump to fire Mueller, he TECHNICALLY must order the Attorney General to fire Mueller.  If Trump tried to fire Mueller directly, Mueller could (and probably would) choose not to “recognize” Trump’s independent authority to fire him.

But wait, there’s another problem. If Trump asked Attorney General Sessions to fire Mueller — well, Sessions technically can’t either, because he recused himself from all matters relating to Russia… and that would presumably mean that he is recused from hiring or firing the special counsel looking into Trump-Russia collusion. Then again, Sessions was the one who fired Comey, and he probably should not have for the same reason.  So if Sessions tried to fire Mueller on Trump’s order, Mueller could choose not to “recognize” Mueller’s independent authority to fire him.

The correct person to fire Mueller (on order from Trump) is deputy AG Rob Rosenstein, the one who appointed Mueller to special prosecutor.

Whoever does it, it is very much like the Saturday Night massacre in Watergate.  There, Nixon told his attorney general Elliott Richardson to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused so Nixon fired him.  Nixon then told Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and Nixon fired him too. Nixon then ordered the Solicitor General of the United States, Robert Bork, as acting head of the Justice Department, to fire Cox. Both Richardson and Ruckelshaus had given personal assurances to Congressional oversight committees that they would not interfere, but Bork had not. On November 14, 1973, federal district judge Gerhard Gesell ruled firing Cox was illegal absent a finding of extraordinary impropriety as specified in the regulation establishing the special prosecutor’s office.

It was a constitutional crisis.

The situations between now and then are strikingly comparable. The question is if Rosenstein will carry out Trump’s bidding, or if Sessions would, or if Trump would simply try to do it directly…. if he tried at all.

When questioned last week by Senator Kamala Harris of the Senate Intelligence Committee (who seemed to be looking well down the road), Rosenstein refused to say whether he would exercise his authority to fire Mueller if it ever came down to that.  At least, he refused to say in open session.

With all that said, I don’t think Trump will try to fire Mueller, despite what Newt Gingrich and others are saying.  Not only are the minefields legally (see above), but the political fallout just might be too much — even for Republicans.  After Nixon tried to fire Cox, public support crashed for Nixon (what little remained) and impeachment rose rapidly in the polls.

At that point, Republicans in Congress would join Democrats to appoint an independent counsel (just like they did in Watergate, where they appointed Jaworski).  Heck, it could be Mueller again.

So huge risk, low reward. I don’t think Trump would try this, but God knows what advice he is getting, and whether he will follow it.

UPDATE:  Rosenstein just happens to be testifying before the Appropriations Committee today.

He also says AG Sessions “theoretically” has power to fire Mueller.

Aw, Susan Collins goes to the direct question:

Maryland And DC Attorneys General File Lawsuit Against Trump Under Emoluments Clause

Although CREW currently has a lawsuit going, the attorneys general of Maryland and DC have filed a lawsuit today against President Trump, citing a constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.  The damage? Well, they claim, the US is effectively not living up to the Constitution, a document that Maryland signed onto in part because of the Emoluments Clause.  Also, they are losing tax revenue.

Here is the full complaint:

The Comey Memos — Part Two

So some idiot at Redstate is making the argument that the Comey Memos were leaked in contravention of the law:

The documents leaked by Comey were official government records. Period. They were created by a government employee (Comey) while acting in his official capacity (FBI director) on a government-issued laptop while sitting in a government car driven by another government employee and probably in the company of a government security detail.

See how he pulled a Spicer there (“Period.”)?  As if saying “period” makes his argument stronger.

Still, he has a point. The Comey memo is an official government record.

You know what else is an official government record? A social security check. A letter from the IRS. Lots of things.

The moron continues:

The documents are not “unclassified.” The documents, by the very fact that they recorded a conversation with the president, would have carried a ‘confidential’ classification.

Ummmmm…. No, it wouldn’t.  Or as we say in the fact-checking business, CITATION NEEDED.

Here’s the deal — private conversations with the President are not automatically classified.  They’re just not.  Classification is based on the content, not on the parties.  If that were the case, then forget the memos.  Even TESTIFYING about any private conversation with the President would be a no-no.

Once you recognize that a private conversation with the President is not classified, you can see that a memo summarizing a private conversation with the President is also not classified.

Another thing about classification — who does this idiot think makes classification calls in the first place? Comey is the head of the FBI. He can classify or declassify anything he damn well wants, including his own work product.

But the moron continues:

There is zero way it would not have been classified ‘for official use only’ as the conversation was inarguably covered by executive privilege. The memos were the property of the US government and are clearly covered under the Federal Records Act.

Well, there is a difference between documents that are classified, documents that are subject to executive privilege, and documents covered by the Federal Records Act. The Comey memos were not classified; they were not subject to executive privilege (and if they were, Trump waived that privilege); and the Federal Records Act only deals with maintaining and preserving those documents (I’m sure the FBI has copies, so, no problem there).

He then goes on to discuss 18 U.S. Code § 641, which says:

Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof… Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; but if the value of such property in the aggregate, combining amounts from all the counts for which the defendant is convicted in a single case, does not exceed the sum of $1,000, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

The word “value” means face, par, or market value, or cost price, either wholesale or retail, whichever is greater.

A rather dumb argument. I suppose Comey did steal the paper that he printed or made photocopies on.  But the he didn’t “convert” or “convey” the actual RECORD itself, which presumably is still on his laptop.

And then he finally links to an FBI website which says that that the FBI has policy and procedures regarding discretionary release of information in accordance with the Privacy Act.  Guess who has discretion?

HUGE Redstate fail. Embarrassing.

Did Comey Break The Law By Revealing His Memo Contents To The Press?

No, and in fact, if Trump goes after Comey for dong that, Trump could get in deeper trouble. Here’s why:

As the news broke, I was on the phone with Stephen Kohn, partner at a law firm focused on whistleblower protection. We’d been talking about where the boundaries lay for Comey in what he could and couldn’t do with the information about his conversations with the president. Kohn’s response to the story about Kasowitz, though, was visceral.

“Here is my position on that: Frivolous grandstanding,” he said. “First of all, I don’t believe the inspector general would have jurisdiction over Comey any more, because he’s no longer a federal employee.” The inspector general’s job is to investigate wrongdoing by employees of the Justice Department, of which Comey is no longer, thanks to Trump.

“But, second,” he continued, “initiating an investigation because you don’t like somebody’s testimony could be considered obstruction. And in the whistleblower context, it’s both evidence of retaliation and, under some laws, could be an adverse retaliatory act itself.”

In other words, Comey, here, is an employee who is blowing the whistle, to use the idiom, on his former boss. That boss wants to punish him for doing so. That’s problematic — especially if there’s no evidence that Comey actually violated any law that would trigger punishment.

Not To Be Forgotten

One of the most telling and damaging points Comey made was that even after being informed there was absolutely no doubt Russia had mounted a huge effort to interfere with and undermine the credibility of the US election process, Donald Trump never even asked what was being done to prevent further interference by Russia. He was completely incurious about how to stop this from happening again.

Happy Comey Day

Well, we already know in essence what Comey will testify about, since we have his written statement (which has been dissected to death). I don’t expect a lot of “news” but maybe so more fleshing out.

It will be in sharp contrast to yesterday, where two intelligence chiefs repeatedly refused to say whether Trump asked them to intervene in the Russia probe during their public Senate intelligence committee testimony. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers declined to discuss the specifics of private conversations they had with Trump and whether they had been asked to push back against an FBI probe into collusion between the campaign and the Russian government. Both hinted that they would share more information with senators privately.

The RNC has put out some rather odd talking points…

… which are rather contradictory (Comey vindicates Trump…. but he is a liar!)

Anyway…. as the day progresses, I will TRY to update with news and opinion, but again, I think we’ve hit 90-95% of the pay dirt here.  One thing to be sure: Comey is smart and already has answers for the Republican critics who will try to trip him up.

Either way, we’ll definitely learn (we hope) the answers to these questions

  1. How will Mr. Comey explain his silence on his interactions with Mr. Trump? (My guess: He thought he could “teach” Trump the proper parameters)
  2. Will Comey be a ‘showboat’? (My guess: No.)
  3. Will Republicans offer the president a lifeline?  (My guess: Some will. Some will even bring up Hillary’s emails)
  4. Will Democrats overplay their hand? (My guess: No)
  5. Will Trump tweet? (My guess: No, but if he does, it is because he feels the heat)
  6. Did the president violate guidelines that prevent interference in F.B.I. investigations? (My guess: Comey will punt on this)

AND WE’RE OFF….

10:00 am

The line to Shaw’s Tavern, a popular DC bar which is showing the hearing and offering free drinks for everytime Trump tweets, goes a full city block

Comey talking about how Trump said FBI was in disarray under Comey:

I note Comey’s voice is wavering. He’s pissed. Says Trump defamed him and FBI

And we’re at questions. Burr asking…

The country is riveted…

…. good to know?

Warner up. Going through each Trump meeting.

Risch(R), a former prosecutor, now asking questions….

Feinstein (D) up. Asking about why Comey believes he was fired (Answer: Russia investigation)

And Donnie Jr. weighs in…

Not when it is the President.

Rubio(R) up. Asks why Comey didn’t tell President “That’s wrong.” Comey says he was stunned and didn’t have the presence of mind.

Wyden (D) is up….

Let me just jump in here and say that I was wrong about one thing (at least).  I thought Comey would leave his personal impressions (“I felt…” “I got the impression….”) out of it.  I was clearly wrong. He’s giving his impressions.

Collins (R) is up….

I have not seen much from this vaunted “rapid response team” of Trump. I THINK the Republican response, if Rubio is any indication, is that Comey didn’t do anything, and he should have. But I think Comey’s answer is perfectly reasonable.

Nice tweet here….

Henirich (D) up….

Blunt (R) up…


Blunt seems to be rehashing the written statement.

Angus King (I) is up….

Lankford (R) is up….
He asks Comey how a president would end an investigation. Comey says, by simply telling it to end, but says he’s not a legal scholar. That might be used by GOP, i.e., Trump did what he is empowered to do.

And now we’re back to Lynch-Clinton.

Manchin (D) is up…

Cotton (R) is up…


I don’t think that is the answer Cotton wanted.


That’s not an excuse, Paul.

Harris (D) is up….
She’s asking a lot about Sessions recusal

Meanwhile… at White House briefing

Cornyn(R) is up and bringing up the Clinton investigation, saying Lynch had a conflict of interest. Zzzzzzz

McCain (R) is up….
Carrying water for GOP, I think. This is bizarre.


I think McCain had a stroke. He appeared to be under the impression that the election was still ongoing, called Comey President, and then couldn’t understand why Clinton was not prosecuted for helping the Russians elect Trump.

Hearing adjourned.  No tweets from President.

Takeaways:

(1) Trump is a liar.  Some more examples:

A. Trump was asked on Fox News last month whether he ever asked Comey for his loyalty. Trump responded, “No, I didn’t.” We now have reason to believe this was a lie.

B. Trump was asked at a White House press conference last month, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?” Trump replied, “No. No. Next question.” We now have reason to believe this was a lie, too.

C. Trump was asked by NBC News’ Lester Holt about the private dinner he had with Comey, and the president said the FBI director “asked for the dinner.” We now have reason to believe this was also a lie.

(2)  No clear defense strategy from GOP (but don’t expect impeachment)

(3) Comey and all of us want those tapes (if they exist)

(4)  Senator McCain has gone ’round the bend.

Of course. And now it goes to closed door session, which will leak about an hour later.

Breaking: Full Text of Comey Prepared Remarks Tomorrow

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

January 6 Briefing

I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President- Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counter- intelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.

In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President- Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

January 27 Dinner

The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten- year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.

At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting

On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counter- terrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National Counter- Terrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.

After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President’s request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.

March 30 Phone Call

On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.

In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia- related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

April 11 Phone Call

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

Previewing Comey’s Big Testimony On Thursday

Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee promises to be one of the most highly anticipated congressional appearances in years. Indeed, for a comparable high-stakes hearing, you have to go back to 2015, when Hillary Clinton testified before the House Benghazi Committee. Or 1991, when Anita Hill testified in Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Or 1987, when Oliver North testified on the Iran-Contra scandal. So Thursday is THAT big. And there will be four storylines to watch:

  1. Why does Comey think President Trump fired him? Did it have anything to do with the Russia investigation and a possible obstruction of justice?
  2. Does Comey confirm that Trump asked him to let go of the probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn?
  3. Does Comey confirm that Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty to the president?
  4. And do Trump and his administration try to stop Comey’s testimony by invoking executive privilege? On Friday, the New York Times, citing two senior administration officials, reported that Trump doesn’t plan to prevent Comey’s testimony.

I believe the fourth one is not going to happen.  Trump may want it to happen, but he doesn’t understand that it would backfire.

[UPDATE — Yup:

]

The other question Comey is sure to get asked is “Why did you testify before (under oath) that you did not feel any pressure to drop the Russia investigation?”  It is quite possible that Comey’s views on whether or not there was pressure have changed when you had one salient factor: HE GOT FIRED.  Sometimes you don’t realize the warning lights on the car are for real until the engine falls out.

Keep in mind: Comey knows how to tell a story, as the Washington Post’s Paul Kane recounted several years ago about the former FBI director’s congressional testimony into his intervention when Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized. “… Comey wanted to tell this amazing story about a constitutional crisis in the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004. So [former Chuck Schumer staffer Preet] Bharara arranged for Comey to testify before a Senate subcommittee. The usually loquacious Schumer stopped asking Comey questions and just let him give a long statement telling the tale of something that seemed like a movie plot. You could hear a pin drop in the Dirksen hearing room, and in fact we did, when one reporter — stunned at what he was hearing — literally just dropped his pen onto the press table.”

I predict a bombshell.

Trump’s Tweets Today Are The Most Unhinged And SELF-Destructive (And It’s Only 10:00 AM)

God knows why they just don’t take his phone away. Or give him a fake phone with a fake Twitter account.

This is how bad it has gotten: Trump’s own advisers have gone on television and stated that Trump’s tweets are not his policy.  Well, who knows? How can we tell? Would Trump agree with that?

Even this morning, Kellyanne Conway said that the media is obsessed with Trump’s tweets, implying that people should not place emphasis on them.  But that is in contradiction from what others in the White House – and Trump himself — have said:

“This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president …” Conway said during that interview.

“That’s his preferred method of communication with the American people,” said Craig Melvin, the show’s co-host.

“That’s not true,” Conway interjected.

“Well, he hasn’t given an interview in three weeks, so lately it has been his preferred method,” Melvin replied.

Even setting aside that three-week modification, Melvin is correct that the administration has touted Twitter as being more important than media coverage. After Trump won the presidency in November, he and his team were asked if he would stop tweeting so much as president. The answer? No — because the media can’t be trusted.

Shortly after the election, Trump spoke with CBS’s Leslie Stahl, telling her how he planned to moderate his Twitter use once he was sworn in.

“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” he said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s — it’s where it’s at.”

By January, his description of his Twitter habit was a bit less enthusiastic.

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract,” Trump told Reuters in January. That’s the theme: The media is the enemy, so Trump will tweet to the people directly.

On ABC’s “This Week” in January, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer made that same case.

And more to the point, even if his tweets are not policy, they sometimes contradict policy.  And that makes for headaches for Trump’s team.

Today being a prime example. Let’s start with his first four tweets of the day (which apparently were made while watching Morning Joe on MSNBC):

Let’s start with the first tweet at the bottom, where he calls “it” a “travel ban” and a “watered down, politically correct” version of his original executive order which banned all travel from 7 mostly-Muslim nations. Arguably, Trump is showing his intent to disfavor Muslims by the executive order, a point that has doomed the executive orders in court so far. In court briefs, DOJ lawyers have said the orders are “religion-neutral” in operation, drawing “distinctions among countries based on national-security risks identified by Congress and the Executive Branch, not religion, and applies evenhandedly in the six designated countries.”

There is also a glaring problem: the revised travel ban was authored by Trump’s administration and signed by Trump himself — the Justice Department’s role is merely defending its legality.  Why is he taking umbrage with the Justice Department?

In any event, his tweets this morning on the subject of the travel ban hurt his already weak case.

Next up on this morning’s hit parade, this:

Again, he was watching Fox & Friends and they were apparently talking about vacancies.  Odd that he would blame the Democrats, since they do not control the Senate (who has to improve Ambassadors and other certain posts).

Almost two months ago, Politico did a story on why this is taking so long, and it has nothing to do with the Democrats:

Hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Donald Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda.

The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists.

Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one, according to two people with knowledge of the administration’s hiring process. Also weighing in on the names — and not always agreeing on final picks — are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.

“It’s like a medieval court,” said one person advising potential nominees through the confirmation process. “The White House meets once a week to go over personnel in some attempt to create uniformity, but in this White House, you just have to smile at that. … It’s hard to impose uniformity among the White House’s different coalitions.”

The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. One person close to the White House said a sense of “paranoia” has taken over amid fears that disloyal hires might undercut Trump’s agenda or leak to the press.

Another reason they are having a hard time getting positions filled? People don’t want to serve under Trump. especially with a special counsel investigation and FBI probe hanging over the White House.

Even if it were true that Dems were somehow slowing up the confirmation process, that doesn’t explain the vacancies. From the LA Times:

What’s the effect? Just eight of 120 State Department posts, including ambassadorships, that require Senate confirmation have been filled, according to the Partnership for Public Service. As a result, foreign officials and diplomats struggle to find someone to discuss trade and security issues with.

We have officially entered hurricane season with no head of NOAA and no head of FEMA.

And in the Pentagon, Trump has filled only five of the 53 top jobs – the slowest pace for nominations and confirmations in over half a century. No Army Secretary. No Navy Secretary.

The hold-up, insiders say, is Trump’s insistence on absolute loyalty… to him.

The Washington Post has a wonderful database tracker page to keep up with Trump’s lack of progress on filling key positions.

And finally, Trump’s final tweet of the morning (we hope):

This is Trump engaging in an attack against London mayor Sadiq Khan (a Muslim) when Khan said that is “no reason to be alarmed”. Trump attacked that quote, complaining that London had just had a terrorist attack, and they should be freaking out (I guess).

What happened here? Trump watched Fox News, which had truncated the quote and changed its meaning:

But Mr Trump’s criticism is based on a quotation entirely removed from its context. He appears to be confused about what happened in part because Fox News repeated the same short quote but without the full remarks from the mayor of London.

What Mr Khan actually said was that there is no reason to be alarmed about the increased police presence on the streets after the attack.

“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today,” Mr Khan said. “You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers.

“There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”

There is no reason to be alarmed by this… with “this” referring to the increased police presence.

Rather than admit he was misquoting Khan, Trump doubled down… on the mayor of a city just attacked by terrorists.

Could it be because this particular mayor is Muslim?

Today could have been a good day for Trump — he intended to announce an infrastructure bill (which Dems could get behind). But he squandered it with these Tweets.  With Comey testifying in a few days, Trump does not have many more chances to have “good days”.

Trump To Drop US From Paris Accords

It looked for a moment like he was reconsidering this campaign promise to leave the Paris Accord on climate change, but no.  In a few minutes, Trump will announce from the Rose Garden that the US is out.

Nero, fiddle, Rome burning, yada yada yada

It will be interesting to hear HOW the accord is “bad”.  Is it bad for polluting businesses?  Yyyyyyyeah.  That’s kind of the point.

Here’s the split in the White House about whether to stay or go.  Looks like Bannon won the day:

I don’t think Trump is aware of how popular this is on the left AND even the right.

Here are talking points given to Congress.  They make no sense.  The deal won’t help the climate but also it does too much but also we’re already doing that stuff

Yes it is.


The good news? Paris Accord entered into force on 11/4/16. So the earliest that Trump can complete exit from Paris Accord is 11/4/2020, i.e., the day after the 2020 election. Paris will be a campaign issue.

UPDATE:

CREW and The Emoluments Case

Back in January, I wrote about a lawsuit brought against Donald Trump, filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) which sought a declaratory judgment that Donald Trump, having not divested himself of his hotels in DC, is in violations of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution.

As I wrote back then, one of the problems for the lawsuit had to do with the fact that the plaintiff, CREW, did not have standing by virtue of the fact that it cannot claim actual injury by the fact that Trump has violated — and continues to violate — the Emoluments Clause.

I write now to update the reader on that point.  Since that time, other plaintiffs have joined the suit — most notably and recently, Eric Goode, a hotel owner, who can and does assert that he will lose guests from foreign governments to Trump’s hotels, as other governments will go to Trump or Trump-brand hotels to curry favor with the President.

I attach the Second Amended Complaint below.

The “Unmasking” Diversion

Over at Fox News, they use the word “unmasking” a lot. To me, it looks like they haven’t realized it is a common practice in the intelligence community. They just use the word a lot so that their low-information viewers will think it is bad.

“Unmasking”, of course, is the process whereby a redacted name of an American citizen is unredacted for someone who is reading an intelligence report.  A request is made to unmask the name so that the reader can better understand and perhaps act on the information (or fully advise another)

Unmasking is not leaking.  When the name of a U.S. person is unmasked, that information is provided only to the intelligence official who requested that unmasking. There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking.  Of course, the recipient of unmasked information could then illegally disclose it through a leak. But that’s leaking.

Unmasking is not a crime. The process for unmasking vary from agency to agency and case by case depending on how the information was collected. But the exact procedures are not publicly known and may be classified.

Even if it turns out that procedures weren’t followed, people would most likely be subject to administrative discipline. It’s still not a crime.

But Trump and obedient Republicans have to switch focus to something other than possible Russia collusion, so “unmasking” is their go-to.  In the recent subpoenas sent out by the House Intelligence Committee, half of them were related to investigations of “improper unmasking.”

Never mind that these allegations have already been thoroughly debunked. In April, numerous media outlets, citing both Republican and Democratic congressional sources, reported that intelligence reports pertaining to the communications of Trump’s advisers with foreign agents were “normal and appropriate” and contained “no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Even Trump is pimping the unmasking. His tweet today:

It’s really not.  As I said, even improper unmasking is an administrative slap on the wrist.

But Trump has a bigger problem.  Pushing the “unmasking and surveillance” line only leads to more information about why requests were made. And when that information comes to the surface, well, that’s a path that’s been harmful to Trump’s cause thus far.

I don’t think he sees that many moves ahead.

To These Guys Everything Is A Partisan Conspiracy Against Their Perfect Great Idea

To these guys everything is a partisan, somebody else to blame conspiracy against their perfect, great idea:

It’s become the knee-jerk reaction for Republicans, in light of an ugly Congressional Budget Office analysis of their Obamacare repeal bill, to point the finger at the non-partisan research agency instead.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney took it a step further this week, by questioning the abilities of Holly Harvey, the head of its health analysis division, to be non-partisan.

“At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself, has the day of the CBO come and gone?” Mulvaney told the Washington Examiner Wednesday. “How much power do we give to the CBO under the 1974 Budget Act? We’re hearing now that the person in charge of the Affordable Health Care Act methodology is an alum of the Hillarycare program in the 1990s who was brought in by Democrats to score the ACA.”

Prior to coming on to the CBO in 2009, Harvey served in the Clinton administration’s Health and Human Services Department, according to the Examiner.

The CBO director, Keith Hall, who signed off on the CBO score of the GOP health bill, was the chief economist for the  Council of Economic Advisers in the George W. Bush White House and was handpicked by then House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price (who is now Trump’s HHS secretary) to lead the CBO.

Mulvaney, in the Examiner interview, said that the CBO’s assumptions about Medicaid cuts were “just absurd,” while suggesting a bias in favor of Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which the GOP bill would eliminate.

“If the same person is doing the score of undoing Obamacare who did the scoring of Obamacare in the first place, my guess is that there is probably some sort of bias in favor of a government mandate,” he said.

The CBO has found that that the Republican health bill, the American Health Care Act, would lead to 23 million people losing coverage, cut $664 billion in taxes (mostly for high-earners and the industry), while saving the government $119 billion. It also found the legislation would lower premiums considerably in some places, but with the trade-off of making health coverage more expensive for older consumers and those with pre-existing conditions.

it’s problematic when one side of the debate simply argues, “Well, the other side is biased and therefore you can’t trust them.”  That’s not a fact-based argument.  And it certainly doesn’t raise counterfactuals.

One has to wonder why someone, whether it is an economist with the CBO or a climate scientist, would stake every bit of their learning and status in order to achieve a political result.  Most academics aren’t like that — in fact, it’s hard to find one willing to toss aside their expertise for the sake of reaching a pre-desired outcome.  Who does that?

Maybe conservatives do.  Maybe that’s why they think everyone else is biased and partisan — because that’s how they are.

And Then The Laughter Stopped

Yeah, we all had fun last night….

But then came the sobering news this morning….

President Trump will pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, according to several reports Wednesday.

Axios first reported that Trump is working with a group led by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on the exact mechanism of pulling out before announcing his final decision. CBS News also reported that Trump is telling allies about his decision.

The move marks a dramatic departure from the Obama administration, which was instrumental in crafting the deal. It also makes the U.S. an outlier among the world’s nations, nearly all of whom support the climate change accord.

Outlier indeed.  We now join Nicaragua and Syria (and Nicaragua rejected it because it didn’t go far enough!)

The pact was reached by nearly 200 countries in 2015, the first global climate accord to include that many nations. Each country made its own non-binding pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama administration, which helped negotiate the pact, had promised a 26 to 28 percent cut in the country’s emissions, a pledge that Republicans had slammed as necessitating expensive, job-killing regulations.

The good news is that technically, the U.S. cannot withdraw from the Paris Agreement for four years.  And it is unclear whether or not the US is withdrawing from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which has been around since 1992.  If so, the US can withdraw in a year.

Either way, there are implications.  China will likely take over global leadership on the issue of climate change. This would mean, in part, that China’s faulty and unreliable energy statistics would define whether it was complying with the agreement. The American strategy (up until now) has been to seek outside validation for other countries’ climate goals.

This could prove supremely unpopular: An overwhelming majority of Americans, more than 80 percent, favor expanding wind and solar energy. And it would cut into American competitiveness at a vital time for the industry.  Even Exxon Mobile supports the Paris Accords.

China is investing $360 billion in renewable energy over the next few years, which will create 13 million new jobs. Other countries may decide to penalize the U.S. if it fails on the Paris agreement. “They could do that by lowering tariffs, for example, from other countries that would be trying to sell clean energy technologies,” says Andrew Light, a distinguished senior fellow in the climate program at the World Resources Institute, who was also part of the climate team in the State Department leading up to the agreement.

Beyond the Paris agreement, the government also plays a big role in helping the renewable energy sector succeed in selling to the rest of the world and creating more U.S. jobs, though instruments like the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Without that investment, “we’re effectively taking ourselves out of the clean energy economy,” Light says.

Before the inauguration, 530 companies and 100 investors wrote an open letter to the new administration asking for support of low-carbon policies, investment in the low-carbon economy, and continued participation in the Paris agreement.

“Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” they wrote. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

Withdrawing from the Paris agreement also affects the U.S. relationship with other countries. “To create the first climate agreement we were really pushing lots of leaders to really get on board and get this thing done,” says Light. “I think if the U.S. completely pulls away from this, we’re going to see a diplomatic blowback. It’s going to be significant, and it will impact a lot of areas that this administration will care about a lot more than climate change, especially on trade and national security issues.”

In the longer term, failing to reduce emissions now will lead to spending trillions of dollars dealing with the damage caused by climate change. It will also lead to greater security threats as climate impacts create new political instability.

This is a willing abdication of US world leadership.  Not to mention an embarrassment that we have a president who doesn’t believe in science. This is Bannon’s doing, as he is the main one who has been pushing for us to leave. (Ivanka supports the Paris Accords, but clearly has no moderating sway on Trump anymore, if she ever had it at all.)

All hope is not lost: Even if the federal government rejects the Paris agreement, cities, states, and businesses can potentially make enough progress to come close to the Paris target of 26% to 28% reductions. By 2050, the longer-term goal of the U.S. was to reduce emissions 80%, in line with some recommendations to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Expect a lot of blowback from the left and right.

UPDATE: With Elon Musk and others giving pretty strong feedback, it looks like the White House might be giving itself an out.

Jared And The Russian Backchannel – It Happened, Didn’t Happen, But He Didn’t Do It, But So What If He Did?

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner sought to create a secret line of communication between Donald Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin during a meeting with Russian diplomats in December.

On Saturday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said at a news conference that he “would not be concerned” about such an arrangement and added that “we have back-channel communications with a number of countries.”

On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly told ABC News that “any channel of communications, back or otherwise, is a good thing.”

On Monday, Fox News published an online article with no byline and a single unnamed source that claimed that Kushner, a senior White House adviser, did not try to set up a back channel after all. (Make no mistake: It is not normal to publish a supposed scoop without a byline. The only clue Fox News offered about the reporting was a note at the bottom of the story that said Catherine Herridge “contributed.”)

On Tuesday morning, “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade posed a question to counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway: “Do you back up the Fox News report?” Conway refused. “I’m not going to get into any of that,” she said. Conway echoed McMaster and Kelly, saying “they’re not concerned” and that “back channels like this are the regular course of business.”

A short time later, Trump tweeted a link to the Fox News report that Conway had just declined to support, seemingly endorsing an alternative defense of Kushner that his own administration spent three days not making.

What the heck is going on here?

Option 1: He did it, but that’s okay.

Option 2: He didn’t do it.

Never mind that both things cannot be true. The bottom line is Kushner did nothing bad. Believe me.

UPDATE:   Sean Spicer is giving the first press briefing since Trump’s overseas trip.  He’s basically saying that the White House cannot confirm if there was a backchannel and takes no position on it (even though Trump tweeted about it and referred to the Fox News article and even though, as Spicer says, “there is nothing wrong with establishing a backchannel”).  Makes no sense

Congressional Investigation Committees Go for Trump’s Personal Lawyer, Michael Cohen

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has received requests for information from the Senate and House intelligence committees as part of their probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election. The request ;letters were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and others. Those letters sought information about Russian contacts, and asked the recipients to turn over any communications with the Trump campaign about Russia.

Cohen is a long-time lawyer for both Trump and his business organization. He has served as executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump.

In the dossier on Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, Cohen was alleged to have attended a secret meeting in Prague to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets. In February, Cohen told NBC News he was in Los Angeles when the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred, taking his son to a meeting with the baseball coach at the University of Southern California.

But still, he isn’t cooperating. “I declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen told CNN Tuesday, adding that he considered it a “total fishing expedition.”

“They have yet to produce one single piece of credible evidence that would corroborate the Russia narrative,” Cohen said. He called the investigation a “rush to judgment.”

In case we’ve forgotten, Cohen was part of one of the more cringeworthy parts of the campaign (jump to 1:50):

The Smoking Gun?

Another bombshell from the New York Times.  If this is true, Trump not only revealed classified information to Russians, but he also admitted to firing Comey because of the investigation:

WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.

The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.

In a statement, he said that Mr. Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine and the Islamic State.

“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Mr. Spicer said. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”

The day after firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump hosted Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in the Oval Office, along with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak. The meeting ignited controversy this week when it was revealed that Mr. Trump had disclosed intelligence from an Israeli counterterrorism operation.

A third government official briefed on the meeting defended the president, saying Mr. Trump was using a negotiating tactic when he told Mr. Lavrov about the “pressure” he was under. The idea, the official suggested, was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump.

The president has been adamant that the meddling did not alter the outcome of the race, but it has become a political cudgel for his opponents.

Many Democrats and some Republicans have raised alarms that the president may have tried to obstruct justice by firing Mr. Comey. The Justice Department’s newly appointed special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was given the authority to investigate not only potential collusion, but also related allegations, which would include obstruction of justice.

The F.B.I.’s investigation has bedeviled the Trump administration, and the president personally. Mr. Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the investigation in March, telling Congress that his agents were investigating Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had been involved. Mr. Trump has denied any collusion and called the case a waste of money and time.

At first, the White House said Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey based on the recommendation of the Justice Department, and because of Mr. Comey’s handling of the F.B.I. investigation into Hillary Clinton last year. Officials said it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation.

But the president undercut that argument a day later, telling NBC News, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

I hope people won’t focus on Trump calling Comey a “nut job”.  The takeaway quote is Trump thinking that by getting rid of Comey, he was taking the pressure off.  That is a problem for Trump, legally.  It goes to obstruction.

This story dropped just as Trump was wheels up on his trip abroad.  Washington Post dropped one as well, at the same time: a story saying that a close adviser to Trump in the White House is the a “person of interest” in the FBI investigation. Jared Kushner or Stephen Miller, I’d guess

Hmmmmmm… RED FLAG!

Interesting:

President Donald Trump’s attorneys originally wanted him to submit an updated financial disclosure without certifying the information as true.

In correspondence with the Office of Government Ethics, attorney Sheri Dillon said she saw no need for Trump to sign his 2016 personal financial disclosure because he is filing voluntarily this year. But OGE director Walter Shaub said his office would only work with Dillon if she agreed to follow the typical process of having him certify the information as true. Such certifications are standard for the thousands of financial disclosure forms OGE processes each year.

The Associated Press obtained the letters under a Freedom of Information Act request.

In her letter to Shaub, Dillon says the president will “sign and file” documents shedding light on his 2016 financials by mid-June.

Trump Is Delusional About How He Got Here

Boy, does WaPo get this right or what? This comes from The Plum Line about how Trump has no idea what just hit him:

Trump unleashed two tweets Thursday morning responding to the news of the appointment, which was made by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein after days of deafening criticism. Trump claimed: “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel [sic, or perhaps more appropriately, sick] appointed!” He then added: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Separately, The Post reports that Trump is raging at his staff for failing to mitigate his “stumbles.” Why? Because “Trump largely thinks that his recent mishaps are not substantive but simply errors of branding and public relations, according to people close to him and the White House.”

But, despite Trump’s suggestion that he is being victimized by a witch hunt, and that a more adept PR strategy could minimize the damage, this is a situation entirely of Trump’s own making. And each of Trump’s actions leading up to this moment are rooted deep in Trump’s autocratic and authoritarian impulses; his total contempt for basic institutional processes; and his tendency, when his sense of grievance strikes, to slip into a delusional belief that he can overwhelm the institutional independence of his persecutors the way he might steamroll someone in a business deal.

***

Trump has created a problem for himself in yet another way, too: He denied asking Comey for a loyalty pledge by vaguely threatening to release alleged tapes of their conversation. Now, if Comey publicly attests to that pledge, the White House will be forced to produce these tapes or admit they don’t exist, and it’s very likely that neither of those outcomes would turn out well for Trump.

The point is not just that Trump’s actions are entirely to blame for the appointment of the special counsel. It’s also that there are no indications that Trump even understands this. And on top of that, these actions themselves — which simply did not have to happen — will now likely be probed by the special counsel, too.

Here’s A Good Place For Mueller To Start

Reuters is reporting that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and other Trump campaign advisers “were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.”

That news stands in contrast to what Trump transition team chair-turned-Vice President Mike Pence said in January, when he repeatedly denied during TV interviews that there was any communication between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

In late February, CNN reported that the FBI “rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.” According to CNN, FBI Director James Comey denied White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ request because “the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.” Comey publicly confirmed that investigation in March.

Comey was fired by Trump last week amid an investigation into the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia. Trump later admitted he fired Comey in part because of frustrations about the ongoing investigation. That apparent obstruction of justice has led to calls for Trump’s impeachment and the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the matter.

Six of the communications involved calls between Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Trump advisers, including Flynn. Flynn lost his job as Trump’s national security adviser after officials leaked news that Flynn lied to administration officials about his pre-inauguration communications with Kislyak — including discussions of sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration in response to Russia’s meddling in the election on behalf of Trump.

Flynn wasn’t the only one who lied about his communications with Kislyak — so did Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who promised to recuse himself from any Russia-Trump campaign-related investigations after Justice Department officials leaked news that Sessions didn’t tell the truth during his confirmation hearing. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, didn’t disclose his December meeting with Kislyak on his security clearance form.

According to Reuters, during the transition period, Flynn and Kislyak discussed “establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and [Putin] that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations.”

The White House didn’t comment, but Reuters said the Russian embassy in D.C. issued a statement saying, “We do not comment on our daily contacts with the local interlocutors.”

From the time of the campaign through early March, Trump officials issued at least 20 separate denials of communications with Russia. On January 16, Trump told reporters, “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.” A month later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said despite Flynn’s transition-period contacts with Kislyak, he wasn’t aware of any Trump associates being in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. On February 20, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump-Russia “is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”

Meanwhile, Time Magazine reports this:

As they dig into the viralizing of such stories, congressional investigations are probing not just Russia’s role but whether Moscow had help from the Trump campaign. Sources familiar with the investigations say they are probing two Trump-linked organizations: Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics company hired by the campaign that is partly owned by deep-pocketed Trump backer Robert Mercer; and Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly run by Trump’s top political adviser Stephen Bannon.

The congressional investigators are looking at ties between those companies and right-wing web personalities based in Eastern Europe who the U.S. believes are Russian fronts, a source familiar with the investigations tells TIME. “Nobody can prove it yet,” the source says. In March, McClatchy newspapers reported that FBI counterintelligence investigators were probing whether far-right sites like Breitbart News and Infowars had coordinated with Russian botnets to blitz social media with anti-Clinton stories, mixing fact and fiction when Trump was doing poorly in the campaign.

Does not look like this is going away.

Day 118. Hot Mess

1/ Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in election. Mueller will take command of the prosecutors and FBI agents who are working on the far reaching Russia investigation. Trump said that he expects the probe will find no collusion between his 2016 White House campaign and foreign countries, calling the Russia inquiry a “taxpayer-funded charade.” (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • Former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the FBI’s investigation into Russian campaign interference. Multiple grand jury subpoenas and records requests have been issued in connection with the two men. (NBC News)
  • Federal investigators have subpoenaed records for Manafort’s $3.5 million mortgage that he took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign. (NBC News)

2/ The House majority leader told colleagues last year: “I think Putin pays” Trump. Paul Ryan told them not to leak the remarks and swore them to secrecy. (Washington Post)

3/ Jason Chaffetz asked the FBI to turn all documents it has on Trump and Comey’s conversations. The FBI has until May 24 to produce the records before the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee subpoenas them. Chaffetz said that if the memo exists and accurately reflects the conversation, “that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI.” (NBC News / CNN)

  • Comey’s memos were a product of a culture of note-taking. It is standard for people who work in law enforcement to keep detailed phone and meeting logs. (New York Times)

4/ Senate and House Republicans and Democrats want Comey to testify about his interactions with Trump, including whether Trump tried to obstruct the criminal probe into Michael Flynn. The collective political fallout from the past week “will make it difficult” for Republicans to resist a change in approach, Representative Charlie Dent said. “I think we need to hear from him as soon as possible in public to respond to the issues that have been raised in recent days,” Mitch McConnell said. (Politico / Washington Post / (Wall Street Journal)

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee requested that James Comey testify publicly in the wake of his firing by Trump. Sentors Richard Burr and Mark Warner sent a letter asking Comey to testify before their panel in both open and closed sessions. The senators had previously asked Comey to testify in a closed session, but he declined. (Politico)
  • The House Oversight Committee invited Comey to testify next Wednesday. Jason Chaffetz has officially scheduled the hearing and is in the process of trying to connect with Comey. The hearing will be the day the FBI is due to send documents to the oversight panel. (Politico)

5/ Democratic congressman Al Green called for “the impeachment of the President of the United States of America for obstruction of justice.” Green said it was the House of Representative’s “duty” to take up impeachment. More Republicans and Democrats are starting to talk of the possibility that Trump could face impeachment after reports that he pressed James Comey to end an investigation of Michael Flynn. Representative Justin Amash said if the reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would merit impeachment. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both raised concerns about Trump’s action, but avoided the topic of impeachment in their statements responding to the news of Comey’s memo. “At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power,” Pelosi said. “At worst, he has obstructed justice.” Democrats can’t impeach Trump without significant Republican support. (CNN / The Hill / BuzzFeed News)

6/ Republicans blocked the Democrats attempt to force a vote on creating a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate Russian interference, how the intelligence community handled the matter, and the Trump’s involvement. “You’re watching an obstruction of justice investigation developing in real time,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If there were ever any question about the need for an independent special prosecutor, this report is the nail on the argument.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)

  • Calls grow for an independent investigation. The deputy Republican whip Adam Kinzinger switched his position for an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, saying the recent news reports had marked a turning point for him. (NBC News / Washington Post)

7/ Paul Ryan tried to contain the political fallout from the Comey memo by urging members to avoid “rushing to judgment.” He called himself “a person who wants to get the facts” and said that “there are some people out there who want to harm the president.” (CNN / Washington Post / Politico)

8/ McCain compares Comey memo about his meeting with Trump to Watergate. “The only thing I can say is I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” McCain said. His advice to Trump is “the same thing that you advised Richard Nixon, which he didn’t do… get it all out… it’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. And the longer you delay, the longer it’s going to last.” (ABC News / The Daily Beast)

9/ Putin offers to provide Congress with the transcript to prove Trump didn’t pass Russia secrets, turning up the pressure on the White House to provide its own transcript of the meeting. Putin said Russia could hand over a transcript of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov, if the Trump administration deemed it appropriate. (Reuters / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Adam Schiff: “Last thing” Trump needs “is Putin vouching for him.” Schiff called Putin’s offer “yet another twist in the road” and said, “all of this gets more baffling every day.” (CNN)
  • Senator Susan Collins says Trump needs to “right the ship” and get his “house in order” because “we cannot have this constant chaos” every single day from him. (CNN)

10/ Trump provided Russia with secrets so sensitive that news organizations are being asked not to report it. Trump told the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador that the Islamic State had used stolen airport security equipment to test a bomb that could be hidden in electronic devices. US intelligence officials have asked media organizations not to report on the type of equipment, where it was stolen, and the name of the city where the intelligence was gathered. The intelligence has led to the new rules banning electronic devices in the cabins of certain flights. (NBC News)

11/ Trump: No politician “has been treated worse or more unfairly,” warning graduating Coast Guard cadets that life is unfair. (Politico)

12/ Sally Yates disputed Sean Spicer’s characterization of her warnings that Flynn could be open to blackmail by Russia as a “heads up.” Yates said she expected the White House to act urgently on the information that Flynn had been compromised by his contact with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. (CNN / NBC News)

13/ Members of the Turkish president’s security team breached police lines and attacked protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in the US. About two dozen demonstrators showed up outside of embassy hours after Erdogan met with Trump and a brawl erupted when Erdogan’s security detail attacked protesters carrying the flag of the Kurdish PYD party. (CNN / The Guardian / New York Times)

14/ The Iran nuclear deal will remain as Trump imposes new penalties over its ballistic missile program. The new sanctions is the latest attempt by the administration to signal its displeasure with Iran while not jettisoning the 2015 nuclear deal. (Politico / New York Times)

15/ Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke accepted a job at the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke has made a name himself for supporting Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration and for patrolling of Muslim neighborhoods. (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel / Los Angeles Times)

16/ Trump has turned to Corey Lewandowski, Jason Miller, and David Bossie as scandals pile up. The former campaign aides have slid back into his group of advisers as a steady stream of damaging leaks and critical blind quotes that have flowed out of the West Wing. (Politico)

17/ Trump’s education budget calls for deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice. Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end, and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health and other services would vanish under the plan, which cuts $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives. (Washington Post)

poll/ Trump’s approval rating hits a new low: 42% – and that’s before claims that he disclosed sensitive information to Russian officials and tried to shut down an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn. (Politico)

How We Got Here

I have been out of town and/or recuperating from being out of town, so the events of earlier this week caught me off guard.  Nothing to say, and yet so much to say, and yet so much has already been said.  Clearly though, this appears to be the beginning of the end for Trump. We are in impeachment territory, and the only open questions now are how long before his base erodes to the point where Republican Congressmen HAVE to step up to the plate?

Anyway, for future reference, this is how the crisis has unfolded.

July 5 2016

Comey recommends that the DOJ not bring charges against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State, but says she and her staff were “extremely careless”.

October 28

The FBI announces it is opening a new probe into Mrs Clinton’s emails, following an unrelated criminal investigation into Anthony Weiner, a former congressman and estranged husband of a Clinton aide.

November 6

Days before the election, Comey reaffirms his previous decision that no charges be brought against Mrs Clinton. Trump complains that Clinton is protected by a “rigged system”.

December 11

Trump attacks a Central Intelligence Agency report that Russia hacked Democratic party servers to help secure his election.

February 14 2017

Flynn “resigns” (is fired) as national security adviser after admitting he misled vice-president Michael Pence over his Russian contacts. The FBI had been investigating the conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

February 17

Trump slams leaked reports that his campaign team was in contact with Russia during the campaign.

March 20

Comey tells the House intelligence committee that the FBI is investigating Russian connections with Trump associates.

May 3

Comey testifies before a Senate committee and says he feels “mildly nauseous” at the thought that he could have influenced the outcome of the presidential election.

May 9

Comey is fired. A letter from the president says he was dismissed on the advice of the justice department over his handling of the Clinton case.

May 11

Trump says he would have fired Comey “regardless” of the justice department’s advice, and adds that he was unsatisfied with Comey because of the Russia investigation.

May 13

Trump appears to threaten Comey with the release of tapes of their private conversations.

May 15

The Washington Post reports that Mr Trump shared classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting.

May 16

Trump tweets that he has “absolute right” as president to give Russians information for counterterrorism purposes. The New York Times reports that Trump asked Comey in February to halt the investigation into Mr Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Comey, according to a memo the FBI head wrote at the time.

Day 116. Jeopardized.

1/ Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, which has jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. Trump’s decision to disclose information risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. A US official said Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” Trump’s disclosures are not illegal as he has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it represents a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship. (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and Sean Spicer. Trump is irritated with several Cabinet members and “frustrated, and angry at everyone.” (Axios)

3/ Senate Republicans are looking at steep cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and reduce programs for the poor. Under pressure to balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending on food stamps, welfare, and even veterans’ benefits through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate. If the Medicaid cutbacks get passed by both chambers, it could significantly scale back the federal-state insurance program that covers 73 million low-income or disabled Americans and shift significant costs onto hospitals and states. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

4/ James Clapper said that US institutions are under assault from Trump and warned that federal checks and balances are eroding. Former Director of National Intelligence called on the other branches of the federal government to step up in their roles as a check on the executive. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Republicans and Democrats agree that if Trump has tapes, he’ll need to turn them over to Congress. Lawmakers from both parties said any White House recordings must be preserved for congressional review and that “it’s probably inevitable” that they would be subpoenaed. (Washington Post)

5/ North Korea successfully test-fired a new type of ballistic missile, signaling an advance in their development of an intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea said the new “medium long-range” missile is capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Associated Press)

  • Putin warns against “intimidating” North Korea after its latest missile launch. Putin called for a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and said that Russia is “categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states.” (CNN)

6/ The 9th Circuit Court will hear the travel ban appeal, again. A three-judge panel will hear a challenge to a Hawaii judge’s decision to halt travel ban 2.0. Lawyers at the Justice Department must convince at least two of the judges to ignore Trump’s record of campaign calls to ban Muslims from entering the US. (CNN)

7/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate on Thursday about the firing of James Comey. The briefing is classified and will take place in the regular secure room in the Capitol Visitors Center. (CNN / Washington Post)

8/ The Supreme Court rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification law, which a lower court said targeted African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court’s decision to decline to hear it. (Associated Press / Politico / New York Times)

9/ The Dakota Access pipeline has its first leak. The $3.8bn oil pipeline is not yet fully operational, but managed to spill 84 gallons of crude oil. (The Guardian)

10/ White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torch-bearing group protesting the sale of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The group chanted “You will not replace us.” Spencer added: “What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced.” (NPR / Washington Post)

11/ Trump thinks that exercising too much uses up the body’s “finite” energy. Trump mostly gave up athletics after college because he “believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.” (Washington Post)

12/ Comey said he’d be willing to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but wants it to be in public. Comey originally declined an invitation from the committee to be interviewed in a closed-door hearing. (New York Times)

13/ Syria is using a crematorium to hide executions, the State Department said. The US believes Syria’s “building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison.” A State Department official said the regime could be killing as many as 50 detainees a day. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

14/ Senate Republicans are breaking away from Trump as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes. Republican senators are drafting a health care bill with little White House input and pushing back on Trump’s impending budget request. Many high-ranking Republicans have said they will not support any move by Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. (New York Times)

poll/ 29% approve of Trump’s firing of James Comey. Trump’s job-approval rating stands at 39%. (NBC News)

Day 117. Wow.

1/ Trump asked James Comey to shut down the Michael Flynn investigation in a February memo he wrote shortly after meeting with Trump. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey. The request is the clearest evidence that he tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigations. Comey kept detailed notes of his meetings with Trump, documenting what he perceived as improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An FBI agent’s notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations. (New York Times)

2/ Trump defended his decision to share ISIS intelligence with Russia, tweeting that he had an “absolute right” to do so in the interest of fighting terrorism. Trump’s tweets undercut his administration’s effort to contain the report, where Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, and the deputy national security adviser for strategy all called the report that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russia false. The information was considered so sensitive that US officials had not shared it widely within the government or among allies. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

UPDATE:

Three administration officials conceded that Trump simply did not possess the interest or knowledge of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods that would do harm to United States allies. (New York Times)

  • Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, which has jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. (WTF Just Happened Today)
  • “This is really the nightmare scenario for the intelligence community,” a former CIA officer said, and as a result Trump could have hampered the US response to ISIS. (Politico)
  • Initial thoughts on the Washington Post’s game-changing story: It matters who we have running the most powerful institution in the world. (Lawfare)

3/ McMaster backs Trump’s sharing of sensitive intelligence with Russians: “It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary.” He added that Trump “wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.” McMaster refused to confirm whether the information the president shared with the Russians was highly classified. (ABC News / Washington Post / Politico)

4/ Israel was the source of ISIS-related intelligence that Trump shared with Russia last week. Two Israeli officials said that the intelligence shared by Trump “syncs up” with intelligence that shared with its US counterparts. The revelation is Israel’s “worst fears confirmed” as it raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

5/ CIA Director Mike Pompeo will brief the members of the House intelligence committee today on what Trump discussed with Russian officials last week, following claims that Trump apparently revealed classified information. (CNN)

6/ Republican and Democratic lawmakers to Trump: hand over the transcript of the meeting with the Russians. Members of Congress have spent several days demanding that Trump turn over tapes of White House meetings after he suggested that he records his conversations. Those calls intensified after Trump acknowledged on Twitter that he had shared sensitive information during his meeting with the Russians. White House aides have neither confirmed nor denied the possibility that Trump records his conversations at the White House. (Washington Post)

  • Lawmakers express shock and concern about Trump disclosure of classified information. “They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said of the Trump administration. “The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think makes — it creates a worrisome environment.” (Washington Post)

7/ Mitch McConnell called for “less drama” from Trump. “I think it would be helpful if the president spent more time on things we’re trying to accomplish and less time on other things,” McConnell said. (Bloomberg)

8/ Trump will disclose some of his personal finances this year, which will likely indicate his personal income, assets, and liabilities. They won’t contain details like his tax rate or any charitable donations. (Associated Press)

9/ Paul Manafort took out a $3.5 million mortgage and never paid taxes on it. The former Trump campaign manager took out the mortgage through a shell company just after leaving the campaign and never paid the $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan. (NBC News)

10/ Trump to meet with Turkey’s president amid differences over the Trump administration’s plan to directly arm Kurdish rebels in Syria for the fight against ISIS. Turkey considers the group a terrorist organization, because it maintains ties with a Kurdish revolutionary group inside Turkey. (ABC News)

11/ Gingrich urged Trump to shut down White House press room in order to send a message to the country “that the media is a corrupt institution and [Trump] is tired of being harassed by people whose only interest is making him look bad.” (Politico)

poll/ 48% of voters support impeaching Trump compared to 41% that are opposed to the idea. 43% of voters think Trump is actually going to end up serving his full term, while 45% think he won’t. 12% aren’t sure one way or the other. (Public Policy Polling)

Trump Fires Comey

It’s been an amazing 16 hours.

The comparisons to Watergate’s “Saturday Night Massacre” can’t be helped.

Let’s be clear about this: Trump has fired the head of the investigation into his campaign’s contacts with the Russians.

The reason? Because of the way Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.  Almost nobody is buying that rationale, or the timing.

Many Democrats, myself included, agree with the rationale.  And if this had happened during the Obama-Trump transition, then it would make sense.  But happening now?  Nope.

Especially when Trump PROFUSELY PRAISED Comey during the campaign for his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Comey was delivering a speech in Los Angeles when he learned he had been fired.  He thought it was a prank at first.

The D,C, backlash was immediate.

White House sources say off-the-record that the White House was taken aback by the surprise outrage.  I find that almost as bizarre as the underlying story itself.  How could they NOT KNOW this would be a bombshell?

But that’s only one of the mysteries surrounding this.  Also on the list…

  • What did Trump mean in his second paragraph above that Comey had told him three times that he was not the subject of an investigation?  (The inclusion of that statement in the letter is obviously self-serving, and one wonders what those conversations — if they took place at all — were actually about and what was actually said).Trump’s letter firing Comey claims Comey told him three times that he (Trump) isn’t under investigation. But, pressed by Politico, the White House can’t back this up:

    In his letter dismissing Comey, Trump said the FBI director had given him three private assurances that he wasn’t under investigation. The White House declined to say when those conversations happened — or why Comey would volunteer such information.

    Now that’s a real shocker, isn’t it?

  • Why was Jeff Sessions involved in this decision?  He recused himself from the Russia investigation altogether. And then he weighs in on Comey’s firing?
  • Who will replace Comey?  Will it be a pro-Trump person willing to slow down or end the Russia investigation?
  • The calls for a special independent prosecutor are deafening.  Will this happen?

Over at the conservative RedState website, Jay Caruso speaks for most everyone:

Here are five reasons why it was an awful decision:

1. The timing – Of course this is bad. The FBI is currently investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, and whether or not Trump campaign staff were colluding with Russian agents. The mere appearance of impropriety makes the decision come off as political.

2. The GOP can’t play ball – If Trump believes he is going to get the FBI Director of his choice, he’s got another thing coming. Republican Senators are not going to allow anybody to take over. Trump will have to appoint a person that could very well be more dogmatic when he/she takes over the investigations.

3. It gives Democrats secure use of the ‘C’ word – That word is corruption or corrupt. Many people think the GOP lost control of Congress in 2006 because of the Iraq War. The reality is Republicans lost because of the “culture of corruption” surrounding the GOP with scandals such as those involving Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay (who was later exonerated) and Mark Foley all contributing to a depressed GOP turnout. The same thing could happen again in 2018.

4. It’s a sign of weakness – Trumpers can blather about Trump “draining the swamp” all they want, but somebody in a position of strength doesn’t pull a move like this. Someone in a position of strength lets the chips fall where they may and deals with whatever consequences result. Trump’s termination of Comey makes him look afraid of what Comey was going to do.

5. The media onslaught is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time – Donald Trump will attempt to defend this action via Twitter. Bank on it. He’ll scream “Fake news!” at every opportunity because the media is not going to let up, nor should they. The fact this took place hours before the media reported the Justice Department issued subpoenas to private business associates of Michael Flynn stinks to high heaven.

From the left, Kevin Drum on what the Comey firing shows us about Donald Trump and his White House on Mother Jones.

The Comey firing had nothing to do with the Hillary Clinton email investigation. It was all because Trump was outraged over Comey’s public acknowledgement that the FBI was investigating his Russia ties. He wanted the investigation to disappear, and he began obsessing about firing Comey—presumably in hopes that this was all it would take to kill the case. And apparently Trump was shocked when Democrats didn’t line up behind him. They hate Comey too, don’t they?

Trump’s astronomical ignorance has finally caught up with him. He seems to have had no idea that firing Comey wouldn’t stop the investigation—nor that a new FBI director wouldn’t dare quash it. In fact, all the firing does is make the investigation untouchable. And Trump’s astronomical narcissism has caught up with him too. He has so little insight into other humans that he simply couldn’t conceive of anyone hating Comey but still defending his right to serve out his term. In Trump’s world, you reward your friends and punish your enemies and that’s that.

This is hardly unexpected from Trump, whose ignorance and narcissism are legendary. But does he really have nobody on his staff to warn him about this stuff? Reince Priebus surely knew how this would play out. Ditto for Mike Pence.

And one final thing: once again, we learn that many of Trump’s advisors are perfectly willing to portray him as an idiot.

The Politico story is based on conversations with insiders who were happy to confirm that the Comey firing was all about Russia. This directly contradicts the White House narrative that it was about the fact that everyone had lost confidence in Comey because of the way he mistreated poor Hillary Clinton. Who are these people who work for Trump (?) but are happy to undermine him to the press on a regular basis?

It’s true.  The Politico story is all about Trump’s frustration with the Russia probe:

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.

Somehow, I don’t think this makes the story go away.

And finally, the NYT editorial board concludes with this:

This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates. There is no guarantee that Mr. Comey’s replacement, who will be chosen by Mr. Trump, will continue that investigation; in fact, there are already hints to the contrary.

The obvious historical parallel to Mr. Trump’s action was the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, prompting the principled resignations of the attorney general and his deputy. But now, there is no special prosecutor in place to determine whether the public trust has been violated, and whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power. For that reason, the country has reached an even more perilous moment.

And this picture from this morning — Trump meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (on the left) and Russian Ambassador Kisylak.

…. and THEN, as if the Nixonian optics aren’t bad enough, he meets with Kissenger!

As one friend quipped, “interesting times we’re living in”

UPDATE: Well, this explains a lot….

This is more than bad optics or bad judgment.

UPDATE #2 —  Then again

UPDATE #3…. From McClatchy Newspapers:

And WH spokesman Sarah Sanders at press conference now: “The president over the last several months lost confidence in Dir. Comey. The DOJ lost confidence in Dir. Comey.”

Flashback —

I call BS on that.

Sarah saying that candidate Trump is not president Trump so he can do complete 180s.

She’s very tightlipped on the issue of Comey telling Trump that he was not a subject of investigation.

Sarah just said two different things in the span of 30 seconds: (1) She’s not surprised that Democrats opposed the firing because that’s what Democrats do; (2) She’s surprised that Democrats opposed the firing because they called for him to be fired.

FINAL UPDATE?

I have a funny feeling that many Republicans are merely giving lip service to the “outrage”

Yikes! Yates!

Sally Yates is a career civil servant in the Justice Department. She was hired under the first Bush administration, promoted during the Clinton administration, promoted again during the second Bush administration, and yet again under the Obama administration. Two years ago she was named deputy attorney general, the second ranking position in the department, and then became acting attorney general when Loretta Lynch left. President Trump asked her to stay on until Jeff Sessions was confirmed, and she agreed. A few days later, after declining to defend Trump’s immigration order in court, she was fired.

Today she’s scheduled to testify about what she told the White House regarding National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s connections to Russia.

And the President seems concerned.

Also, he doesn’t know how to spell “council”.

It is odd that Trump is inserting himself into this hearing.  It shows he is concerned.

There are two things big about this hearing this afternoon in which Sally Yates will give public testimony.

The first is… this is the Senate.  The responsible house of Congress.  Hopefully, we will see less show-boating and more seriousness.

The second is… Flynn.  The stories are pouring out today. According to NBC, former President Obama informed Trump personally not to hire Flynn.

That piece of news late this morning made Trump’s earlier tweet today come off badly:

The Trump team has confirmed this but responds that they thought Obama said it in “jest” (Obama being the prankster that he is — not!)

Trump, is seems, has a blind spot for Flynn. According to Axios, the White House staff wants to throw Flynn under a bus but Trump will not have any of it.

Which brings us back to Sally Yates. Her testimony could raise new questions about how President Trump responded to concerns that Flynn had lied. And one hopes she can shed light on the links between Trump’s campaign and Russia (although I suspect not).

To be updated….

UPDATE 1:30 pm – Hmmmmmm….

They really seem worried.

UPDATE 2:35 pm – Yates hearing starts. Her and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

Senator Graham steers the conversation with Yates back to unmasking topic.

In answer to Trump’s tweet, both Yates and Clapper, under oath, said they do not know who or how the info was leaked.

OH MY GOD….. This:

Yates reminds us that her last day at the DOJ was the day she told the White House they can come review damning evidence about Flynn’s compromised position. Boom you are fired

We’re coming up on one hour and I am embarrassed at the Republicans like Graham and Grassley who seen non-plussed by the fact that the national Security Adviser was a security risk because the Russians knew he was lying.  They only care about leaks/unmasking.

And they’re lying about it.

Cornyn joins other GOP senators to ask about unmasking. There doesn’t seem to be any criminal wrongdoing, just a general “concern”. Seems to me that the top national security adviser being compromised by Russia and the White House doing nothing about it, is the bigger fish here.

Fascinating exchange: Cornyn goes after Yates for her failure to support Trump’s Muslim ban. She humiliates him by saying that the ban was unlawful, so she couldn’t.  In follow-up, she acknowledges that three courts have agreed with her.

All this is timely because at this exact moment, the 4th Circuit is hearing arguments on Muslim ban.

Ted Cruz is up now.

And she beats him with the same stick.

Aaaaaand they are back to the Muslim/travel ban with Sen. Kennedy (R-La) mansplaining to Yates.

As Republicans senators question why Yates refused to defend Trump’s executive order, Senator Leahy reminds them that many of those same Republicans, at her confirmation hearing, wanted to know is she could act independent of the President, and she said yes (to their pleasure)

Day 104: Nauseous.

1/ James Comey said he’s “mildly nauseous” at the suggestions he swayed the election. The FBI director defended his “painful” decision on the Clinton email probe during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. “This was terrible,” Comey said. “But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision,” because failing to inform Congress would have required an “act of concealment” which would have been “catastrophic.” Comey added that Russia is actively involved in trying to influence US politics, emboldened after the outcome of last year’s election, because “this works.” (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press / CNN / CBS News)

  • Comey says classified Clinton emails were forwarded to Anthony Weiner. (Washington Post)

2/ A pair of Republican holdouts now back the health care bill. The latest proposal provides $8 billion over five years to help about 160,000 people with pre-existing medical conditions afford coverage by putting “downward pressure” on premium costs. The total individual market claims over those five years will probably be about $500 billion, mostly from people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans are still two or three votes away from being able to guarantee passage, but are pushing for a vote sometime this week. (Bloomberg / Associated Press / New York Times / Axios / Washington Post)

3/ Trump’s national security adviser described his foreign policy approach as “disruptive.” H.R. McMaster said Trump’s unpredictable and unconventional ways could stabilize the Middle East, because Trump “does not have time to debate over doctrine.” Instead, he seeks to challenge failed policies of the past with a businessman’s results-oriented approach. (Reuters)

4/ Trump weighs how to approach a Middle East conflict while hosting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House today. The conflict has eluded resolution for seven decades. Trump called it the “ultimate deal” and has tasked Jared Kushner with negotiating the peace agreement. (Bloomberg / NBC News)

5/ Trump was “directly involved” in the post-inauguration hunt for the rogue National Park Service tweeter. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Trump was “concerned” about who used the National Park Service Twitter account to retweet a side-by-side comparisons of the crowds at the Trump and Obama inauguration ceremonies. The tweet was deleted. (CBS News)

6/ Trump is expected to sign a long-awaited and highly controversial executive order on religious liberties on Thursday – the National Day of Prayer. A draft of the order, which leaked in February, would establish broad exemptions and legal protections for people and groups to claim religious objections. Civil liberties groups claim it would allow for discrimination against LGBT Americans. (Politico / Fox News / CNN)

7/ The NSA collected more than 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls last year, despite Congress limiting its ability to collect bulk phone records. Under the old system, the NSA collected “billions of records per day.” (NBC News / New York Times)

via What The Fuck Just Happened Today? http://ift.tt/2jTSF6j

Trump Has More Civil War Issues

Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ ”

The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!

Like many of Mr. Trump’s claims, the inscription was evidently not fact-checked.

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.

“The only thing that was remotely close to that,” Mr. Gillespie said, was 11 miles up the river at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, a rout of Union forces in which several hundred were killed. “The River of Blood?” he added. “Nope, not there.”

Mr. Gillespie’s contradiction of the plaque’s account was seconded by Alana Blumenthal, the curator of the Loudoun Museum in nearby Leesburg. (A third local expert, who said he had written to Mr. Trump’s company about the inscription’s falsehoods and offered to provide historically valid replacement text, insisted on anonymity because he did not want to cross the Trump Organization by disclosing a private exchange.)

Day 103: Floundering.

1/ House Republicans are floundering on the Obamacare repeal as 20 Republicans have now opposed the plan. Paul Ryan can only lose 22 votes and still pass the bill. With the 20 lawmakers against the bill, GOP leaders would have to persuade almost every undecided lawmaker to support the legislation in order to reach the 216-vote threshold needed for passage. Republicans insist they’re close. If only two more members come out as “No” votes, there will be no majority to pass the bill. (Politico / CNN)

  • An influential Republican attacked the party’s latest health care bill, saying the measure now “torpedoes” protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. (New York Times)

2/ Trump: The US “needs a good shutdown” in September to fix the Senate “mess.” He’s frustrated by Senate rules that require a 60 vote supermajority to approve most major legislation. Trump’s solution is to either elect more Republican senators in the 2018 midterms, “or change the rules now to 51%” and scrap the legislative filibuster althogether. Congress is poised to approve a budget to fund the government through September, but it doesn’t include several provisions sought by Trump, including funding for a border wall and language for stripping federal money from so-called sanctuary cities. (The Hill / New York Times / ABC News / CNN)

3/ The South Korea THAAD missile defense system is now operational. The system is meant to protect South Korea from ballistic missiles fired by North Korea, but China and other critics say the move will only increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (NPR)

4/ Trump’s attack on Syria was “in lieu of after-dinner entertainment” for the guests dining at Mar-a-Lago the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said. Trump interrupted dessert to tell Chinese President Xi about the cruise missile attack. The “entertainment didn’t cost the president anything.” (The Guardian / CNN)

5/ Trump puts antiabortion activist in charge of family planning funding for poor Americans and those without health insurance. About 4 million Americans receive family planning coverage through the Title X program, and the majority of them are low-income and people of color. (Washington Post)

6/ Putin said allegations that Russia had meddled in the US election were based on rumors and that Moscow did not want foreign powers to interfere in Russian politics. He blamed the allegations on the result of domestic US political battles. (Reuters)

  • South Korea’s likely next president warned the US not to meddle in its democracy. (Washington Post)

7/ A Republican congressman implied that people with pre-existing health conditions aren’t living their lives “the right way.” After catching himself, Brooks quickly conceded that people with pre-existing conditions may have them “through no fault of their own.” (The Daily Beast)

8/ Pro-Trump farmers now worry he was serious about the NAFTA repeal. Corn, soybean, and dairy farmers are worried that Trump’s rhetoric could directly impact their narrow margins. The same rural communities that animated Trump’s campaign, would feel the brunt of the changes to the trade deal. (CNN)

9/ Here’s the 23 environmental rules Trump has rolled back. Citing federal overreach and burdensome regulations, Trump has prioritized domestic fossil fuel interests and undone measures aimed at protecting the environment and limiting global warming. (New York Times)

TK/ Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates. He praised the Egyptian president for doing “a fantastic job” on gunning down his opponents, invited Thailand’s prime minister to the White House who jailed dissidents after he took power in a coup, and congratulated Turkey’s president after eroding basic freedoms. (Washington Post)

10/ Jared Kushner didn’t disclose his stake in a company that makes him a business partner with Goldman Sachs, George Soros, and Peter Thiel. Kushner is currently a part-owner of a real-estate finance startup and has a number of loans from banks on properties he co-owns, but didn’t identify these on his government financial disclosure form. (Wall Street Journal)

via What The Fuck Just Happened Today? http://ift.tt/2jTSF6j

And It Was Only Monday

Politico:

President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War— which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the “right circumstances.”

The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was “looking at” breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.

And Monday still had nine hours to go.

It was a bewildering day of bizarre interviews.  (Note: Yesterday was the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month)

This morning, on Morning Joe, Mika and Joe admitted that Trump’s behavior is pathological, saying the President is literally unfit to serve. “Beyond bizarre.” “Erratic.” “A confused mental state.”  Interesting assessment, since Mika and Joe have done a lot over the past year to normalize Trump. Also on Morning Joe, Jon Meacham said Trump told him last year that he could’ve done a deal to stop the Civil War.

If it was a White House plan to flummox the press and the country, it is hard to see the purpose.  On one hand, it was more of the same. On the other hand, it was just too much, especially as he embarked on his post-100 presidency.

Let’s sum up yesterday:

1/ Congress reached a deal to keep the government open through September. The plan would add billions for the Pentagon and border security, but it doesn’t allow the money to be spent on building Trump’s wall. There is no money provided for a deportation force and there are no cuts of federal monies to so-called sanctuary cities. Votes in both chambers are expected by the end of the week. (CNN)

2/ North Korea said it will continue its nuclear weapons tests and bolster its nuclear force “to the maximum.” The North called US sanctions and its show of force – sending an aircraft carrier to the Korean peninsula and joint drills with South Korea – aggression and hysteria. (Reuters)

3/ Trump said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong Un if the circumstances were right. “I would be honored to do it,” he said amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Bloomberg)

  • Trump calls Kim Jong-un a “a pretty smart cookie” for managing to hold on to power after taking over at a young age. (The Guardian)

4/ Trump doesn’t know what’s in his health care bill. The Republican health care plan Trump described on Face the Nation is at odds with his health care goals. He said that people with preexisting conditions will be protected, but the latest amendment says they won’t be. Trump also said deductibles will go down under the Republican plan, but a nonpartisan analysis expects deductibles to go up. (Vox)

  • GOP faces a make-or-break moment on Obamacare repeal. This week may be the last, best chance to get it done in the House. (Politico)

5/ The administration ends Michelle Obama’s girls education program. The “Let Girls Learn” program comes to an end as Melania Trump begins to define her own platform as first lady. (CNN)

6/ The Department of Agriculture is relaxing Obama-era school lunch standards. The new rules suspend the sodium reduction and whole-grain requirements, as well as allow 1% fat chocolate milk back into school cafeterias nationwide because of “palatability issues.” (ABC News)

7/ Trump claims Andrew Jackson was upset about the Civil War and wonders why that the issues “could not have been worked out.” Jackson died 16 years before the war began. Trump suggested that if Jackson had been president “a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War.” (Associated Press)


8/ Trump abruptly ended an interview after being pushed on his claims that Obama ordered surveillance of him. He said his allegation that he was illegally surveilled has “been proven very strongly” and that he is entitled to his own “opinions.” (Politico)

  • Trump’s interview with “Face the Nation.” (CBS News)

9/ Trump invited Duterte to visit him at the White House after their “very friendly conversation.” The authoritarian leader is accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, which has drawn criticism from human rights groups. The State Department and the National Security Council were both caught off guard by the invitation and raised objections internally. (New York Times)

  • Rodrigo Duterte says he may be too busy for a White House visit. (New York Times)

10/ Reince Priebus said the Trump administration has “looked at” changes to libel laws that would curtail press freedoms. Trump has frequently slammed the press for its coverage of him and has suggested changing libel laws. Libel is when defamatory statements about someone are published. But the American press enjoys some protection from lawsuits claiming libel because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights. (ABC News)

11/ Trump says his rally crowd broke records despite empty seats at his 100-day rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night. Journalists pointed out rows of empty seats at the expo center. (The Hill)

Just insane.  Most of the focus was on Trump’s comments regarding Andrew Jackson, which he tried to clean up in a tweet saying that Jackson was dead 16 years before the Civil War (see everyone, I knew that!) but he saw it coming and was angry about it.

No, he didn’t see it coming, and he wasn’t angry about it. Trump just made that up.

Also…

Anyway….. Seth Meyers puts it together

This morning, we get two more tweets.  Clearly he was tweeting in response to the show he was watching, but we don’t know what that is:

Uh…. he WANTS a government shutdown?  Interesting, seeing as he blamed Democrats four days ago for almost bringing on a government shutdown. Remember this?

Government shutdowns are bad, Mr. President. Here’s what happened in 2013 when we did that:

  • $2.5 billion in compensation costs for furloughed workers (whose lack of pay for two weeks hampered consumer spending);
  • 120,000 fewer private-sector jobs created in the first half of October;
  • $500 million lost in visitor spending because of closed National Parks ;
  • $11 million in lost National Parks and Smithsonian Institution revenue;
  • Interest accrued on billions of dollars of payments owed to third parties that the government was unable to pay during the shutdown;
  • Resources spent on putting activities in standby or maintaining them in an idle mode;
  • 1.2 million Internal Revenue Service identity verification requests that couldn’t be processed, causing a delay in private-sector lending and other activities;
  • Stalled approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration delayed moving products to market.

Yyyyeah. Of course, as President, he COULD just veto what he doesn’t like. Does he know that yet?

Look, when Trump was a businessman and failed, he simply declared bankruptcy. I think, in Trump’s mind, “shutdown” is the political equivalent of bankruptcy.  I think he saw the morning shows and saw that his Trumpcare was failing (again).  He wants a “shutdown”, a clean slate (in his mind).

Statistically, Trump Lies Almost Five Times A Day

This information from the Washington Post is astounding. This is Trump’s factual tally for his first 100 days in office:

488: The number of false or misleading claims made by the president. That’s an average of 4.9 claims a day.

10: Number of days without a single false claim. (On six of those days, the president golfed at a Trump property.)

4:
Number of days with 20 or more false claims. (Feb. 16, Feb. 28, March 20 and April 21.) He made 19 false claims on April 29, his 100th day, though we did not include his interview with “Face the Nation,” since that aired April 30.

Many of Trump’s false claims are repeats:

This makes Trump somewhat unique among politicians. Many will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over.

One of those assertions (spoken 17 times) is that Obamacare is on the edge of disaster.  The CBO says that while Obamacare has issues, it is not imploding and is expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future.

I tell you something — it makes blogging almost obsolete.  In the old days, I could write a lengthy post or two about ONE lie in the Bush era.  Now I’m lucky if I get a tweet out about it.

Bizarre Things Trump Has Said And Done In The Past Two Days

  • Suggested that Andrew Jackson was alive for the Civil War
  • Praised Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson
  • Praised Philippine despot Rodrigo Dutert
  • Praised North Korean despot Kim Jung Il (and confirmed)
  • Stated that nobody ever asks why the Civil War had to be fought (which is literally a question in the test given to immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship
  • Said “I don’t stand by anything” re: the things he says
  • Complained about the “archaic” separation of powers which prevents him from doing things
  • Seemed completely unaware of what was in the health care bill he advocates

Day 100. Perspective.

1/ How Trump reshaped the presidency and how it’s changed him.|

In his first 100 days, Trump has transformed the highest office in ways both profound and mundane, pushing traditional boundaries, ignoring longstanding protocol and discarding historical precedents as he reshapes the White House in his own image. (New York Times)

2/ At 100 days, Trump’s big talk on the economy lacks substance. Trump has tweeted a great game, but other than reversing some of Obama’s executive orders, he hasn’t really done much on the employment and economic fronts. Consumer confidence has risen, but it’s not clear what impact it will have on the economy. Or how long that optimism will last. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump’s first 100 days ranked by the best, the worst, and everything in between. Sizing up the milestone than with a ranking from best to worst, smooth to chaotic, squeaky-clean to scandalous, of all the president’s days in the White House so far. (Politico)

  • What mattered and what didn’t. Trump has done more—and less—to change America than you think. (Politico)

4/ In its first 100 days, the GOP scrambles to learn how to govern. As Republicans reach the end of their first hundred days of controlling all the levers of power in Washington, they now acknowledge that being put in charge of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has brought out the long-standing divisions within the party and tensions between the two houses of Congress. (Washington Post)

  • Congress at 100 Days: Frenetic action but few accomplishments. The broad policy agenda that Republicans bragged that they would deliver if they won control in Washington has eluded them thus far, disenfranchise the minority party, and created one of the least productive opening acts by Congress in recent memory. (New York Times)

5/ How the world sees Trump. The number of campaign promises that have morphed into presidential U-turns is staggering. Allies and adversaries alike are trying to figure out whether a Trump Doctrine is emerging, or whether one even exists. (CNN)

6/ White House reporters recall their most vivid moments of Trump’s first 100 days. Covering the Trump White House can be exhilarating, maddening, exhausting – but never boring. (New York Times)

7/ Inside Trump’s tumultuous first 100 days. Trump wraps up his first 100 days with the lowest approval rating of any president at this juncture since Dwight Eisenhower. That vulnerability is underscored by the willingness of even Trump’s closest GOP allies to critique his shortcomings. (CNN)

8/ Trump’s presidency has become the demoralizing daily obsession of anyone concerned with global security, the vitality of the natural world, the national health, constitutionalism, civil rights, criminal justice, a free press, science, public education, and the distinction between fact and its opposite. (The New Yorker)

9/ Trump has given progressives so many causes for fear and outrage, it can be difficult — both practically and psychologically — to keep on top of them all as they happen. (New York Magazine)

  • Trump has galvanized activists on the left, but can they stay energized? Thousands of groups have sprouted across the country, aimed at resisting the Trump’s agenda. (Washington Post)
  • The Women’s March still inspires, but can the enthusiasm hold? (NPR)

10/ A president’s very public education. Over the course of his 100 days in office, Trump has been startlingly candid about health care being complicated, China as an ally, NATO obsolescence, and that being president is hard. (Associated Press)

WTF Happened Today:

1/ Trump is talking about consolidating his power. In an interview with Fox News, he dismissed the “archaic” rules of the House and Senate — using that word four times — and suggested they needed to be streamlined for the good of the country. Also, he doesn’t like the filibuster. (Washington Post)

2/ In defiance of international pressure, North Korea tests another ballistic missile. The missile blew up over land in North Korean territory. It was the second consecutive failure in the past two weeks. (CNN)

3/ The People’s Climate March draws thousands in DC. Rather than pushing for stronger climate action, organizers this year say they are fighting to preserve the gains that have already been made. (Washington Post)

4/ The EPA removed its climate science site the day before march on Washington. The website previously housed data on greenhouse gas emissions and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health. (The Guardian)

5/ Patagonia threatens to sue Trump over national monuments order. Earlier in the week Trump ordered federal officials to review two decades of national monument designations, calling them “another egregious abuse of federal power.” (The Hill)

6/ Trump, again, derides Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” – a jab at her Native American ancestry. During the 2016, Trump suggested Warren was exaggerating or even lying about her background. (NBC News)

7/ Trump proclaims May 1 is “Loyalty Day” as a way to “recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles” upon which America was built and express pride in those ideals. (Fox News)

Let This Quote Sink In

That quote should go in every history book, because it epitomizes both the arrogance and the ignorance of the Trump campaign.  We’ve gone from “Only I can fix this” in his convention speech to “I thought it would be easier”.

A man who doesn’t know that President of the United States is the hardest job title ON THE PLANET, should never run.

Trump Loses In Federal Court…. Again…. This Time on Sanctuary Cities

A federal district court ruling yesterday bars President Trump from withholding funds from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal agencies to deport undocumented immigrants, marking his second setback in court on immigration.  The first setback, of course, was his Muslim ban.

Before I get to the substance of this post, first things first:

No, it wasn’t the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Donald — it was a federal district court — one level down.  Yes, the court is within the Ninth Circuit, but it isn’t the ACTUAL Ninth Circuit court itself.  So the next stop isn’t the Supreme Court, it’s the Ninth Circuit.

Also, it wasn’t JUST the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban; it was a federal district court in Maryland.  And Massachusetts, I believe, as well.

*Sigh*.  He apparently thinks you sue a circuit court when you don’t like a decision.

Look, the opinion was a no-brainer.

Trump’s order, signed Jan. 25, threatened to cut off funding from local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco challenged the order, arguing, among other things, that the president doesn’t have the power to withhold federal money.

They’re right. He doesn’t.

The 49-page ruling focused largely on an all-too-familiar theme for this administration: the consequences of bragging and bluster by Trump and top administration officials.

Just like the judges who ruled on Trump’s travel ban, Judge Orrick homed in on the vast discrepancies between what government lawyers defending the sanctuary cities order argued in court and what administration officials said about it in public.

In court, the government tried to make the case that the order doesn’t actually do anything, at least not at the moment, because the administration has yet to define what exactly a sanctuary city is or threaten any particular jurisdiction with a loss of funds.  It was their way of convincing the judge to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that no city or county has yet suffered any harm.

The problem with that approach is that administration officials boasted about how the order would force sanctuary cities to their knees, singling out particular places.  So, in court, the Trump lawyers argued that it was essentially an empty shell even though it was portrayed in news conferences, briefings and television interviews as a powerful tool to protect the public from dangerous undocumented immigrants being shielded by wayward cities and counties.

Fine,said, Judge Orrick. If the order is powerless, then surely you won’t mind if I impose this injunction which prevents you from actually doing anything. So that’s what he did.

I somehow don’t think Trump was briefed about that, because he is treating it as a loss.  Which it IS, but it’s just what his lawyers argued.

According to Orrick, the government contended that the order was merely an example of Trump using the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement” — in essence, something much more benign than what Trump and company had described.

The argument was lost on the judge, who ridiculed the government’s position as “schizophrenic.”

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

“Is the Order merely a rhetorical device,” he added, “or a ‘weapon’ to defund the Counties and those who have implemented a different law enforcement strategy than the Government currently believes is desirable?”

The ruling continued: “The statements of the President, his press secretary and the Attorney General belie the Government’s argument in the briefing that the Order does not change the law. They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the Executive Order.”

Here is the decision.  If you do nothing else, read the last paragraph.

State Department Website Plugs Trump’s Mar-A-Lago

Ethics problem:

Washington (CNN)- President Donald Trump personally owns Mar-a-Lago, his private club on Florida’s eastern coast. But that didn’t stop the State Department, in a blog post on the United States Embassy in London’s website, from touting the property.

In a markedly promotional blog post from April 5 that could eventually benefit the President’s bottom line, should it spur membership or foreign visits, the embassy writes that the property has “become well known as the President frequently travels there to work or host foreign leaders.”

Ethics watchdogs and Democratic groups have been closely eying Trump’s ability to benefit his bottom line through the presidency and this blog post has some questioning whether the government is now helping publicize the property.

The Mar-a-Lago Club has already seemingly benefited from Trump’s presidency. The club raised its initiation fee from $100,000 to $200,000 after Trump was elected and members and former members around Mar-a-Lago have said there is now an added cachet with frequently visiting the President’s club.

“Aggressively begging foreign countries to funnel money straight into Trump’s pocket is a clear violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, but that’s precisely what the State Department is doing by openly promoting one of the Trumps’ private businesses,” Shripal Shah, vice president of American Bridge, a Democratic firm, said Monday. “It’s a gross abuse of taxpayer resources and flagrant violation of the law from an administration that thinks rules don’t apply to them.”

Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner wasn’t aware of the post when it was raised by reporters on Monday.

The blog entry, which was posted earlier this month, stems from an earlier post by Share America, a State Department site that aims to share “compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics” with foreign governments and US embassies.

The Share America story, which labels Mar-a-Lago the “winter White House,” a term Trump has taken to using, goes through the history of the property and how Trump was set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the property in April.

The entry details how it was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1927, when the cereal heiress hoped the property would be used by presidents and dignitaries. Trump bought the property in 1985. The post also noted that “Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club.”

Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago seven times as president, spending a total of 25 days at the club.

He has entertained foreign dignitaries — including Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — but he has also spent considerable time on the golf course, including at his nearby Trump International Golf Club.

Here’s a pic:

The Associated Press Trump Interview of WTF — Annotated

So anyway, the president gave an interview to AP and it is scaring the crap out of everybody because it is Trumpian in its incoherence.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  The emphases are mine:

A transcript of an Oval Office interview Friday with President Donald Trump by AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace. Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used.

AP: I do want to talk to you about the 100 days.

TRUMP: Good.

AP: I want to ask a few questions on some topics that are happening toward the end of the interview.

TRUMP: Did you see Aya (Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker who had been detained in the country for nearly three years) …

AP: Can you tell me a little bit about how that came about?

TRUMP: No, just — you know, I asked the government to let her out. …

TRUMP: You know Obama worked on it for three years, got zippo, zero.

AP: How did you hear about this story?

The answer is probably Newsmax.

TRUMP: Many people, human rights people, are talking about it. It’s an incredible thing, especially when you meet her. You realize — I mean, she was in a rough place.

AP: Did you have to strike a deal with (Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi over this?

TRUMP: No. No deal. He was here. He — I said, “I really would appreciate it if you would look into this and let her out.” And as you know, she went through a trial. And anyway, she was let go. And not only she, it was a total of eight people. …

Whatever.

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s funny: One of the best chemistries I had was with (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel.

(Crosstalk) AP: Really?

TRUMP: Chancellor Merkel.

TRUMP: And I guess somebody shouted out, “Shake her hand, shake her hand,” you know. But I never heard it. But I had already shaken her hand four times. You know, because we were together for a long time.

AP: Did you expect you would have good chemistry with her?

TRUMP: No. Because, um, I’m at odds on, you know, the NATO payments and I’m at odds on immigration. We had unbelievable chemistry. And people have given me credit for having great chemistry with all of the leaders, including el-Sissi. …

TRUMP: So it was a great thing to see that happen.

Clearly, he is being defensive about the criticism he received for not shaking Merkel’s hands.  And notice that we are barely into the interview when Trump talks about “people” — nameless “people” — who praise him.

AP: Do you feel like you have changed the office of the presidency, how the presidency can be used to effect change?

TRUMP: I think the 100 days is, you know, it’s an artificial barrier. It’s not very meaningful. I think I’ve established amazing relationships that will be used the four or eight years, whatever period of time I’m here. I think for that I would be getting very high marks because I’ve established great relationships with countries, as President el-Sissi has shown and others have shown. Well, if you look at the president of China, people said they’ve never seen anything like what’s going on right now. I really liked him a lot. I think he liked me. We have a great chemistry together. …

Important to be liked.

TRUMP: I’ve developed great relationships with all of these leaders. Nobody’s written that. In fact, they said, “Oh, well, he’s not treating them nicely,” because on NATO, I want them to pay up. But I still get along with them great, and they will pay up. In fact, with the Italian prime minister yesterday, you saw, we were joking, “Come on, you have to pay up, you have to pay up.” He’ll pay.

AP: Did he say that? In your meeting? Your private meeting?

TRUMP: He’s going to end up paying. But you know, nobody ever asked the question. Nobody asked. Nobody ever asked him to pay up. So it’s a different kind of a presidency.

Yes, it IS a different kind of presidency.

AP: Do you feel like that’s one thing that you’ve changed, that you maybe are actually asking the direct questions about some of these things?

TRUMP: Yeah. Let me give me an example. A little before I took office there was a terrible article about the F-35 fighter jet. It was hundreds of billions of dollars over budget. It was seven years behind schedule. It was a disaster. So I called in Lockheed and I said, “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to bid this out to another company, namely Boeing,” or whoever else. But Boeing. And I called in Boeing and I started getting competing offers back and forth. …

TRUMP: I saved $725 million on the 90 planes. Just 90. Now there are 3,000 planes that are going to be ordered. On 90 planes I saved $725 million. It’s actually a little bit more than that, but it’s $725 million. Gen. Mattis, who had to sign the deal when it came to his office, said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” We went from a company that wanted more money for the planes to a company that cut. And the reason they cut — same planes, same everything — was because of me. I mean, because that’s what I do.

He could have saved even more by not getting the planes at all.  That said, Trump’s claim is Mostly False. The savings on the F-35 fighter jets are real, but they were in the works long before Trump got involved.

The Defense Department has a plan to acquire more than 2,400 F-35 aircraft from Lockheed Martin over 20 years, at a cost of around $379 billion. During his campaign and transition, Trump said publicly he wanted the costs to come down, and he held discussions with Lockheed Martin representatives.

On Feb. 3, the department announced a $728 million cost reduction. But in taking sole credit for this, Trump ignores that projected costs for the F-35 had been dropping for years, and the Pentagon had worked on lowering the price tag under past administrations.

TRUMP: Now if you multiply that times 3,000 planes, you know this is on 90 planes. In fact, when the Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe of Japan came in because they bought a certain number of those … The first thing he said to me, because it was right at the time I did it, he said, “Could I thank you?” I said, “What?” He said, “You saved us $100 million.” Because they got a $100 million savings on the 10 or 12 planes that they (bought). Nobody wrote that story. Now you know that’s a saving of billions and billions of dollars, many billions of dollars over the course of — it’s between 2,500 and 3,000 planes will be the final order. But this was only 90 of those 2,500 planes.

AP: And you expect those savings to carry out across that full order?

TRUMP: More. I’m gonna get more than that. This was a thing that was out of control and now it’s great. And the woman that runs Lockheed, Marillyn (Hewson), she was great. But all of a sudden it was a different kind of a thing. You know?

He’s starting to get incoherent. Because ADD.

AP: Do you feel like you’ve been able to apply that kind of a relationship to your dealings with Congress as well?

TRUMP: I have great relationships with Congress. I think we’re doing very well and I think we have a great foundation for future things. We’re going to be applying, I shouldn’t tell you this, but we’re going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform. And it’s — we’ve worked on it long and hard. And you’ve got to understand, I’ve only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do Obamacare. I’ve been here 92 days but I’ve only been working on the health care, you know I had to get like a little bit of grounding right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I’ve been working on health care for 60 days. …You know, we’re very close. And it’s a great plan, you know, we have to get it approved.

“I probably shouldn’t be tell you this” and then he tells.  Talks about tax reform then shifts to Obamacare. He’s always said he needs to healthcare first because it is, like, 20% of the economy, and he hasn’t done it yet, but he’s going to announce tax reform on Wednesday?

I think announcing what they intend to do is thought of as a “win” by this White House.

AP: Is it this deal that’s between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus, is that the deal you’re looking at?

TRUMP: So the Republican Party has various groups, all great people. They’re great people. But some are moderate, some are very conservative. The Democrats don’t seem to have that nearly as much. You know the Democrats have, they don’t have that. The Republicans do have that. And I think it’s fine. But you know there’s a pretty vast area in there. And I have a great relationship with all of them. Now, we have government not closing. I think we’ll be in great shape on that. It’s going very well. Obviously, that takes precedent.

Someone wrote a great article about how Trump learns things, and then he passes it on to others, as if they don’t already know — when in fact, Trump is often the last to know.  Because he is stupid.  This is a great example — Trump explaining the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

AP: That takes precedent over health care? For next week?

TRUMP: Yeah, sure. Next week. Because the hundred days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the hundred days. But we’ve done a lot. You have a list of things. I don’t have to read it.

I’m hardly the first to point this out, but the Trump campaign was ALL OVER the “first 100 days” thing.

AP: You did put out though, as a candidate, you put out a 100-day plan. Do you feel like you should be held accountable to that plan?

TRUMP: Somebody, yeah, somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan. But yeah. Well, I’m mostly there on most items. Go over the items, and I’ll talk to you …

No, he’s not “mostly there”.

(Crosstalk.)

TRUMP: But things change. There has to be flexibility. Let me give you an example. President Xi, we have a, like, a really great relationship. For me to call him a currency manipulator and then say, “By the way, I’d like you to solve the North Korean problem,” doesn’t work. So you have to have a certain flexibility, Number One. Number Two, from the time I took office till now, you know, it’s a very exact thing. It’s not like generalities. Do you want a Coke or anything?

AP: I’m OK, thank you. No. …

TRUMP: But President Xi, from the time I took office, he has not, they have not been currency manipulators. Because there’s a certain respect because he knew I would do something or whatever. But more importantly than him not being a currency manipulator the bigger picture, bigger than even currency manipulation, if he’s helping us with North Korea, with nuclear and all of the things that go along with it, who would call, what am I going to do, say, “By the way, would you help us with North Korea? And also, you’re a currency manipulator.” It doesn’t work that way.

AP: Right.

So… China is not a currency manipulator because it is helping with North Korea.  Which makes no sense.  What Trump is actually saying is that he’s not going to CALL China a currency manipulator in exchange for them helping with North Korea. Trump wants credit for using the “currency manipulator” as a bargaining chip, without admitting that it was merely a bargaining chip.

TRUMP: And the media, some of them get it, in all fairness. But you know some of them either don’t get it, in which case they’re very stupid people, or they just don’t want to say it. You know because of a couple of them said, “He didn’t call them a currency manipulator.” Well, for two reasons. Number One, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have — they’ve actually — their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula. And I said, “How badly have they been,” … they said, “Since you got to office they have not manipulated their currency.” That’s Number One, but much more important, they are working with us on North Korea. Now maybe that’ll work out or maybe it won’t. Can you imagine? …

Uh….what?????

AP: So in terms of the 100-day plan that you did put out during the campaign, do you feel, though, that people should hold you accountable to this in terms of judging success?

TRUMP: No, because much of the foundation’s been laid. Things came up. I’ll give you an example. I didn’t put Supreme Court judge on the 100 (day) plan, and I got a Supreme Court judge.

AP: I think it’s on there.

TRUMP: I don’t know. …

It is.

AP: “Begin the process of selecting.” You actually exceeded on this one. This says, “Begin the process of selecting a replacement.”

TRUMP: That’s the biggest thing I’ve done.

AP: Do you consider that your biggest success?

TRUMP: Well, I — first of all I think he’s a great man. I think he will be a great, great justice of the Supreme Court. I have always heard that the selection and the affirmation of a Supreme Court judge is the biggest thing a president can do. Don’t forget, he could be there for 40 years. … He’s a young man. I’ve always heard that that’s the biggest thing. Now, I would say that defense is the biggest thing. You know, to be honest, there are a number of things. But I’ve always heard that the highest calling is the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. I’ve done one in my first 70 days.

To be honest, you had very little to do with that, Donald. You just named a name off a list given you. The Constitution and Republicans in Congress did the rest.

TRUMP: Our military is so proud. They were not proud at all. They had their heads down. Now they have their heads up. …

TRUMP: I’m rebuilding the military. We have great people. We have great things in place. We have tremendous borders. I mention the F-35 because if I can save $725 million — look at that, that’s a massive amount of money. And I’ll save more as we make more planes. If I can save that on a small number of planes — Gen. (Jim) Mattis (the defense secretary) said, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” because he had to sign the ultimate (unintelligible) … He had to sign the ultimate, you know. He said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before, as long as I’ve been in the military.” You know, that kind of cutting.

AP: Right.

TRUMP: Now, if I can do that (unintelligible) … As an example, the aircraft carriers, billions of dollars, the Gerald Ford, billions and billions over budget. That won’t happen.

AP: Is that something you’re going to take on?

TRUMP: (unintelligible) But as we order the other ones, because they want to order 12, the other ones are going to come in much less expensive. …

No, nobody gets what he talking about either.

AP: Can I ask you, over your first 100 days — you’re not quite there yet — how do you feel like the office has changed you?

TRUMP: Well the one thing I would say — and I say this to people — I never realized how big it was. Everything’s so (unintelligible) like, you know the orders are so massive. I was talking to —

AP: You mean the responsibility of it, or do you mean —

TRUMP: Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area — you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away — and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility. (unintelligible) ….The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world. The second-largest company in the world is the Defense Department. The third-largest company in the world is Social Security. The fourth-largest — you know, you go down the list.

AP: Right.

Trump realizes that the United States is bigger than a company.  YES, THAT’S WHY IT CAN’T BE RUN LIKE A BUSINESS!!

TRUMP. It’s massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.

Just now, he gets it.  Look, I know there is a learning curve to being president.  But Trump is on the learning curve to being an informed citizen.

AP: You’ve talked a little bit about the way that you’ve brought some business skills into the office. Is there anything from your business background that just doesn’t translate into the presidency, that just simply is not applicable to this job?

TRUMP: Well in business, you don’t necessarily need heart, whereas here, almost everything affects people. So if you’re talking about health care — you have health care in business but you’re trying to just negotiate a good price on health care, et cetera, et cetera. You’re providing health. This is (unintelligible). Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government, involves heart, whereas in business, most things don’t involve heart.

AP: What’s that switch been like for you?

TRUMP: In fact, in business you’re actually better off without it.

AP: What’s making that switch been like for you?

TRUMP: You have to love people. And if you love people, such a big responsibility. (unintelligible) You can take any single thing, including even taxes. I mean we’re going to be doing major tax reform. Here’s part of your story, it’s going to be a big (unintelligible). Everybody’s saying, “Oh, he’s delaying.” I’m not delaying anything. I’ll tell you the other thing is (unintelligible). I used to get great press. I get the worst press. I get such dishonest reporting with the media. That’s another thing that really has — I’ve never had anything like it before. It happened during the primaries, and I said, you know, when I won, I said, “Well the one thing good is now I’ll get good press.” And it got worse. (unintelligible) So that was one thing that a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought the press would become better, and it actually, in my opinion, got more nasty.

It’s about heart? No, it’s about him. A psychologist could write a thesis just on that paragraph.

AP: But in terms of tax reform, how are you going to roll that out next week?

TRUMP: Well I’m going to roll (out) probably on Wednesday, around Wednesday of next week, we’re putting out a massive tax reform — business and for people — we want to do both. We’ve been working on it (unintelligible). Secretary Mnuchin is a very talented person, very smart. Very successful (unintelligible). … We’re going to be putting that out on Wednesday or shortly thereafter. Let me leave a little room just in case (unintelligible). … And that’s a big story, because a lot of people think I’m going to put it out much later.

AP: Do you have any details on that in terms of rates?

TRUMP: Only in terms that it will be a massive tax cut. It will be bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever. Maybe the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had. …

For the upper class, maybe.

AP: Obviously, that’s going to come in a week where you’re going to be running up against the deadline for keeping the government open. If you get a bill on your desk that does not include funding for the wall, will you sign it?

TRUMP: I don’t know yet. People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the electoral college. Big, big, big advantage. I’ve always said the popular vote would be a lot easier than the electoral college. The electoral college — but it’s a whole different campaign (unintelligible). The electoral college is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall, they want to see security. Now, it just came out that they’re 73 percent down. … That’s a tremendous achievement. … Look at this, in 100 days, that down to the lowest in 17 years and it’s going lower. Now, people aren’t coming because they know they’re not going to get through, and there isn’t crime. You know the migration up to the border is horrible for women, you know that? (Unintelligible.) Now, much of that’s stopped because they can’t get through.

Okay, first of all, if he thinks his “base” is 45 percent, then he must not know what a “base” means.  A “base” are the people who won’t leave you, and that means he should never drop below 45% approval.  He’s below that.

It’s hard to tell what he means by “they’re 73 percent down”, but he appears to be talking about the decrease in immigration, which was happening long before he took office.  Which actually is an argument AGAINST the wall, but… whatever.

AP: It sounds like maybe you’re beginning to send a message that if you do get a spending bill that doesn’t have border funding in there, you would sign it.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, the wall will cost much less than the numbers I’m seeing. I’m seeing numbers, I mean, this wall is not going to be that expensive.

AP: What do you think the estimate on it would be?

TRUMP: Oh I’m seeing numbers — $24 billion, I think I’ll do it for $10 billion or less. That’s not a lot of money relative to what we’re talking about. If we stop 1 percent of the drugs from coming in — and we’ll stop all of it. But if we stop 1 percent of the drugs because we have the wall — they’re coming around in certain areas, but if you have a wall, they can’t do it because it’s a real wall. That’s a tremendously good investment, 1 percent. The drugs pouring through on the southern border are unbelievable. We’re becoming a drug culture, there’s so much. And most of it’s coming from the southern border. The wall will stop the drugs.

AP: But, just trying to nail you down on it one more time, will you sign a spending bill if it doesn’t have —

TRUMP: I don’t want to comment. I just don’t know yet. I mean, I have to see what’s going on. I really do. But the wall’s a very important thing to — not only my base, but to the people. And even if it wasn’t, I mean I’ll do things that aren’t necessarily popular. … The wall is very important to stopping drugs.

AP: If you don’t have a funding stream, your message to your base is what?

TRUMP: My base understands the wall is going to get built, whether I have it funded here or if I get it funded shortly thereafter, that wall’s getting built, OK? One hundred percent. One hundred percent it’s getting built. And it’s also getting built for much less money — I hope you get this — than these people are estimating. The opponents are talking $25 billion for the wall. It’s not going to cost anywhere near that.

AP: You think $10 billion or less.

TRUMP: I think $10 billion or less. And if I do a super-duper, higher, better, better security, everything else, maybe it goes a little bit more. But it’s not going to be anywhere near (those) kind of numbers. And they’re using those numbers; they’re using the high numbers to make it sound impalatable (sic). And the fact it’s going to cost much less money, just like the airplane I told you about, which I hope you can write about.

This is just lies.  Like his campaign promises.

___

(Off-the-record discussion.)

___

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

TRUMP: They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete, and I said, “And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.” You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism.

AP: What specifically has NATO changed?

TRUMP: (Cites Wall Street Journal article) … I did an interview with Wolf Blitzer, and I said NATO was obsolete — I said two things — obsolete, and the country’s aren’t paying. I was right about both. I took such heat for about three days on both, because nobody ever criticized NATO. I took heat like you wouldn’t believe. And then some expert on NATO said, “You know, Trump is right.” But I said it was obsolete because they weren’t focused on terror. …

It’s not fair that we’re paying close to 4 percent and other countries that are more directly affected are paying 1 percent when they’re supposed to be paying 2 percent. And I’m very strong on it and I’m going to be very strong on it when I go there in a month.”

So he said, while “not knowing much about NATO”, that it was obsolete. No he knows much about NATO, and he thinks it is not obsolete.  And, here’s the kicker — HE WAS RIGHT BOTH TIMES!

AP: This morning you tweeted that after the possible terrorist attack in Paris, that it will have a big effect on the upcoming French election. What did you mean by that?

TRUMP: Well, I think it will have a big effect on who people are going to vote for in the election.

AP: Do you think it’s going to help Marine Le Pen?

TRUMP: I think so.

AP: Do you believe that she should be the president?

TRUMP: No, I have no comment on that, but I think that it’ll probably help her because she is the strongest on borders and she is the strongest on what’s been going on in France.

AP: Do you worry at all that by saying that, that a terrorist attack would have an impact on a democratic election, that it would actually embolden terrorists to try to —.

TRUMP: No. Look, everybody is making predictions who is going to win. I am no different than you, you could say the same thing. …

AP: I just wonder if you are encouraging, you are the president of the United States, so to say that you worry that it encourages terrorists …

TRUMP: No, I am no different than — no, I think it discourages terrorists, I think it discourages. I think what we’ve done on the border discourages it. I think that my stance on having people come in to this country that we have no idea who they are and in certain cases you will have radical Islamic terrorism. I’m not going to have it in this country. I’m not going to let what happened to France and other places happen here. And it’s already largely, you know — we have tens — we have hundreds of thousands of people that have been allowed into our country that should not be here. They shouldn’t be here. We have people allowed into our country with no documentation whatsoever. They have no documentation and they were allowed under the previous administrations, they were allowed into our country. It’s a big mistake.

AP: Just so that I am clear. You are not endorsing her for the office, but you are —

TRUMP: I am not endorsing her and I didn’t mention her name.

AP: Right, I just wanted to make sure I have that clear.

Yes, it’s clear.

TRUMP: I believe whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism and whoever is the toughest at the borders will do well at the election. I am not saying that person is going to win, she is not even favored to win, you know. Right now, she is in second place.

___

AP: I have a question on the markets, actually. One thing that I think has been different about this White House is that you do point to the markets as a sign of progress. Do you worry, though — I mean, the markets go up and down.

TRUMP: You live by the sword, you die by the sword, to a certain extent. But we create a lot of jobs, 500,000 jobs as of two months ago, and plenty created since. Five hundred thousand. … As an example, Ford, General Motors. I’ve had cases where the gentleman from China, Ma, Jack Ma (chairman of Alibaba Group), he comes up, he says, “Only because of you am I making this massive investment.” Intel, only because of you. … The press never writes that.

America First?

The 500,000 number is an exaggeration. The United States created a combined 317,000 nonfarm jobs in February and March, Trump’s first two full months in office for which data is available.

Perhaps Trump is including January, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 216,000 new jobs. But he came into office at the end of the month.

Trump has a history of questioning Bureau of Labor Statistics data and misrepresenting how their employment calculations work.

 

AP: What about NAFTA? What’s the plan on NAFTA?

TRUMP: What would you like to know?

AP: I would like to know what your plan is in terms of renegotiating.

TRUMP: I am very upset with NAFTA. I think NAFTA has been a catastrophic trade deal for the United States, trading agreement for the United States. It hurts us with Canada, and it hurts us with Mexico. Most people don’t even think of NAFTA in terms of Canada. You saw what happened yesterday in my statements, because if you look at the dairy farmers in Wisconsin and upstate New York, they are getting killed by NAFTA.

AP: Is your plan still, though, to renegotiate the whole deal?

TRUMP: I am going to either renegotiate it or I am going to terminate it.

AP: Termination is still on the table.

TRUMP: Absolutely. If they don’t treat fairly, I am terminating NAFTA.

AP: What’s a timeline for that decision?

TRUMP: It’s a six-month termination clause, I have the right to do it, it’s a six-month clause.

AP: If I could fit a couple of more topics. Jeff Sessions, your attorney general, is taking a tougher line suddenly on Julian Assange, saying that arresting him is a priority. You were supportive of what WikiLeaks was doing during the campaign with the release of the Clinton emails. Do you think that arresting Assange is a priority for the United States?

TRUMP: When Wikileaks came out … never heard of Wikileaks, never heard of it. When Wikileaks came out, all I was just saying is, “Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff.” You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management. But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans. No, I found it very interesting when I read this stuff and I said, “Wow.” It was just a figure of speech. I said, “Well, look at this. It’s good reading.”

AP: But that didn’t mean that you supported what Assange is doing?

TRUMP: No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information. They shouldn’t have allowed it to get out. If they had the proper defensive devices on their internet, you know, equipment, they wouldn’t even allow the FBI. How about this — they get hacked, and the FBI goes to see them, and they won’t let the FBI see their server. But do you understand, nobody ever writes it. Why wouldn’t (former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John) Podesta and Hillary Clinton allow the FBI to see the server? They brought in another company that I hear is Ukrainian-based.

AP: CrowdStrike?

TRUMP: That’s what I heard. I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian, that’s what I heard. But they brought in another company to investigate the server. Why didn’t they allow the FBI in to investigate the server? I mean, there is so many things that nobody writes about. It’s incredible.

AP: Can I just ask you, though — do you believe it is a priority for the United States, or it should be a priority, to arrest Julian Assange?

TRUMP: I am not involved in that decision, but if Jeff Sessions wants to do it, it’s OK with me. I didn’t know about that decision, but if they want to do it, it’s OK with me.

___

AP: On Iran, which is another thing you talked a lot on the campaign —

TRUMP: And the other thing that we should go after is the leakers. …

AP: On Iran, you also talked about it quite a bit on the campaign trail. And you said in the press conference yesterday that you think that Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement. When you say that, do you mean in terms of the actual nuclear accord, or do you mean what they are doing in the region?

TRUMP: In terms of what they are doing all over the Middle East and beyond.

AP: So you believe that they are complying with the agreement?

TRUMP: No, I don’t say that. I say that I believe they have broken the spirit of the agreement. There is a spirit to agreements, and they have broken it.

AP: In terms of what they are doing elsewhere in the Middle East?

TRUMP: In terms of what they are doing of all over.

AP: When you talk to European leaders, when you talk to Merkel, for example, or Teresa May, what do they say about the nuclear deal? Do they want you to stay in that deal?

TRUMP: I don’t talk to them about it.

AP: You don’t talk to them about the Iran deal?

TRUMP: I mention it, but it’s very personal when I talk to them, you know, it’s confidential. No, they have their own opinions. I don’t say that they are different than my opinions, but I’d rather have you ask them that question.

AP: At this point, do you believe that you will stay in the nuclear deal?

TRUMP: It’s possible that we won’t.

___

AP: Dreamers, you’ve talked about them, you’ve talked about heart earlier. This is one area where you have talked —

TRUMP: No, we aren’t looking to do anything right now. Look, the dreamers … this is an interesting case, they left and they came back and he’s got some problems, it’s a little different than the dreamer case, right? But we are putting MS-13 in jail and getting them the hell out of our country. They’ve taken over towns and cities and we are being really brutal with MS-13, and that’s what we should be. They are a bad group, and somebody said they are as bad as al-Qaida, which is a hell of a reference. So we are moving criminals out of our country and we are getting them out in record numbers and those are the people we are after. We are not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.

AP: And that’s going to be the policy of your administration to allow the dreamers to stay?

TRUMP: Yes. Yes. That’s our policy. I am not saying … long-term, we are going to have to fix the problem, the whole immigration problem. But I will tell you: Right now we have a great gentleman, one of my real stars is Gen. (John) Kelly, now (Homeland Security) Secretary Kelly. We are down 73 percent at the border, we are cleaning out cities and towns of hard-line criminals, some of the worst people on earth, people that rape and kill women, people that are killing people just for the sake of having fun. They are being thrown in jails and they are being … all over the country and nobody’s ever done it like us, so we are being unbelievably thorough with that. We are out in Long Island cleaning out the MS-13 scum, they are all scum, that’s probably the worst gang anywhere on Earth. …

AP: A lot of the dreamers have been hoping to hear something from you. I don’t want to give them the wrong message with this.

TRUMP: Here is what they can hear: The dreamers should rest easy. OK? I’ll give you that. The dreamers should rest easy. …

___

(An aide talks about the president’s address to Congress.)

TRUMP: A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.

AP: You seem like you enjoyed it.

TRUMP: I did. I did. I believed in it and I enjoyed it. It was a great feeling to introduce the wife of a great young soldier who died getting us very valuable information. Have you seen the tremendous success? … That’s another thing that nobody talks about. Have you seen the tremendous success we’ve had in the Middle East with the ISIS (an abbreviation for the Islamic State group)? When (current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al) Abadi left from Iraq, he said Trump has more success in eight weeks than Obama had in eight years. … We have had tremendous success, but we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it.

AP: Do you mean you don’t talk about it personally because you don’t want to talk about it?

TRUMP: I don’t talk about it. No. And the generals don’t talk about it.

___

AP: You had put a request into the Pentagon to put forward an ISIS plan within 30 days. I know they have sent that over. Have you accepted a plan? Are you moving forward on a strategy?

TRUMP: We have a very strong plan, but we cannot talk about it, Julie.

AP: So you have decided on a plan?

TRUMP: Remember how many times have you been to the speech where I talked about Mosul.

AP: Right.

TRUMP. Right. Mosul. Four months we are going in, three months. We are still fighting Mosul. You know why? Because they were prepared. If we would have gone in and just done it, it would have been over three months ago.

AP: Can you say generally what the strategy is? Should people —

TRUMP: Generally is we have got to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. And other terrorist organizations.

AP: Should Americans who are serving in the military expect that you are going to increase troop numbers in the Middle East to fight ISIS?

TRUMP: No, not much.

AP: In terms of the strategy, though, that you have accepted, it sounds like, from the generals —

TRUMP: Well, they’ve also accepted my strategy.

AP: Does that involve more troops on the ground, it sounds like?

TRUMP: Not many.

AP: So a small increase?

TRUMP: It could be an increase, then an increase. But not many more. I want to do the job, but not many more. … This is an important story. I’ve done a lot. I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days and I think the first 100 days is an artificial barrier. And I’m scheduled … the foundations have been set to do some great things. With foreign countries. Look at, look at President Xi. I mean …

More than any other president in the first 100 days?  Maybe he’s learned more (like how big government is), but that’s only because he started off stupider.

That said, Trump’s claim is False.

Trump has had some achievements in office, such as signing 28 bills and numerous executive orders, filling a Supreme Court seat, and overseeing a drop in border apprehensions. But those achievements are much less numerous and far-reaching than those of standard-bearer President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed 73 bills, greatly expanded the role of the federal government, and revived the banking system from collapse, all in his first 100 days.

In more recent years, other presidents have accomplished more in their first 100 days than Trump has, historians say. President Barack Obama, for example, signed not only a nearly $800 billion stimulus package to combat a spiraling recession but also the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and a law expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

AP: What do you think it was about your chemistry?

TRUMP: We had good chemistry. Now I don’t know that I think that’s going to produce results but you’ve got a good chance.

AP: Uh-huh.

TRUMP: Look, he turned down many coal ships. These massive coal ships are coming where they get a lot of their income. They’re coming into China and they’re being turned away. That’s never happened before. The fuel, the oil, so many different things. You saw the editorial they had in their paper saying they cannot be allowed to have nuclear, you know, et cetera. People have said they’ve never seen this ever before in China. We have the same relationship with others. There’s a great foundation that’s built. Great foundation. And I think it’s going to produce tremendous results for our country.

___

AP: One more 100 days question.

TRUMP: That’s fine.

AP: … is do you think you have the right team in place for your next 100 days?

TRUMP: Yes. I think my team has been, well, I have different teams. I think my military team has been treated with great respect. As they should be. I think my other team hasn’t been treated with the respect that they should get. We have some very talented people, and very diverse people.

AP: Do you mean your White House team when you say that?

TRUMP: Yeah, my White House team. I think Reince (Priebus) has been doing an excellent job. I think that, you know, this is a very tough environment not caused necessarily by me. Although the election has, you know, look, the Democrats had a tremendous opportunity because the electoral college, as I said, is so skewed to them. You start off by losing in New York and California, no matter who it is. If, if Abe Lincoln came back to life, he would lose New York and he would lose California. It’s just the registration, there’s nothing you can do. So you’re losing the two biggest states, that’s where you start. OK. The Electoral College is so skewed in favor of a Democrat that it’s very, very hard. Look at Obama’s number in the Electoral College. His numbers on the win were … but the Electoral College numbers were massive. You lose New York, you lose Illinois. Illinois is impossible to win. And you look at, so now you lose New York, Illinois, no matter what you do, and California. Right. And you say, man. Now you have to win Florida, you have to win Ohio, you have to win North Carolina. You have to win all these states, and then I won Wisconsin and Michigan and all of these other places, but you remember there was no way to, there was no way to 270.

AP: Right.

TRUMP: So she had this massive advantage, she spent hundreds of millions of dollars more money than I spent. Hundreds of millions … Yeah. Or more, actually because we were $375 she was at $2.2 billion. But whatever. She spent massive amounts of money more and she lost. Solidly lost, because you know it wasn’t 270, it was 306. So there’s anger. But there was massive anger before I got there, so it’s not easy for a White House staff to realize that you are going into a situation where you are going to be at no, where are going to get no votes. I mean, here’s a judge who is No. 1 at Columbia, No. 1 at Harvard and an Oxford scholar. And he got three votes.

AP: Three Democratic votes, but yeah.

TRUMP: Three Democratic votes. OK. He’s an Oxford scholar at the highest level. The No. 1, you know, one of the great academics, one of the great writers. No bad decisions with all … nothing. He’s like a …

AP: Do you think that you can break through that? I mean this —

TRUMP: Yeah, I do.

AP: Is one of the biggest challenges for a president.

TRUMP: I think (I) can to an extent. But there’s a, there’s a basic hard-line core that you can’t break though, OK, that you can’t break through. There’s a hard-line group you can’t break through, you can’t. It’s sad. You can’t. Look, I met with Congressman Cummings and I really liked him, a lot. Elijah Cummings (of Maryland). I really liked him a lot. And during the conversation because we have a very strong mutual feeling on drug prices. He came to see me, at my invitation, because I saw him talking about, he came to see me about drug prices because drug prices are ridiculous. And I am going to get them way, way, way down and he liked that. He said you will be the greatest president. He said you will be, in front of five, six people, he said you will be the greatest president in the history of this country.

AP: He disputed that slightly.

TRUMP: That’s what he said. I mean, what can I tell you?

AP: Yeah.

TRUMP: There’s six people sitting here. What did he, what, what do you mean by slightly?

AP: He said, he said that he felt like you could be a great president if and then —

TRUMP: Well he said, you’ll be the greatest president in the history of, but you know what, I’ll take that also, but that you could be. But he said, will be the greatest president but I would also accept the other. In other words, if you do your job, but I accept that. Then I watched him interviewed and it was like he never even was here. It’s incredible. I watched him interviewed a week later and it’s like he was never in my office. And you can even say that.

___

AP: And that’s one of the difficulties I think presidents have had is that you can have these personal relationships with people from the other party, but then it’s hard to actually change how people vote or change how people —

TRUMP: No I have, it’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning.

Oh, God.  Ratings.

AP: I remember, right.

TRUMP: It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, (CBS “Face the Nation” host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.

I have learned one thing, because I get treated very unfairly, that’s what I call it, the fake media. And the fake media is not all of the media. You know they tried to say that the fake media was all the, no. The fake media is some of you. I could tell you who it is, 100 percent. Sometimes you’re fake, but — but the fake media is some of the media. It bears no relationship to the truth. It’s not that Fox treats me well, it’s that Fox is the most accurate.

AP: Do you believe that? That Fox —

TRUMP: I do. I get treated so badly. Yesterday, about the thing, you know when I said it’s a terrorism … it may be. I said it may be a terrorist attack and MSNBC, I heard, went crazy, “He called it a terrorist attack.” They thought it was a bank robbery. By the way, I’m 10-0 for that. I’ve called every one of them. Every time they said I called it way too early and then it turns out I’m … Whatever. Whatever. In the meantime, I’m here and they’re not.

___

AP: Do you feel that one of the things with cable is there’s such real-time reaction with everything you say?

TRUMP: Yeah.

AP: Can you separate that sometimes from that actual decision?

TRUMP: The one thing —

AP: That you have to do —

TRUMP: OK. The one thing I’ve learned to do that I never thought I had the ability to do. I don’t watch CNN anymore.

AP: You just said you did.

TRUMP: No. No, I, if I’m passing it, what did I just say (inaudible)?

AP: You just said —

TRUMP: Where? Where?

AP: Two minutes ago.

TRUMP: No, they treat me so badly. No, I just said that. No, I, what’d I say, I stopped watching them. But I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC. I don’t watch it. Now I heard yesterday that MSNBC, you know, they tell me what’s going on.

AP: Right.

TRUMP: In fact, they also did. I never thought I had the ability to not watch. Like, people think I watch (MSNBC’s) “Morning Joe.” I don’t watch “Morning Joe.” I never thought I had the ability to, and who used to treat me great by the way, when I played the game. I never thought I had the ability to not watch what is unpleasant, if it’s about me. Or pleasant. But when I see it’s such false reporting and such bad reporting and false reporting that I’ve developed an ability that I never thought I had. I don’t watch things that are unpleasant. I just don’t watch them.

AP: And do you feel like that’s, that’s because of the office that you now occupy —

TRUMP: No.

AP: That you’ve made that change?

TRUMP: I don’t know why it is, but I’ve developed that ability, and it’s happened over the last, over the last year.

AP: That’s interesting.

TRUMP: And I don’t watch things that I know are going to be unpleasant. CNN has covered me unfairly and incorrectly and I don’t watch them anymore. A lot of people don’t watch them anymore, they’re now in third place. But I’ve created something where people are watching … but I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC anymore. I don’t watch things, and I never thought I had that ability. I always thought I’d watch.

AP: Sure.

TRUMP: I just don’t. And that’s taken place over the last year. And you know what that is, that’s a great, it’s a great thing because you leave, you leave for work in the morning you know, you’re, you don’t watch this total negativity. I never thought I’d be able to do that and for me, it’s so easy to do now. Just don’t watch.

AP: That’s interesting.

TRUMP: Maybe it’s because I’m here. I don’t know.

This last bit is very revealing.  This is how presidents get into trouble – by surrounding himself with “yes” men, and in Trump’s case, “yes” news.  This very dangerous groupthink often has disastrous results for the country.

Trump’s Elements Of Style

TRUMP’S ELEMENTS OF STYLE

by Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras of Mscsweeney’s

Strunk Rule: Omit needless words
Trump Rule: No word is needless. They’re all great! Terrific! They’re fantastic words! I know about fantastic words!

On Day One, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall. We will use the best technology, including above- and below-ground sensors. That’s the tunnels. Remember that. Above and below. Above- and below-ground sensors, towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall, find and dislocate tunnels and keep out criminal cartels and Mexico, you know that, will work with us.
speech, 8/31/16

Strunk rule: Place yourself in the background.
Trump rule: Background?

I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.
interview, Sean Hannity, 4/13/16

I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.
interview, AP 5/13/16

I know more about ISIS [the Islamic State militant group] than the generals do. Believe me.
speech, 11/12/15

There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.
speech, 6/15/16

I know more about Cory [Booker] than he knows about himself.
tweet, 7/25/16

Strunk Rule: Avoid using dialect.
Trump Rule: Make dialect great again!

When these people [Asians] walk into the room, they don’t say, “Oh hello, how’s the weather? It’s so beautiful outside. How are the Yankees doing?”They’re doing wonderful, that’s great.’ They say, “We want deal!”
8/26/15, during a campaign event in Iowa

Strunk Rule: Don’t overstate.
Trump Rule: Tell the truth about your great, great relationships with the [fill in the blank]. They love you!

I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.
TALK1300 radio interview, 4/14/11

I have a great relationship the Mexican people. I love them, they love me!
MSBNC interview, 7/8/15

I have a great relationship with the people of Scotland and an unbelievably good relationship with the people of Aberdeen.
press conference 6/8/15

I love Neil Young. And he loves me! We have a great relationship.
in a Bloomberg interview after Young asked him to stop using his music as part of the campaign, 6/15

Strunk rule: Put statements in a positive form.
Trump rule: Sometimes you can be positively negative! Or negatively positive! Or both! Truth!

@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision.
tweet, 8/28/12

While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.
tweet, 10/29/12

Rosie is crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb — other than that I like her very much!
tweet, 7/11/14

Strunk Rule: Use orthodox spelling
Trump Rule: If Shakespeare (who is doing a terrific job) can spell things his way, so can you.

Wow, the highly respected Governor of Iowa just stated that “Ted Cruz must be defeated.” Big shoker! People do not like Ted.
tweet, 1/19/16

Lying Ted Cruz and leightweight chocker Marco Rubio teamed up last night in a last ditch effort to stop our great movement. They failed!
tweet, 2/26/16

I am honered to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!
tweet, 1/21/17

Strunk rule: Use figures of speech sparingly
Trump rule: A good metaphor is as beautiful as someone’s not-tiny shapely hands!

I have read a lot about it and I watched it and Liberty University, like a rocket ship, a really great rocket ship.
speech at Liberty University, 1/18/15

On gay marriage: It’s like in golf. A lot of people — I don’t want this to sound trivial — but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.
interview, New York Times, 5/2/11

Strunk rule: The number of the subject determines the number of the verb.
Trump rule: Too complicated! Use whatever tense you want!

You know what uranium is, right? It’s a thing called nuclear weapons and other things like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.
press conference, 2/16/17

And speaking of tenses, present, future, past? Who cares?

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.
at an African American History Month event, 2/2/17

ANDERSON COOPER: “Did you use that $960 million loss to avoid paying personal federal income taxes?”
TRUMP: “Of course I do. Of course I do.”
presidential debate, 10/10/16

Strunk Rule: Avoid fancy words
Trump Rule: I have the best fancy words. So fancy that no one else knows them!

I wrote The Art of the Deal; I say that not in a braggadocious way
presidential debate, 9/26/16

China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.
tweet, 12/17/16

Strunk Rule: Avoid repetition
Trump Rule: What’s the problem with repetition, when you repeat something?

You know what a diplomat is? That’s a person that studies to be nice. In other words, they study to be nice.
interview, CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, 3/18/11

That’s wrong. They were wrong. It’s The New York Times, they’re always wrong. They were wrong.
Republican debate, 1/14/16

But when you look at this tremendous sea of love — I call it a “sea of love”…
interview, ABC, describing a framed photograph of his inauguration crowd, 1/25/17

Strunk Rule: Avoid the use of qualifiers.
Trump Rule: Qualifiers are beautiful. Very beautiful!

These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used in my life.
interview, New York Times, 1/27/17

We’re going to have beautiful clean coal.
CPAC address, 2/24/16

We’re going to have a very, very elegant day, The 20th is going to be something that will be very, very special, very beautiful.
tweet, 1/18/17

What I like is build a safe zone in Syria. Build a big, beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is so people can live…
campaign rally, 2/13/17

Qualifiers are also tremendous!:

I have a tremendous income.
presidential debate, 9/26/16

I pay tremendous numbers of taxes
presidential debate, 10/9/16

I have had tremendous success.
interview, ABC News, 7/30/16

I am worth a tremendous amount of money
interview, CNN 6/26/15

Strunk rule: Do not inject opinions. Opinions scattered indiscriminately about leave the mark of egotism on a work.
Trump rule: Who are you calling an egotist?! My opinions are facts, unlike the FAKE news. Share!

@frankluntz works really hard but is a guy who just doesn’t have it — a total loser!
tweet, 8/3/14

@cher attacked @mittromney. She is an average talent who is out of touch with reality. Like @rosieo’donnell, a total loser.
tweet, 5/10/12

I don’t cheat at golf but SamuelLJackson cheats — with his game he has no choice — and stop doing commercials! Don’t like SamuelLJackson’s golf swing. Not athletic. I’ve won many club championships. Play him for charity!
tweet, 1/5/16

Strunk rule: Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end
Trump rule: And add an exclamation point! Great!

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!
tweet, 12/31/16

Recommended Reading

I guess it is not a surprise, but Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker reports that Trump advisers turned the White House upside-down looking for information to justify Trump’s crazy “Obama spied on me” tweet. Key graf:

The intelligence source told me that he knows, “from talking to people in the intelligence community,” that “the White House said, ‘We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’ They put out an all-points bulletin”—a call to sift through intelligence reports—“and said, ‘We need to find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about surveillance at Trump Tower.’ And I’m telling you there is no way you get that from those transcripts, which are about as plain vanilla as can be.” (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

This isn’t mere buffoonery.  This could have created serious intel problems:

Some American intelligence officials are now concerned that Trump and Nunes’s wild claims about intercepts and Rice have made Section 702 look like a rogue program that can be easily abused for political purposes. The intelligence source said, “In defense of the President, Devin Nunes and some other partisans have created a huge political problem by casting doubt, in the service of Donald Trump, on these intercepts.” Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, a leading critic of Section 702, has been using the episode to rally libertarians. He recently tweeted, “Smoking gun found! Obama pal and noted dissembler Susan Rice said to have been spying on Trump campaign.” Democratic critics of Section 702 have also been emboldened. “Section 702 of FISA allows warrantless searches on Americans. That’s unconstitutional & must be changed,” Representative Ted Lieu, the Democrat from California, tweeted last month, during the controversy.

“They manufactured a scandal to distract from a serious investigation,” Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, who would not comment on the N.S.A. documents, said. “And the collateral damage is the public confidence in our intelligence community when we need to count on them now more than ever. Considering the threats we are facing right now from North Korea and isis, it’s a pretty dangerous time to undermine the I.C.’s credibility to make a five-yard sack in the Russia investigation.”

Even though there is now some bipartisan agreement that Nunes’s description of the intercepts was wildly inaccurate, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are still preparing to focus on Obama’s national-security team, rather than on Vladimir Putin’s. Last week, Democrats and Republicans finalized their witness lists, and the names tell a tale of two separate investigations. The intelligence source said, “The Democratic list involves all of the characters that you would think it would: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page,” speaking of the three Trump campaign officials who have been most closely tied to the Russia investigation. “The Republican list is almost entirely people from the Obama Administration.”

The fake scandal created by Trump and Nunes is not over yet. The first name on the Republican list is Susan Rice.

They are playing the game “best defense is a strong offense”. It has worked before. I don’t think it will work this time.

Most Americans Think Trump Won’t Keep His Promises

Gallup this morning:

 

Trump Loses Ground on Key Characteristics
Percentage who think each of the following applies to Donald Trump

 

Feb 1-5 Apr 5-9 Change
% % pct. pts.
Keeps his promises 62 45 -17
Is a strong and decisive leader 59 52 -7
Can bring about changes this country needs 53 46 -7
Is honest and trustworthy 42 36 -6
Cares about the needs of people like you 46 42 -4
Can manage the government effectively 44 41 -3
GALLUP

Yeah, that’s not good.

Maybe that explains the Trump tweets this morning.

He starts off by taking shots at Obama. Then he takes a shot at Democrats by recommending a book (it’s his kind of book because it has blank pages), gripes about “fake media” (which is, to Trump, anything factual that puts him in a bad light), and weighs in on an election with lies.  And finally, he touts a poll which isn’t that good, even it were from a reputable polling company, which Rasmusson is not.

It’s going to be a long week.

UPDATE:  On the other hand, according to Pollster his approval rating has been improving for the past couple of weeks:

White House University

Trump on health care: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Trump on China and North Korea: “[President Xi] then went into the history of China and Korea….And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have a tremendous power over China….But it’s not what you would think.”

Trump on the Export-Import Bank: “I was very much opposed to Ex-Im Bank, [but] it turns out that, first of all lots of small companies will really be helped….So instinctively you would say it’s a ridiculous thing but actually it’s a very good thing and it actually makes money. You know, it actually could make a lot of money.”

At least he’s learning. The question is… will he understand the world enough BEFORE he blows it up?

Trump’s Bizarre Interview

Our President seems unusually obsessed that he could eat dessert and have missile strikes at the same time:

BARTIROMO:  When you were with the president of China, you’re launching these military strikes.

TRUMP:  Yes.

BARTIROMO:  Was that planned?

How did that come about that it’s happening right then, because right there, you’re saying a reminder, here’s who the superpower in the world is, right?

TRUMP:  You have no idea how many people want to hear the answer to this.  I have had — I have watched speculation for three days now on what that was like (INAUDIBLE).

BARTIROMO:  When did you tell him?

TRUMP:  But I’ll tell you (INAUDIBLE)…

BARTIROMO:  Before dessert or what?

TRUMP:  But I will tell you, only because you’ve treated me so good for so long, I have to (INAUDIBLE) right?

I was sitting at the table.  We had finished dinner.  We’re now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?

And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.  And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you.  This was during dessert.

We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.

BARTIROMO:  Unmanned?

Brilliant.

TRUMP:  It’s so incredible.  It’s brilliant.  It’s genius.  Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five.  I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.

Now we’re going to start getting it, because, you know, the military has been cut back and depleted so badly by the past administration and by the war in Iraq, which was another disaster.

So what happens is I said we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.

BARTIROMO:  (INAUDIBLE) to Syria?

TRUMP:  Yes. Heading toward Syria. In other words, we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading toward Syria.  And I want you to know that, because I didn’t want him to go home.  We were almost finished.  It was a full day in Palm Beach.  We’re almost finished and I — what does he do, finish his dessert and go home and then they say, you know, the guy you just had dinner with just attacked a country?

BARTIROMO:  How did he react?

TRUMP:  So he paused for 10 seconds and then he asked the interpreter to please say it again.  I didn’t think that was a good sign.

And he said to me, anybody that uses gases — you could almost say or anything else — but anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that young children and babies, it’s OK.