Nel's New Day

March 22, 2019

DDT: Week 113, Part 1 – Raging, Losing

The biggest news today is that Robert Mueller has finished his report, but no one except AG Bill Barr knows what’s in it. More news when some is released.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doesn’t know what his officials are doing. He tweeted:

“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”

Technically, the Treasury Department announced the sanctions yesterday, not today, but Fox may not have told DDT. Asked about DDT’s change, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim.” Sanctions on Chinese shipping companies that helped North Korea evade international sanctions fought North Korea denuclearization. Even national security adviser John Bolton considered the sanctions “important.”

DDT started the week with 29 raging tweets on Sunday before and after he made a rare appearance at church where he wore a red tie to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day green. His fury was directed  against General Motors, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Saturday Night Live (the Christmas rerun), some Fox hosts (while supporting Jeanine Pirro), President Obama (along with FBI, DOJ, and CIA), Google, the Paris Climate Agreement, and others. DDT’s vitriol against McCain continued for the entire week during a press conference with his South American doppelganger, Brazil’s new autocrat Jair Bolonsaro, and in front of a Lima (OH) audience at a tank factory. By Wednesday, he began whining about how he didn’t get a “thank you” for McCain’s funeral and claimed that he had to “approve” the event. Congress approved McCain’s lying in state in the U.S. Capitol for three days; DDT only arranged for transport. After that diatribe, McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, shared a hate-filled tweet sent her that used obscenities to attack McCain and their daughter Meghan McCain.

Some Fox shows criticized DDT for his McCain comments. Neil Cavuto called out Republicans for not offending McCain, especially Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has gone all out in defending DDT as part of Graham’s re-election campaign. In a Friday interview with Fox Business Maria Bartiromo, DDT attacked her for asking him about his attacks:

“You shouldn’t have brought it up. Actually, I thought you weren’t supposed to bring it up, but that’s okay. Fake news every once in a while.”

Fox is officially fake news, according to DDT. His anger continued during his departure to Mar-a-Lago later that day when he ignored Fox reporters other than glaring at them. Republicans who have kept quiet about DDT’s diatribes may struggle with their votes if Sen. Chuck Schumer introduces a bill renaming the Russell Senate Building for McCain, especially because it would switch the name from honoring a Democrat, Richard Russell, to a Republican. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may not let the bill come up for a vote.

With Congress on recess and everyone waiting for the Mueller report, DDT had nothing to do this week except rant, sometimes against the husband of his counselor, Kellyanne Conway. The courts, however, sometimes ruled against him.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch swung to the left in supporting the rights of Native Americans, permitting the Yakama Tribe’s 1855 Treat rights to travel the public roads without being taxed on the goods brought to the reservation to Washington from Oregon, agreed when the U.S. took most of the Yakima land.

A U.S. District judge blocked drilling on 300,000 acres of public land in Wyoming because the Department of Interior auctioned the land for fossil fuel leasing without any consideration of climate change risks, violating the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The decision is the first ruling against DDT’s business-first, climate-last agenda and will certainly be appealed.

A federal judge ruled against implementation of DDT’s transgender military ban because one of the injunctions against the ban still exists. In all four federal cases against the ban last year, judges issued injunctions. One injunction was lifted in March, and the Supreme Court overturned two others. Although An appeals court overturned another injunction in January, the judge said that the appeals court ruling could change because plaintiffs have until March 29 to ask for a rehearing. The Defense Department had set April 12, 2019 as the date to block transgender recruits signing up for the military, and military service members are already prevented from transitioning.

The Connecticut supreme court ruled that victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre can sue Remington Arms on the basis that the company irresponsibly marketed the weapon used in the shooting to high-risk individuals, violating state law. One argument was one of standing, whether a person without a business relationship with the defendant can sue for unfair trade practices, but the court ruled that people injured by unfair trade practices—in this case, families killed in the shooting—can sue. Manufacturers of weapons are the only U.S. companies that cannot be sued for their products’ deaths and injuries, according to a law passed in 2005.

The government has dropped charges for all 191 protesters at DDT’s inauguration who did not plead guilty, removing the possibility that each one could serve over 60 years in prison. Twenty-one of those arrested took guilty pleas.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed an Alabama court by unanimously agreeing to recognize a lesbian couple’s legal adoption of a child in Georgia. The couple has separated, and the one who gave birth to three children argued that Georgia was wrong in granting joint custody to her former partner. Justices required that Alabama must give “full faith and credit” to another state’s court decision. Thirty states grant “second-parent adoptions” to same-gender couples through laws or court rulings. Hundreds of thousands of adoptions have been granted since the mid-1980s, and approximately 65,000 adopted children live with a lesbian or gay parent.

By not hearing an appeal from a Hawaii B&B, the high court ended a 12-year-old lawsuit. A lesbian couple won their suit after they were turned away from the lodging because of their sexual orientation. The decision may affirm non-discrimination laws against Q people despite “religious freedom” claims.

The second blow against Monsanto, this one a unanimous decision from a federal jury that weedkiller Roundup was a large factor in causing a man’s cancer, might end up in over 4,000 lawsuits against the company. A second phase of the trial concerns whether Monsanto is responsible. Another cancer patient was awarded $78 million. Recent analysis of glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup, shows that the EPA was wrong in declaring it safe by disregarding the scientific evidence about its carcinogenic dangers.

DDT sees most of his policies knocked down by federal judges because they don’t meet minimums of legal reasoning. Normal win rate is 70 percent; DDT’s rate is 6 percent. Judges point out that policies lack legitimate explanations for policy shifts, facts, and public input while putting ideology over governance.

German officials have called for the expulsion of U.S. Ambassador to Germany, DDT-appointed Richard Grenell, for his interference in Germany’s politics. Wolfgang Kubicki, speaker of Germany’s Bundestag, asked the German foreign minister to “declare Richard Grenell persona non grata immediately.” Carsten Schneider, parliamentary manager of the Social Democrats Party, said Grenell is a “total diplomatic failure” who was acting like a “brat.” Grenell claims he wants to “empower” conservative movements in Europe, threatens sanctions regarding a German-backed pipeline, and urges German companies to stop operations in Iran.

Marine commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that DDT’s deployments of troops to the southern border posed “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency.” Neller also wrote that the “unplanned/unbudgeted” deployment and funding shifts to support border security forced him to cancel or reduce planned military training in at least five countries and delay urgent repairs at bases. According to Neller, hurricanes severely damaged Marine Corps facilities and housing in North Carolina and Georgia, and Marines are already short $1.3 billion for recovery operations requiring service members to work “in compromised structures” as hurricane season is three months away. In their testimony next week before the House Armed Services Committee, Shanahan and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, may be asked questions about Neller’s statements.

DDT’s new privatized VA program is so flawed that it threatens to disrupt health care for about 75,000 veterans every day, according to an independent study from U.S. Digital Service, hired to help federal agencies improve their technology. The software to determine who is eligible for the program can lengthen each appointment by five to ten minutes by generating errors, running slowly, or crashing. The report also indicated that there is insufficient time to test the tool and address errors. Last year, the VA’s software caused veterans to be evicted and ruined their credit scores. Last year, three men from Mar-a-Lago oversaw the IT division because it lacked a permanent chief.

The Republicans in some states are trying to put DDT on the ballot in the general election with no primary, but 18 states are considering legislation that would keep candidates for president and VP off the 2020 general election ballots if they don’t release their income tax returns.

DDT’s approval rating from the conservative Gallup poll is back down to 39 percent in the first half of March. Not a good week for DDT.

September 1, 2018

DDT: Week 84 – A Few of His Problems

As the Republicans work to support Russia, they are joining Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in his attack on FBI agent Bruce Ohr. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) traveled to London to dig up dirt on both Ohr and Christopher Steel, the British former agent who wrote a dossier on DDT, but officials at MI6, MI5, and GCHQ wouldn’t talk with him. Nunes finally managed a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May’s deputy national security advisor, Madeline Alessandri. Ohr has been instrumental in fighting Russian organized crime for almost three decades, perhaps the reason that DDT wants to get rid of him because Ohr raised concerns about oligarch Oleg Deripaska named in contacts between DDT’s associates and Russia.

DDT might have been better off leaving Ohr alone. When Congress required Ohr to testify, he said that he learned from Christopher Steele that “Russian intelligence believed it had Donald Trump ‘over a barrel.’” DDT continues to claim that the Steele dossier was responsible for the FBI investigation into his Russian problem, but memos from both the GOP and Dems prove that the FBI had started the investigation earlier about Russian contacts of former DDT campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos before they had the Steele dossier. Ohr was not the original source of information. Ohr testified that DDT campaign aide Carter Page had met with more senior Russians official that Page admitted. DOJ officials Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein had moved him from director of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, according to Ohr, because it concerned White House meetings and interactions.

The Republicans who wanted to surveil everyone in the United States are now criticizing Ohr because of his surveillance tactics.

Democratic members of the House are asking committee chairs to review how GOP representatives got correspondence between Ohr and Steele and why they failed to go through appropriate channels to introduce the emails, notes, and text messages into the official record before reading them out loud in the hearing. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said that this information appears to have been cherrypicked by Devin Nunes (R-CA), excluding the complete correspondence. Nadler and Cummings also want “an immediate bipartisan meeting” with the DOJ to review “whether any ongoing investigations or human sources may have been compromised.”

Nunes is only one of many prominent Republicans to use the conspiracy-laden Big League Politics website using Q-Anon false theories for fundraising, some of the candidates violating campaign finance law. The website is being used to harass innocent small business by accusing them of operating child-sex trafficking rings, like the “Pizzagate” conspiracy against Hillary Clinton and a Washington, D.C. restaurant. Recent vicious targets include the Portland (OR) beloved Voodoo Doughnut. Respondents have posted maps of the chain’s locations with Portland’s plumbing locations, local schools, public transit, and airports to suggest ways that children are smuggled in and out of the stores. One member wrote, “Small submarines arent (sic) out of the realm of possibility.” The police say that they cannot do anything about the persecution, some of it generated by a former Breitbart News reporter.

Natasha Bertrand has tied together the threads of DDT’s targeted FBI and DOJ officials in his relentless attacks on people he depicts as dishonest “Democrats.” He depicts Ohr, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, and others who have had extensive experience in investigating money laundering and organized crime, especially connected to Russia. DDT’s big fear is that Robert Mueller’s team is expert in finding fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and other financial crimes. The article is well-worth a read, especially to see DDT’s connections to the crimes.

As Russia dogs DDT’s heels, he faces the week-long honoring of his nemesis, former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). After his death at the age of 81, McCain got his final wishes—DDT did not attend his funeral and two former presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, gave eulogies. DDT tried to minimize McCain’s death with the petty act of lowering the flag for only a day, but public backlash forced him to raise it again. He noticeably ignored his aides who wanted him to send out a statement about McCain being a hero while he continued his vendetta against the man who spent over five years in a Vietnam prison camp while he dodged the draft with four deferments and a bout of bone spurs. On the campaign trail, DDT called McCain a loser because he was imprisoned during the Vietnam War. “I like people that weren’t captured,” DDT said. He started his criticism of McCain in 1999 as this video shows.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders may be collateral damage from McCain’s death. DDT supposedly joked that she was “having a nervous breakdown” because of the way she looked at him when he refused to answer whether McCain would have been a better president than President Obama. “I don’t want to comment on it,” DDT said. “I have a very strong opinion.” He left town for a campaign rally in Indiana before McCain’s body arrived in Washington, D.C. for a memorial service and then went to his Virginia resort to play golf during McCain’s funeral in Washington, D.C. today.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) may be breaking up with DDT, McCain’s replacement after McCain’s illness became terminal, because Graham criticized DDT’s handling of his former friend’s death. Graham said:

“It bothers me greatly when the president says things about John McCain. It pisses me off to no end, and I let the president know it, And the way he handled the passing of John is just — it was disturbing.”

Graham did invite DDT’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka and Jared, to the funeral.

McCain’s death hasn’t slowed down Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and DDT. Paul Manafort’s next trial, postponed for a week until September 24, follows rumors of a possible plea deal for the second set of charges before he was convicted last week, but the two sides couldn’t work out a deal. Mueller has also received more time to decide whether to retry Manafort on the ten charges from the last trial after one person created a hung jury on these charges.

W. Samuel Patten, a Washington consultant who advised a Ukrainian political party and worked with a co-defendant of Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party. Patten’s partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, Patten’s partner and former Manafort employee, has been indicted for witness tampering in Manafort’s case and links to Russian intelligence. Patten also worked at the Oregon office of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, to target voters in the 2014 general election. As part of his plea, Patten admitted that he steered an illegal foreign donation to DDT’s inauguration from a Ukrainian businessman.

DDT’s latest comment about Sessions, who he has tried to separate from his Senate allies with incessant complaints, is that he won’t fire him until after the general election, perhaps to avoid the appearance of obstruction of justice. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “My sense is the fix is in,” but  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) still isn’t convinced, maybe worrying about his ability to get another AG confirmed. Donors are also complaining about Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, saying, “They haven’t represented … us well.”

DDT’s shiniest new distraction from his problems comes from his promise of a new trade deal with Mexico to replace NAFTA. The kickoff was a bit awkward when technology failed him in his conference call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto by and at his signoff when he told the president that “a hug from you would be very nice.” DDT is rushing the deal because progressive president-elect of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, takes over December 1. The clock is ticking, but the two-nation agreement may not be able to replace a three-nation trade pact, and Congress must agree.

Canada has been more reluctant, especially after DDT disparaged Canada and threatened the country with 25 percent tariffs on cars and auto parts exported from the U.S. The U.S. may be the loser because Canada is the #1 destination for U.S. products shipped abroad and the trade with Canada supports over 8 million U.S. jobs, many of them in the new “red” states. Canada also is unique because the U.S. doesn’t have a trade deficit with Canada. If the initial deal doesn’t include Canada, the U.S. will have trouble including the country later.

Most of the suggested pieces of DDT’s deal come from either NAFTA or the Trans Pacific Pipeline, but the name is new so that DDT can claim it as his own. He’ll just have to hope that people don’t see the drastic increases in prices from the deal and his tariffs if he wants to use it for getting people to vote for Republicans.

More DDT disasters later.

May 12, 2018

DDT: Weeks 67-68 – While We Paid Attention to Foreign Affairs

The last two weeks have seen monumental decisions by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), including his withdrawal from the Iran deal and his upcoming talks with North Korean president, Kim Jong-Un. Another media focus has been the revelations of “pay to play,” as DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen collected millions of dollars from huge businesses in exchange for access to DDT.

Before these events, however, the media spent several days protecting Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the fundraising correspondents’ dinner, largely maintaining that the media’s comedian Michelle Wolfe had unfairly attacked the White House press secretary. The truth she told about the media being instrumental in electing DDT probably infuriated them.

“He has helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you are profiting from him.”

Not all the media criticized Wolfe;  New Yorker’s Masha Gessen’ critique of the media was as clear as that expressed by Wolfe.

All the warm fuzzy expressions about Sanders disappeared, however, after she protected Kelly Sadler for her vile comment about Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) objection to Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, that it was irrelevant because “he’s dying anyway.” Sanders didn’t object to Sadler’s comment–just to the leak. objection was not to the comment, but to a leak. Sadler made her statement three days after Melania Trump kicked off her “Be Best” program, promoting kindness in children.

Chief of staff John Kelly is also taking some heat from the media. Trying to gain DDT’s support after calling him an “idiot,” Kelly went on NRP to lambaste immigrants from Mexico because they are poorly educated, don’t speak English, come from rural areas, and cannot assimilate into society. Unfortunately for Kelly, genealogical researcher Monica Pattangall researched his family tree. Seven of Kelly’s eight great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S., and three of Kelly’s four great-grandfathers were unskilled workers. The fourth was a cooper. They came to the United States because they wanted a better future for themselves and their children. Great-grandfather Giuseppe Pedalino could not read, write, or speak English, and great-grandfather John Marco also did not speak English for at least ten years. Marco and his second wife, who could not speak English for over 30 years, lived with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, one of them the chief of staff’s mother. Kelly’s family has all the characteristics that he doesn’t want in immigrants, but he became the top aide to the man elected as president of the United States. Kelly also claims that women are more emotional than men, ironic considering his bosses temperament of his boss, and wanted the ex-wives of then-White House staff Secretary Rob Porter to talking about their abuse.

After almost total silence for other a year, First Lady Melania Trump launched “Be Best,” her program to help the vulnerable children. “Children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence,” Ms. Trump. She expresses a concern about the well-being of children and released a booklet complete with her photograph—that was copied from a 2014 Federal Trade Commission pamphlet by President Obama and his wife, Michelle, called, “Talking to Your Kids.” Melania Trump fought back against the criticism with a statement against what she called “baseless accusations” on “a day meant to promote kindness and positive efforts on behalf of children.

On the same day that she touted kindness to children, AG Jeff Sessions announced that ICE will separate every family who tries to cross the border, including ripping infants and toddlers away from their mothers. Last fall, HHS discovered that they had lost almost 1,500 children that ICE had taken from their parents. As if that wasn’t enough cruelty to children, on the same day DDT asked Congress to shred the $9 billion Children’s Health Insurance Program by $7 billion, removing almost 80 percent of funding earmarked for children living close to poverty in the United States.

Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning has a different perspective on immigrants and took the opportunity of her award acceptance at the White House to hand letters from her students to DDT. She teaches English in Spokane (WA) to refugee and immigrant high school students when they first arrive in the United States. She wrote in her application:

“In the current political climate, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric is rampant. As soon as my students arrive, they are afraid they will have to leave. Most of my students come to the U.S. seeking safety, but they don’t always feel safe here. This makes it hard for them to share and learn from others….

I am here for refugee and immigrant students, for the kids in the gay-straight alliance, and for all the girls.”

The letters expressed their feelings of happiness to contribute to their new country and the shame of having from the nation’s leader speaking poorly of them. During her acceptance appearance, Manning wore activist pins for LGBTQ, trans, and women’s rights. In his speech, DDT refuted Manning’s message by talking about the importance of teaching CITIZENS (in all caps on the teleprompter) instead of Manning’s students.

Another ICE tactic is stealing money. Six months ago, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took over $41,000 in cash without a civil asset forfeiture case from a U.S. citizen who saved the money for years for a medical clinic in Nigeria. They refuse to return the money until she agrees not to sue them for taking her money. Taking money from innocent people is so prevalent that state and local governments take billions of dollars from people without charging them with crimes.

Perhaps DDT should have kept his former HHS Secretary Tom Price. Now Price is agreeing with the CBO that repealing the health care mandate “drives up the cost for other folks within that market.” DDT’s policies are also driving up the number of people without health insurance.

Much was made of the 49 questions that investigator Robert Mueller wanted to asked DDT. DDT tweeted, “No questions on Collusion,” but he ignored the one about cooperation between the Russian government and DDT’s campaign. Largely ignored, however, is that DDT’s lawyer Jay Sekulow wrote them. The questions are listed here.

People may be pleased that Cambridge Analytica, the software company that helped DDT win electoral votes, is no more. The closure, however, can only benefit the company: it registered the new company, Emerdata Limited, last year and now can no longer be sued.

“Trade wars are good and easy to win,” according to DDT, except when they aren’t. Caught up in global hostility toward him, DDT has postponed more tariffs against steel and aluminum. Details here.

DDT’s personal physician Harold Bornstein, fed up with DDT, stated that DDT personally dictated the 2015 letter ostensibly from Bornstein to praise DDT’s fantastic good health. The letter came after DDT consistently attacked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with the statement that she wasn’t healthy enough to be president because he will do anything to win anything. Borstein told the story after DDT’s longtime bodyguard raided the doctor’s office and took all DDT records with no signed form or request from DDT and told Bornstein to take down a picture of Bornstein and DDT.

DDT’s tweet that threatened to remove credentials from the press came immediately after Fox & Friends said he should do just that. During his campaign, DDT said he would never remove credentials, but his mind now equates negative news with his concept of “fake news.”

Any infrastructure plan has died as all its supporters have left the White House.

Louisiana may start a trend of increasing the number of the homeless by moving old people out of nursing homes. Letters went out to 37,000 Medicaid recipients, 20,000 of them in nursing homes, telling them that they could lose their benefits. The closure of nursing homes could also leave 25,000 people unemployed. In the richest country in the world, the wealthy and huge corporations are gaining trillions of dollars from the GOP tax cut while old people are turned out on the streets.

Only Charlotte (NC) is admitting that it is willing to host the 2020 GOP convention; several of the others have rejected the event because of concerns about violence and security concerns.

Drugs stocks shot upward this past week after DDT broke another campaign promise to lower drug costs. DDT already put a drug company executive in charge of Department of Health and Human Services and now announced that he won’t permit Medicare to negotiate prices. He claimed that he would lower drug costs by encouraging use of generic prescriptions that often don’t work as well as the original, promoting competition in pricing, calling on other countries to increase their prices—in short, doing nothing about skyrocketing prices that are gouging patients. Pharmaceutical companies have benefited from the $26 million they spent last year in lobbying to keep their high prices.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), told Supreme Court justices considering retirement that they should immediately announce so that the current Senate can replace that person before the November midterm election. He seems to be concerned that Democrats would use GOP tactics to hold up confirmation hearings for GOP nominations.

Believe it or not, to be continued!

May 10, 2018

Recent Federal Departures

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
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The last two weeks have seen an inordinate number of people moved out of the government with very few arriving. (Another breakdown of disappearances from the White House.) One person did manage to keep his job.

Rev. Pat Conroy is back as U.S. House chaplain after a serious backlash to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) firing him. Ryan said that he was dissatisfied with Conroy’s “pastoral services,” but GOP evangelicals said that they wanted a Protestant instead of a Catholic in the job.  Conroy had prayed before the tax bill that lawmakers guarantee “there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” Ryan warned Conroy to “stay out of politics.” Because the chaplain is selected by a majority vote of House members, Ryan couldn’t fire anyone in that position. Conroy was sworn back in on May 8, 2018, almost seven years after his first swearing in on May 25, 2011 after a unanimous vote. His prayer this week when House members returned from their week off:

“As the members return to Washington, may they be encouraged and empowered by their constituents to be their best selves in serving in the people’s House. May the disagreements that seem to perjure give way to good faith efforts to find solutions to the issues facing our nation in a manner consistent with the great traditions of our republican form of government.”

New York AG Eric Schneiderman has resigned. The man who was supposed to try DDT if he pardoned himself from federal charges has been accused of emotionally and physically abusing at least four women. One person suggested for replacing Schneiderman is Alphonso David, a gay man whose immigrant parents sought asylum from a military coup in Liberia. Another possibility, former U.S. attorney and aggressive prosecutor Preet Bharara, was fired last year by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while Bharara was investigating former HHS Secretary Tom Price. At that time, DDT’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz patted himself on the back for the firing.

Thomas Homan, DDT’s pick for the head of ICE who enthusiastically attacked immigrants, has resigned because he feels left out of administrative decisions. HHS has consistently failed to provide necessary information for a confirmation hearing, and Homan decided to spend more time with his family. Or he may find a more lucrative job: his predecessor, Daniel Ragsdale, works for GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison and detention company. Under Homan, ICE forced separation of immigrant families in detention, tripled arrests of undocumented people without criminal records, prevented pregnant women in detention from appropriate health care, mistakenly arrested almost 1,500 people, and lost almost 1,500 immigrant children last year who were separated from their parents.

Dr. Jennifer Peña, VP Mike Pence’s doctor, disappeared as collateral damage from the controversy about DDT’s doctor, Ronny Jackson, that caused him to withdraw his name as nominee for VA Secretary. Last fall, she was among those who accused Jackson of workplace misconduct for possibly violating federal privacy protections in sharing medical details about Pence’s wife, Karen Pence.

Jackson is also gone as DDT’s personal physician. Also apparently gone are DDT’s medical records. Dr. Harold Bornstein, DDT’s former personal physician, said that DDT’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, who became director of Oval Office operations, seized all DDT-related medical records two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he prescribed hair growth medication for DDT. Schiller had no form authorizing his action, thereby violating HIPAA, a 1996 privacy health care law. DDT is using the Jackson scandal to attack Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), up for re-election this year, but Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), also on the Veterans Affairs Committee as chairman, called foul and brought out the story of Jackson violating Karen Pence’s federal privacy protections. No nominee for Veterans Affairs has appeared although last week’s rumors suggested John Kelly so that DDT could get rid of him as chief of staff.

Lawyer Ty Cobb left DDT’s legal team just as Rudy Giuliani came on. Giuliani unexpectedly quit his job with law firm Greenberg Traurig, that became irritated by Giuliani’s insinuation the firm pays hush money for clients without their knowledge.

Emmitt Flood, recently hired for the legal team, represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment in the late 1990s. DDT’s legal team has no member with a security clearance to handle information in the Russian investigation and Mueller’s negotiations. With 4,095 lawsuits before his election, DDT settled lawsuits since then about a campaign aide leaking to the press, fraud at his university, and a restaurant deal in Washington. His former campaign head has been indicted, three advisers including the one for national security have pled guilty to federal charges, and a porn star and an Apprentice star are suing him for defamation. His son-in-law may be investigated for a bank loan, and his personal lawyer has had his office raided for federal agents.

James Baker, FBI’s top lawyer, and Liz Page, legal adviser to former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe, have resigned. Baker will write for the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare blog.

EPA media aide John Konkus was the fourth aide to resign last week and the second in the media department. He follows resignations by EPA communications head, Liz Bowman and political aides Albert Kelly and Pasquale Perrotta as well as 700 other EPA employees. James Hewitt, son of Pruitt-defender Hugh Hewitt, columnist for Washington Post, and radio host for MSNBC remains at the agency. A friend of Pruitt, the elder Hewitt lobbied to clean up a toxic waste area near his California home. Scott Pruitt may be behind recent negative stories about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Elaine Plott reported in The Atlantic that Michael Abboud, one of Pruitt’s press team, passed these stories about Zinke to several media outlets after an Interior staffer worked with former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski to do the same for the EPA.  Pruitt has added a 14th investigation to his list of woes because he granted a financial hardship waiver to Carl Icahn’s oil refinery. The former DDT adviser left after he made more billions from his advice about investments. In this case, Icahn gains tens of millions of dollars from a regulation meant to help the environment and support corn farmers.

Michael Roman, the Koch brothers’ follower who was hired to vet judicial nominees for White House counselor Don McGahn, has left the WH sinking ship. Most people have never heard of Roman because he’s been secretive since he started working for DDT’s campaign. The primary requirement in selecting DDT’s nominees is loyalty to DDT by doing exactly what he wants and never having said anything negative about him. DDT picked Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State because he admired Tillerson’s swagger and business acumen, and he briefly chose Victoria Toensng and Josephn DiGenova because they defended him on television. Rob Porter, ousted for domestic abuse against two ex-wives, had no vetting file, and early choices only needed to be military generals. A White House official described DDT’s process as “ready, shoot, aim” because DDT announces his choices before they have been vetted. (A better description might be “shoot, ready, aim.”)

Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, threatened to withdraw her name last Friday, but DDT convinced her to stay. She worried about the confirmation hearing because she supported torture and destroyed videos showing U.S. torturing at a black site, the secret CIA detention facility in Thailand. Pressure during her hearings included questions from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a former prosecutor, especially the one about whether “the previous interrogation techniques were immoral.” Haspel tried to connect these techniques to preventing further attacks, something never proved. A review of her statements indicates contradictions: she stated that torture did not elicit useful information but believes that it helps prevent further attacks. She said that she wouldn’t restart the torture program but nothing about continuing it. She also said that she would not ask the CIA to do anything “immoral” but refused to answer a question about whether these “interrogations” are immoral. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement that “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.” After McCain’s statements, Kelly Sadler, who helps manage talking points for DDT allies, said in a White House meeting with two dozen staffers that McCain’s statement “doesn’t matter, he’s “dying anyway.”

Despite the objections of the only senator who has ever been tortured, Haspel will probably be confirmed, joining Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton to become DDT’s triumvirate of war mongering. Other vile comments about McCain show the conservatives’ moral deficiency. Fox guest retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney tried to use McCain as an example of how torture works. He said:

“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is is those methods can work and they’re effective, as former vice president [Dick] Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

A fact check with a great deal of evidence shows that McInerney’s claim, based on a false flyer to denigrate McCain during his presidential run, is wrong. The host of the program, Charles Payne, has issued an apology to McCain and his family, calling the comment “very false and derogatory.”

 

September 20, 2017

GOP Desperate to Pass Bad Bill to Get Re-elected

“We need to pass something–anything. We promised.” That’s the excuse behind the most recent care bill, the fourth one this year, that is the worst one thus far. And GOP senators admit that their bill is worse than the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Asked why the GOP bill is better, John Barrasso (R-WY) said that there “shouldn’t be” essential health care benefits in a health care bill.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that some “big blue states” would be hit with huge cuts. “The CBO scoring is just a detail,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “[States] can do it with less money,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), but he didn’t explain how—probably by not providing health care to as many people.

The bill, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) myopically said, “wouldn’t cut Alabama.” (Not everyone is that lucky: Louisiana, co-author Sen. Bill Cassidy’s state, will lose health insurance for 433,000 people.) Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said “it’s an improvement over Obamacare” because he will “get to vote for repeal it.” Kennedy has one concern about states’ rights in health care: he’s afraid that they may decide to have single-payer plans. He doesn’t want money from the “American taxpayer” to go toward single-payer plans despite the fact that “blue” states pay more to the federal government than they get back. When Kennedy asked for an amendment to stop these states’ rights, Lindsey Graham assured him it was in the bill. Republicans want state innovation but only by their rules.

But Graham may not know what’s in the bill. A senior GOP aide commented, “If there was an oral exam on the contents of the proposal, graded on a generous curve, only two Republicans could pass it. And one of them isn’t Lindsey Graham.” It was obvious he knew nothing about the bill that he “co-authored” during questions from a reporter. The aide added, “You could do a post office renaming and call it ‘repeal-replace’ and 48 Republican senators would vote for it sight unseen.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, co-author of the bill, has this reason for justifying a bad bill.

“We must [pass the bill by September 30] because there is a mother and father whose child will have insurance because of Graham Cassidy Heller Johnson.”

Otherwise Cassidy flat-out lied in defense of his bill by claiming that it gives more coverage to people and protects people with preexisting conditions. His office claims that the bill, which slashes funding, will provide more funding to every state. Only 15 states will benefit financially. The plan carries the nickname “Screw Blue Bill” because it removes $57,547 per Californian and $33,058 per New Yorker. But states that hurt the most are the ones in poverty that supported Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and expanded Medicaid under the ACA—Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Maine, Iowa, Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana. And it hurt seniors, disabled, and the poor everywhere. They all have GOP Senators who will vote to take health insurance from their constituents. (More about these states here.) These are the winners and losers in the next decade.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who will push the bill through the House if the Senate passes it, tweeted in favor of the bill:

“I’ll take federalism over Obamacare any day.”

It’s not “federal”: the bill turns money over to states, some of which will feed the funding into balancing their budgets instead of health care. This message comes from the man who has lived off federal money since he was 16 and got Social Security.

The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t have time to score the bill, but experts believe it will throw the same tens of millions of people off health care insurance as earlier GOP bills or be worse. A CBO scoring is mandated for Senate bills, but they plan to vote without “point estimates of the effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, or premiums for at least several weeks.” Without this knowledge and without reading the bill, senators will be blindly voting on the bill using their personal assumptions.

Cassidy-Graham health care bill would have these impacts:

  • Proposed block grants for states that are below current funding will eliminate marketplace subsidies and enhanced matching rate for the Medicaid expansion and disappear in 2026. States have no requirement to provide coverage or financial assistance to low- and moderate-income people.
  • A per capita cap will replace Medicaid’s federal-state financial partnership that cuts funding for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children.
  • People with preexisting conditions will lose coverage because the only stipulation for premiums is “affordable” with no consideration for a person’s income.
  • Withdrawal of mandated coverage for essential health benefits means people can purchase health insurance without provisions for mental health, substance abuse treatment, maternity care, and hospitalization.
  • People with preexisting conditions will lose coverage because the only stipulation for premiums is “affordable” with no consideration for a person’s income.
  • States can waive age rating rules, essential health benefits, the prohibition on medical underwriting, prohibition on annual and lifetime limits, and the required medical loss ratio for plans and enrollees who receive some benefit from the state’s block grant funding.
  • The loss of subsidies and insurance mandate destabilize the individual insurance market, risking its collapse.
  • The bill prevents any impetus to fix the ACA, proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that had a September 27 deadline to stabilize health care for the coming year.

States that created fewer uninsured under the ACA will lose their money to states that were failures. (Another version of winners and losers)

 

Just ignore protesters. That’s the position of GOP senators and DDT who are committed to passing this bill. DDT blocked a 41-year-old woman with State 4 cancer on his Twitter feed because of her appeals to him. The Cassidy-Graham bill would place a $140,510 surcharge on an annual health premium for a 40-year-old woman with metastatic cancer.

Half the governors signing a letter opposing the Cassidy-Graham bill to decimate health care are not Democrats. They were joined in opposition by GOP Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland. Sixteen patient and provider groups, from the American Heart Association to the March of Dimes, criticized the bill for destroying Medicaid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Other medical groups urged Republicans to fix the Affordable Care Act instead of the repeal and were joined by hospitals and insurers, appalled by the unworkable and irresponsible concept of 50 insanely different state health care systems.

Senators supporting the Cassidy-Graham bill are pushing hard because September 30 is the deadline to pass any bill with a simple majority. After that the filibuster goes into effect.

Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ)  governor, Doug Ducey, asked him to vote for the bill despite Ducey’s not knowing how much money his state will lose. (Governor Ducey, you’ll lose over $1 million a year until 2026 when you’ll start losing lots more. Does that make a difference?) Twelve days ago, McCain said that health care reform “must” follow regular order. He may rationalize a couple of hearings, on before the Senate Homeland Security Committee with no jurisdiction over the issue, as “regular.” The bill has two witnesses—co-author Cassidy and Graham. GOP Senators plan to change almost 20 percent of the world’s largest economy and endanger the health security of tens of millions of people without minimal committee hearings and no testimony from experts, debates, or public input—all for a partisan win.

A reporter who interviewed nine GOP senators found these five lies, according to Forbes: (1) States will be more “efficient”; (2) It’s the last chance to do anything; (3) The ACA is responsible for rising healthcare premiums; (4) The decrease in future rates of growth is not a cut; (5) States need to be the innovators; and (6) The problem is some states get the lion’s share of the federal money. As the conservative magazine pointed out, the one truth is that the entire issue with the Republicans is “about politics and not public policy.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the Nation wrote:

“GOP legislators … assume low-wage and moderate-income families should have less health-care protection than the wealthy…. Republicans want to strip millions of health insurance, including seniors in the last days of life, the disabled and women with infants. Democrats want everyone to have the right to affordable health care. There is a choice.”

Passing the Cassidy-Graham bill destroys both health care and the democratic process.

June 9, 2017

Comey on DDT: ‘Lies, Plain & Simple’

Fox network and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may have tried to paint former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as a success for the White House, but headlines throughout the United States say otherwise—concentrating on the words “lies,” “lied,” and “liar” in reference to DDT. In some cases, Comey gave direct evidence of how DDT had lied about their interactions; in other cases, he answered questions such as whether DDT colluded with Russia by saying that he couldn’t “answer in an open setting.” Translation for that statement is likely “yes, but it’s classified.”

DDT wasn’t the only person who took hits in Comey’s testimony; AG Jeff Sessions suffered too. To another question he couldn’t “discuss in an open setting,” Comey indicated a relationship between the new attorney general and Russia.

Comey also pulled VP Mike Pence into the DDT morass with his answer to Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) question about whether Pence knew about Michael Flynn’s Russian connections during the transition after the election. Comey’s response was “my understanding is that he was,” meaning that Pence lied about his ignorance.

Not one GOP senator refuted Comey’s testimony; instead they praised him and his testimony. About DDT’s lies, however, they seemed nonchalant. The Intelligence Committee’s chair, Richard Burr (R-NC), expressed no concern about DDT’s demand for loyalty or his lying about requiring this from the FBI director.  Ezra Klein wrote:

 

“Trump’s behavior, in Comey’s telling, is more befitting of a Mafioso than a president. He asks, repeatedly, for loyalty, and shows no evident understanding of the norms or institutions that bind American presidents. His actions would be worrying if they came from the regional manager of a Scranton paper firm; they are terrifying coming from the most powerful man in the world.”

Michael Winship wrote that “the testimony of the fired FBI director revealed a president who sees himself more crime boss than chief executive.” Maybe that’s what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose lawyer Christopher Wray has just been appointed as FBI director, meant when he called DDT’s statements “normal New York City conversation.”

Other politicians argued that DDT only expressed “hope” that Comey would let the Michael Flynn thing go because he’s a “good guy.” (Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) pointed out that the word “hope” carries great weight if it’s delivered by a man pointing a gun.) House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) justified all of DDT’s lying, asking for special favors from the FBI director in private meetings called by DDT, and his possible obstruction of justice by saying that “he’s just new to this.” This is a GOP claim who lectured the U.S. nonstop about obstruction of justice after Bill Clinton had a casual conversation with then AG Loretta Lynch.

Conservative media pundits aren’t that sanguine. WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin called Comey’s testimony “a devastating day for the president” that “could spell the beginning of the end of his administration.” She said, “What [Comey] painted was not any one incident but a portrait of the way this guy operates.”

On the other hand, Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly’s replacement on Fox, used his show to  smear Comey. Carlson’s news operation, Daily Caller, received $150,000 from DDT’s campaign.

The oddest part of Comey’s almost three-hour appearance came from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), allowed time for questioning because he chairs the Armed Services Committee. With muttered, sometimes slurred, and occasionally incoherent speech, he referred to Comey once when talking about DDT. McCain seemed confused when Comey said that the FBI was done with investigating Hillary Clinton and stated that she was clearly involved in whole Russian situation because she was a candidate for president. Later McCain tried to explain away his highly confusing questioning to sleeplessness. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) also failed to understand how the FBI’s extensive investigation into Clinton’s private mail server exonerated her in testimony about the GOP blocking the possible GOP campaigners’ colluding with the Russian interference in a U.S. election.

With his keepers in the room during the testimony, DDT kept his Twitter quiet, but his namesake didn’t. Lindsay Gibbs wrote:

“Donald Trump Jr. tweeted or re-tweeted a total of 50 times during Comey’s testimony, proving once again that the apple does not fall far from the tree. There were poorly threaded rants, out-of-context reactions, and dozens of RTs of right-wing accounts, one which had the name ‘CNN is ISIS & Hitler.’”

DDT’s privately retained lawyer has his own limitations. His first response to James Comey’s testimony began with “I am Marc Kasowitz, Predisent Trump’s personal lawyer.” His smears of Comey and defense of DDT may not be taken seriously when he can’t correctly spell his client’s position. Kasowitz then made an error in a main point about when the New York Times published information about Comey’s memos. (Surely, DDT’s lawyer wouldn’t lie to support his premises.) The rest of Kasowitz’s brief talk largely misrepresented Comey’s statements.

Comey testified that he took copious notes on their meetings because he “was honestly concerned [DDT] might lie about the nature of our meeting.” DDT’s lawyer has stated that he will file a complaint against Comey’s “leaking” his notes to the press, but legal experts have indicated that there is nothing illegal because a private citizen provided non-classified information. Others think that DDT’s lawyer’s action could at least be abusing DDT’s authority if not committing obstruction of justice if they ask the DOJ to open an investigation without clear merits.

Regarding the responses to the GOP expressions of their victory from Comey’s testimony, Christian Schneider, USA Today’s Board of Contributors, has the best response to GOP expressions of victory from Comey’s testimony:

“To say that Comey’s testimony ‘vindicates’ Trump in any way ignores giant swaths of what the former FBI director actually said — it’s like leaving the theater after seeing Wonder Woman and telling people it’s a World War I documentary. This is the place where Trump’s supporters exist: Rather than seeing the president for who he clearly is, they construct an entirely different Trump in the negative space around him.”

The day before Comey’s testimony, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, refused to answer questions from the Senate Oversight Committee, in violation of the oath they gave when they took those positions. If they don’t answer the questions, they must legally invoke the 5th or claim executive privilege. Rogers merely said that he didn’t “feel” like answer the questions. Coats said he no “legal basis” for his refusal. It appears that this is their approach to keep their jobs.

In an attempt to divert attention from Comey’s testimony, DDT announced Christopher Wray as his nominee for FBI director. One reason might be that Wray was the lawyer who got Chris Christie out of “Bridgegate” trouble after he closed the George Washington bridge, but the nomination may be awkward. Wray’s firm works for the Russians and advises DDT’s untrustworthy “trust.”

Asked if he would be willing to testify under oath, DDT said, “100 percent.” At least for now.

Nicole Serratore has an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times about DDT and Comey called “James Comey and the Predator in Chief.” She wrote that the interaction was like “the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.” DDT demanded “dinner for two” and loyalty, both of which Comey didn’t want to provide. Yet Comey didn’t know how to get out of the situation. He tried to avoid any contact with DDT and even asked Sessions to not leave them alone. In claiming to Comey that “we had that thing,” the manipulator seducer DDT insinuates a non-existent shared intimacy to make his victim complicit. Now DDT supporters are blaming Comey for not being “stronger,” another parallel to victimizing victims. They claim that the problem belongs to Comey when DDT is at fault.

As one tweet pointed out about Mike Pence’s declaration that he could never have a meal alone with a woman not his wife. Everyone should avoid having dinner alone with DDT.

June 3, 2017

DDT: Week Nineteen, More Distractions to Russia

The biggest distraction from the collusion between Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Russia in the past week was his claim that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris Agreement, a 195-country agreement to cut back on carbon emissions throughout the world. The irony of DDT’s massive lies is that the U.S. emits two-thirds of the carbon gas on the planet. There is much more to be said about this symbolic gesture to pander to his base and satisfy the needs of white supremacist Steve Bannon and climate denier EPA secretary, Scott Pruitt, but in short, DDT merely followed up on his climate-change producing actions in the past few months while abdicating any world leadership throughout the world in politics and economics while alienating all the nation’s allies.

The White House is filled with rumors about which staffers will next hear the famous DDT words, “You’re fired!” Last week was the announcement that Mike Dubke had resigned as White House communications director two weeks earlier but promised he would stay until DDT came back from his offshore visit. Both he and Press Secretary Sean Spicer took the heat for the fallout from DDT’s firing former FBI director James Comey, and DDT was furious with Dubke after he told aides that “there is no Trump doctrine.” Here is a list of top DDT officials who resigned or were fired in just three months.

DDT will need a brilliant communications director to deal with Russian stories keep dribbling out, for example the latest claim from Russians that they have information to use against DDT and his closest associates. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called its president, Vladimir Putin, “the premier and most important” national security threat to the United States, “more so” than ISIS, because of Russian’s influence on elections in the U.S. and France and Putin’s “pressure” applied to Baltic States. About Jared Kushner’s reaching out for back-channel communications with Russia, McCain said:

“I don’t like it. I just don’t. I don’t think it’s standard procedure prior to the inauguration of a president of the United States by someone who is not in an appointed position.”

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly likes “multiple communication lines to any government.” Responsible for national security, Kelly ignored these inappropriate aspects of Kushner’s offer: it occurred before DDT was inaugurated; it was not introduced by a diplomatic official; it went farther than just foreign policy; and it proposed that an adversarial foreign country’s equipment be used.

DDT doesn’t need a back channel: he just hands out his personal cellphone number and asks world leaders to call him directly. Other presidents have always called on secure phone lines because other ones are subject to eavesdropping. DDT ran on criticism of Hillary Clinton’s secure private email server, and now he uses a private phone for official business.

The Russian investigation has expanded to DDT’s close confidant and personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who refused to appear at a congressional hearing until he received a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee. Cohen has been the king of frivolous lawsuits while working for DDT. Cohen joins four DDT campaign advisers and Jared Kushner as persons of interest based on their interactions with Russians.

DDT’s biggest problem in restructuring the White House staff may be finding candidates, especially those who will be 100 percent loyal to him while he is willing to dump them at a moment’s notice. Michael Steele, former RNC chair, described new candidates “crazy”:

“Nobody wants to step into a situation where you’re flying by the seat of your pants and don’t know whether what you just said will hold up from one news cycle to the next. Nobody is going to be lining up for positions with that much uncertainty.”

Four possible successors have already turned down the White House as Dubke’s replacement, and one GOP operative called the position “career suicide.” Two considerations to join the team came from his early campaign, but David Bossie cited family concerns in not joining DDT. The other, Corey Lewandowski, had earlier been fired after he attacked a reporter at a DDT rally. Current staffers consider Lewandowski’s return “another trainwreck.”

DDT has found nominees for only 117 of the 559 most important Senate-confirmed positions. Russia is delighted because it’s sending ambassadors to take over countries such as Italy where U.S. has not diplomatic representation. It’s possible that DDT can’t even find a candidate to head up the FBI. With no ambassador in key countries, Russia is taking over.

As usual, DDT backed down on some of his declarations. Last week the White House  and OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, refused to provide information about lobbyists in the administration to the U.S. government’s ethics agency. This week, Mulvaney said he wasn’t really refusing to do this. (It’s part of the trifecta GOP excuses: I don’t remember, I didn’t say that, and I didn’t mean that.) After backlash, DDT also changed his 95-percent budget cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to assist in opioid abuse to a five-percent cut. It still drops the ONDCP office from 75 FTE to 66.

DDT wants the Senate to drop the filibuster so that he will have s a better chance of passing his legislation. His only two projects of the health plan and tax cuts for wealthy, however, require only 50 votes because they operate under the reconciliation process. With an eye on a possible majority in the Senate in 75 months, Majority Leader (R-KY) has said that he won’t do it.

Conflicts of interest with DDT’s business continue to increase. Eric Trump meets with his father weekly to report on business while DDT sons Donald Jr., Eric, and his wife Lara met privately with GOP leaders. Even some GOP members question the appropriateness of DDT’s family business leaders’ involvement in the party’s strategy and resources. The family wants GOP officials to work harder to “help reignite [DDT’s] political base.”

DDT called his recent trip away from the U.S. a “home run,” a description as wrong as George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” three months into the 14th year of the war in Iraq. On Air Force One, a senior official “implored” reporters to “tell the story back home about what an unprecedentedly and historically successful trip this was by an incredible leader and an amazing man.” Last Sunday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the last few days” had shown her that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands” and the time when Europe could count on others was “over to a certain extent.”

In just nine days, DDT sided with Sunnis over Shiites, lectured NATO members, abandoned U.S. leadership in climate change, and generally supported autocrats over democratic leaders. Plus he shoved other officials aside, displayed ignorance of basic geography, and committee a variety of other gaffes. And that was before DDT came home and snubbed over 190 countries by dropping out of the Paris Agreement.

On a field trip from New Jersey, 100 8th graders refused to be photographed with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) because they “didn’t want to be associated with a person who puts his party before his country,” in the words of one student. Another student, Matthew Malespina, said, “I can’t take a picture with someone who supports a budget that would destroy public education and would leave 23 million people without healthcare.”

In a defeat of big business, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a small business, Impression Products, that buys used printer ink cartridges overseas and refills them for sale in the United States. Lexmark International sued on the basis of patent law but lost because the product was sold out of the country. The decision can go far beyond computer ink especially if it applies to big pharma.

Russia is riled about a House bill putting sanctions on North Korea, claiming that H.R. 1644 violates its sovereignty and constitutes an “act of war.” The bill, passed with only one no vote, increased the president’s power to impose sanctions on anyone in violation of UN Security council resolutions regarding North Korea, specifically in the areas of “slave labor,” terrorism, and use of international transit ports. Russia’s problem is that the bill, if passed into law, would give the U.S. “inspection authorities” over shipping ports and major airports in China, Russia, Syria, and Iran. Any ship, airplane, or conveyance that had been in North Korean waters, air space, or sea ports/airports could be subject to “seizure and forfeiture.”

DDT claimed that he’s taking the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement to keep the nation from being the “laughingstock” of the world. It’s DDT who is the laughingstock. For example, five prime ministers—Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland—did a photo shoot mocking the “magic orb” that DDT pressed in Saudi Arabia. [visual] Three of those countries pledged additional money for family planning after DDT refused to pay the U.S. share of funding to any worldwide groups that provided information on abortion and pulled funding from the UN Population Fund. Last year, U.S. funding helped 27 million women access contraceptives that prevented six million unwanted pregnancies. Nicholas Kristof writes about DDT’s war on women in weakening efforts to prevent cervical cancer both around the world and in the U.S, which has one of the lowest cervical cancer survival rates within developed countries.

The week ended with continuing ridicule of DDT regarding his use of “covfete” (maybe coverage?) in a tweet that took him six hours to correct after he maintained the word had a hidden meaning. The tweets ridiculing DDT kept coming. Companies are selling Covfefe food, coffee, clothing, mugs, games, and more.

May 21, 2017

Sunday Speeches: DDT Pandering; GOP Spin

The grand introduction to a nine-day tour by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was today’s pandering speech to over 50 Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, a speech written by Islamophobic Stephen Miller. Miller knew that DDT had to walk a fine line between not offending his racist U.S. base and the audience of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, including 3.3 million in the U.S. alone. Gone was the term “radical Islamic terrorism” which he used as a litmus test for conservatives, damning all people who refused to say this expression. Only once did he slip in “Islamic terrorism” among the 32 times that he referred to terrorism in the 34-minute speech. The teleprompter read “Islamist,” but DDT may be accustomed to his own term which refers to the religion rather than a political movement.

Saudi Arabia was the safest place to give the speech because DDT is in sync with the authoritarian regime there. In his desire to feel royal, DDT is comfortable with their ostentatious wealth, lack of concern for rule, and a disregard for democracy. He had also just favored them with the $110 billion arms sale that President Obama had delayed on the basis of human rights and how the weapons would be used as well as the proposed Qatar purchase by Qatar of “a lot of beautiful military equipment,” as DDT describes them. DDT brought them other multi-billion dollar deals such as $6 billion for Lockheed for 150 Black Hawk helicopters and $15 billion for General Electric.

The speech also avoided other such alien concepts to the Middle East as democracy, gender equality, and political reform—again matching DDT’s approach toward ruling. Even better for Saudi support, he blamed Iran instead of ISIS “fueling sectarian violence”; he spoke about the “despair” of the Iranians on the day after they freely elected a liberal reform president and demanded that the largest Shiite country in the Middle East be more isolated. According to DDT, Iran is to blame for “so much instability,” and Shiite Hezbolla and Yemienis were equally condemned.

DDT claimed his purpose was not to “lecture” before he launched into ponderous and repetitious demands of “drive them out” like an Old Testament prophet declaiming that the Muslims are totally responsible in this “battle between good and evil.” Nowhere did he mention that his hosts are responsible for the Wahhabi Salafit extremists who murder “innocent people.” DDT also praised Saudi Arabia for its “strong action against the Houthi militants in Yemen,” an action using U.S.-made cluster bombs in crowded cities indiscriminately killing people and exacerbating a massive humanitarian crisis.

“We are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests,” DDT told his audience, indicating that these “common values” can include misogyny, murder by beheading, and dictatorships in the name of oil and gas. He said, “Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination.” But the generality didn’t define “friends,” which could include Russia, Iran’s supporter, and the warring militias in the Middle East. DDT said:

“We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.”

Translations for this statement could  include that the U.S. can reverse its positions at a minute’s notice based on a knee-jerk reaction to an occurrence but that the U.S. will not oppose crimes against humanity unless it will be of some financial benefit.

DDT’s speech is being declared “presidential,” the common description for words he didn’t prepare that were carefully read with no off-script comments.

Yet former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams pointed out a major flaw, “an understanding of what produces extremism”:

 “The president’s approach would work if terrorists were coming from outer space, and our task were solely to organize against them militarily. That is no doubt part of the task—but not all of it, because they are coming from within the societies whose leaders he was addressing. He offered no explanation of what was producing this phenomenon…. Trump had no theory and therefore could not suggest what might be done to prevent more extremists from rising.”

While DDT was in Saudi Arabia trying to overcome the ghastly scandals of May, his faithful were spinning his actions on the Sunday talk shows.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that DDT talked about firing former FBI director James Comey with the Russian officials to prove he wasn’t distracted by any problems in Washington. As usual, Tillerson pressed his talking point that U.S. and Russian relations were “at a low point.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster explained DDT’s meetings with the Russians as a desire to “find areas of cooperation.” Asked about DDT’s statements about Comey, McMaster said:

“Well, I don’t remember exactly what the president said. And the notes that there apparently have I do not think are a direct transcript.”

DDT reportedly called Comey “crazy” and “a real nut job” as well as firing Comey relieving “great pressure because of Russia.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) disagreed with DDT that Comey is a “nut job.” On Face the Nation, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said:

“This is a horrible thing for a president to say. Former Director Comey is no way, shape, or form a ‘nut job.’”

Even Republican members of Congress didn’t defend DDT’s statements. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that the investigating committees on Russia’s meddling need to have “the notes.” He added:

“The White House would benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoids some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis…. People got what they voted for.”

Asked about DDT’s speech, Rubio said that he differed with him on DDT’s approach to human rights issues:

“I think it’s in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights. We just have a disagreement on the right way to approach it.”

“The White House would benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoids some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis,” Rubio said.

With the possibility of again running for president, Rubio may have felt the need to soft-pedal his response, but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was not shackled by any such requirement when he told Fox’s Chris Wallace that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey “had no business in the Oval Office” and cited Russia’s invasion into Crimea:

“Mr. Lavrov is the stooge of a thug and a murderer, who used Russian precision weapons to strike hospitals in Aleppo, who has committed human rights issues all over the place.”

McCain called himself “almost speechless” about the report that DDT told Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he fired Comey  to take “off” some of the pressure about Russia. Almost, but not completely. McCain said, “I don’t know why someone would say something like that,” he told Wallace.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in his interview today that the House Intelligence Committee investigation is examining possibly Russian collusion with DDT and his campaign. House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said that the scandal surrounding Russia goes far beyond DDT.

DDT may be back on U.S. soil sooner than expected. His staffers say that he is “exhausted” after less than two days of travel into his nine-day trip and  is already canceling some of his performances. This from the man who said that Hillary Clinton “lacks stamina” after her constant travel around the world while she was Secretary of State. Maybe he’ll be too tired to tweet.

 

January 4, 2017

No Select Committee to Investigate Russian Hacking

Senate buddies John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have caved in to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in their demand to investigate Russian hacking into the presidential election that may have caused Hillary Clinton to lose to Donald Trump (DT). McConnell, who blocked information about the hacking last September, “declined” to allow a select committee, claiming that existing Senate committees are enough. In the past, McCain has said about the hacking, “When you attack a country, it’s an act of war. “If you try to destroy the fundamentals of democracy, then you have destroyed a nation.” After his brief return to being a “maverick,” McCain has gone back to wimp.

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2016, file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stands on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Ecuador says it’s ready to set a date for Swedish prosecutors to question Assange, who has been holed up in the South American country’s embassy in London for four years. Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish police over rape allegations stemming from his visit to the country in 2010. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

 (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

DT and his team claim that Russia had nothing to do with interfering in the presidential election. Their source? Sexual assault fugitive Julian Assange who has been hiding for years in the Ecuador Embassy in London.  Assange is noted for his Wikileaks smears about Clinton’s inner circle as bunch of crazed, creepy Satanists.

At this time, Assange’s follower, DT, can’t even keep track of when his meetings are scheduled: he has accused officials of postponing until Friday his “intelligence” briefing on the “so-called ‘Russian hacking’” that he doesn’t believe. The briefing was always scheduled for Friday, and DT’s “Presidential Daily Briefing” was scheduled yesterday. He rarely attends these briefings so he may not bother to keep track of the times. The one yesterday did not concentrate on Russian hacking because that briefing is scheduled for Friday.

Much has been said about Russians hacking only Democrats; DT accused them of not having “hacking defense” like the Republicans. In another indication of Russians influencing the election, however, U.S. intelligence officials say “the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.” On New Year’s Eve, DT told that press that “I know things that other people don’t know” about the hacking and promised to tell all yesterday or today. His team has withdrawn that disclosure.

Basically, a president-elect is taking sides with a criminal hacker with Russian connections over the United States intelligence agencies. Assange has had a program on Russia’s propaganda station,  and DT has started a feud with his own intelligence community to side with Assange who leaked names of Afghan civilians acting as U.S. informants. That president-elect was elected by a hawkish political party that has been skeptical about Communist Russia’s relationship with their nation. Former vice-president elect Sarah Palin called Assange “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and now apologized to him.

DT is so supportive of Russia that he plans to reduce the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the CIA. His real motive may be that he’s afraid that intelligence will find out things about him that he doesn’t want them to know.

DT’s faith in Assange is at opposite ends from major Republicans in Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told conservative Hugh Hewitt that “the guy [Assange] is a sycophant for Russia. He leaks, he steals data, and compromises national security.” Graham, who backed down on investigating Russian hacking, said:

“We have two choices — some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law … who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us. I’m going with them.”

Even VP-elect Mike Pence has stated that there is sufficient evidence that Russia played a part in the election.

While DT spreads his opinion far and wide on Twitter that his 17 intelligence agencies are wrong, the current CIA director, John Brennan, talked to Judy Woodruff on PBS about the upcoming release of the Russian intelligence report this coming Monday. He recommended a “wait and see” approach:

“There is no intelligence community worldwide that has the capabilities, the expertise, the analytic capability of the U.S. intelligence community. And so I would suggest to individuals who have not yet seen the report, who have not been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward before they make those judgments.”

DT has a lot at stake regarding information about Russian hacking. He wants only three things: money, vengeance, and popularity. Finding out that he won the presidency because a foreign government illegally influenced his election could damage the last piece.

Admitting to Russian hacking could also damage his relationship with Vladimir Putin, who DT calls his “best friend” and who may hold the purse strings of much of DT’s investments.  DT’s friendship with Vladimir Putin can also put money into his pocket. President Obama’s sanctions stopped a $500 million oil deal between the Russian government and Exxon. Lifting the sanctions could put lots of money into DT’s pocket and be a major reason for Putin to make sure that Trump got elected. As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson could help make money for both him and DT.

A hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for tomorrow with McCain as chair, but McConnell may be able to destroy that one too. Today, George Little, a former spokesman for the CIA, tweeted about DT, “Let’s stare this reality square in the face: PEOTUS is pro-Putin and believes Julian Assange over the @CIA. On Jan. 20 we will be less safe.”

DT’s strategy is always creating a diversion when the media might address something detrimental to him. Look for his tweets in the next couple days to see where he leads the media.

 

September 19, 2016

Media Focuses on Clinton’s Non-Stories, Largely Ignores GOP Zombie Issues

Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails are two issues that Republicans refuse to let die, despite tens of investigations into each one that fail to prove anything that the Democratic presidential candidate has done wrong. Today, the Clinton Foundation zombie problems returned when a headline referencing a quote from Bill Clinton read “‘Natural’ For Foundation Donors to Seek Favors.” As usual, the media, determined to make something out of nothing, took this headline out of context from Bill Clinton’s response in an NPR interview:

“It was natural for people who’ve been our political allies and personal friends to call and ask for things. And I trusted the State Department wouldn’t do anything they shouldn’t do.”

Leaked emails show that people aren’t getting the favors that they request, and all the aggressive searching by Hillary haters has found absolutely no “pay for play” from the Clinton Foundation that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

While dwelling on Clinton non-stories, Sunday talk shows ignored the real story about the “pay for play” Trump Foundation already fined for illegal campaign donations to Florida’s AG Pam Bondi in exchange for her dropping an investigation into the fraudulent Trump University. A less biased media would have covered the New York investigation into Trump illegally using the Trump Foundation charity funds to purchase at least one oil painting and one football helmet. Trump has not donated one cent to his “foundation” since 2008 while he gets credit for donating funds that other people gave to his foundation. Instead of reporting on Trump’s “pay for play” violations, the media concentrated on Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis and Trump’s infomercial on Dr. Oz’s show.

The same media largely ignored Kurt Eichenwald’s detailed cover story in Newsweek which reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. As Eichenwald wrote, the Trump Organization has been “largely ignored” by media despite its “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions during a Trump presidency. Eichenwald provides information about the Trump Organization’s “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians, and even criminals” and “a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with presidential major national security decisions and negotiations.

GOP members zombies:

Donald Trump desperately wanted to drop the birther issue after claiming for many years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. His giant mistake, however was blaming Clinton for initiating the theory. A strategist had suggested that the 2008 Clinton campaign could use the idea that Barack Obama was “not American,” but Clinton immediately quashed it. There’s no fire where Trump is blowing smoke. Yet campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus repeatedly accused Clinton of starting the birther theory on Sunday talk shows.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went one better. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump hadn’t said anything about the issue “for a long time.” Fortunately, Tapper, a journalist who believes in telling the truth, reminded Christie that Trump continued birthering for five years after the president released the long-form birth certificate to the public in 2011. A lively exchange of “true” and “not true” ensured followed by Christie saying, “It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis.” In fact-checking Christie’s claim, the Washington Post wrote:

“This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face…. [C]learly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.”

Christie should shift to protecting himself. His involvement in the closure of the George Washington Bridge that created havoc and physical danger to people has returned. While his allies and employees have pled guilty or gone to court in this issue, Christie has stuck to his position that “I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.” In today’s trial for two of those accused of closing the bridge, both both prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants agree that Christie “knew his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him.”

In 2013, at the time of the event, Christie ridiculed the controversy because his office would never be so petty and partisan. After evidence proved that it was a petty and partisan vendetta, Christie claimed ignorance. The micromanaging governor swore that he had no idea that his top aides used his name to abuse their power. Today Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna has told jurors that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni “bragged” to the governor directly about the scheme to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in order to deliberately cripple Fort Lee. The trial is against former top Christie aides Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, but Christie may suffer the fallout, perhaps to the point of being impeached. It already lost him being a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate, and last May, Christie’s approval rating had fallen to 29 percent.

Dick Cheney, another zombie, has come to life in the body of GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence who said that his role model is the vice-president who put the United States into the preemptive war with Iraq costing the country millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. Cheney’s career as VP was a time of incompetence, lies, opaque ruling, scandal, missing emails, and deadly bad judgment. When he left office, Cheney’s approval rating was 13 percent, about half Richard Nixon’s support at the height of Watergate. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Cheney an “idiot.” If Trump were elected and followed his plans, Pence, who sees himself a Cheney clone, “would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy” while Trump would focus on “making America great again.”

The zombie of Ralph Nadar, which may have led to George W. Bush’s appointment as president in 2000, may have returned in the name of Gary Johnson. A rumor circulated last week that Bill Weld might drop out of the race as Libertarian vice-presidential candidate because he didn’t want to be another Nadar. “No chance,” says Gary Johnson, top of the Libertarian ticket. Polling at 9 percent, Johnson is far away from the 15-percent threshold for participating in a presidential candidate debate, an advantage for him because he doesn’t interview well and might lose votes in a debate. Asked on public radio whether he was worried about votes for him leading to Trump as a president, he responded that he didn’t care and that it wouldn’t be his problem.

A pattern in GOP campaigning is to have one message in English and a different one in Spanish. For example, during his successful Nevada senatorial run in 2012, Dean Heller put his hardline immigration policy into English with a softer approach in Spanish. Another shift came from the GOP response to the State of the Union address last year when the Spanish version supported immigration reform—opposite to the message in English. This last spring, Kansas printed the wrong voter registration deadline, six days after the deadline, in the Spanish version and omitted the use of a passport for identification.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) brought this zombie to life in his struggling re-election. In Spanish, McCain brags about seeking comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for children brought illegally to the United States; the English skips over these policies and draws an image of McCain as hardcore immigration control. After this “translation” was questioned, a campaign spokesperson said that the website versions were “never intended to be identical.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking the budget bill has aroused the zombie of shutting down the government. Congress has only 11 more days—two “working weeks” before a the government closes down, but McConnell “delayed” a procedural vote until 2:15 pm tomorrow. At least the bill may allow Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood clinic to access federal grants to fight the Zika virus, a provision that had held up the bill for several months. In his arrogant manner, McConnell said that “Senate Republicans stand ready to move forward” and wants Democrats to “complete negotiations,” something that they have been willing to do for some time.

Asked about the agreement, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “Close is relative.” The Dems also want funding for the Flint (MI) water crisis to be in the mix, something the GOP turns down.

Ideally two weeks is enough time, but the bill must be sent to the House, returned, and then reconciled while ultra-conservatives in that chamber demand itty-bitty budget bills instead of an omnibus which go into next year instead of being a stopgap that returns—in zombie fashion—on December 9 this year.

Just a few zombies from people who ignore history.

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