Saturday, July 22, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Unpardonable

Via the Washington Post:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

Yeah, I’ll bet.  Innocent people don’t look for ways to get out of legal trouble or scuttle the investigation.

Via the New York Times:

Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller, who has assembled a team of high-powered prosecutors and agents to examine whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers aided Russia’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

This, along with the sniffing around the pardon parameters, makes it pretty clear that Trump and his gang are really nervous about what Mr. Mueller might come up with.

The Mark Of A True Toady

After all those rotten things Trump said about Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, one could imagine a swift resignation.  But then, you need to take into account the personality and venality of Mr. Sessions.

Nothing is more important to Trump than loyalty — to him.

In business and in politics, he has demanded it from the people closest to him. Some employees who abandoned him were never welcomed back. Politicians who did not defend him after the most politically damaging moments of the 2016 campaign are still suspect in his eyes. And after six months as president, Trump is still known to publicly jab at people who did not support his presidential bid.

But as Attorney General Jeff Sessions learned this week, the loyalty Trump expects isn’t always reciprocated.

He’s a sycophant and an opportunist who apparently doesn’t have a whole lot of self-regard and is willing to be publicly humiliated.  There’s a name for that — and probably a few websites, too, but you need a credit card and proof that you’re over 21.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Get Out While You Still Can, Jeff

Trump attacks his own Attorney General in the New York Times:

Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

[Read excerpts of The Times’s interview with President Trump.]

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

If Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III had any integrity, he’d walk into the Oval Office and resign.  Then again, he took the job in the first place knowing full well who he would be dealing with, so thinking that he has any integrity is assuming facts not in evidence.

On another note during this recorded stream-of-conscious ramble, Trump warned Robert Mueller, the special counsel, not to look into his finances beyond the scope of the initial investigation.

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

Two things: First, now of course the special counsel is going to look into his family finances even more; it’s like a six-year-old telling his mom “Don’t look in my room!” where he’s hiding a bobcat under the bed.  Second, investigations have a funny way of following leads no matter where they go.  Watergate started out by investigating a “third-rate burglary” and led to the downfall of Richard Nixon.  Whitewater started out as an investigation into a failed land deal and ended up teaching America way too much about blowjobs.

Mr. Sessions has already hired a lawyer.  Maybe the only reason he’s not quitting now is that he needs the income to pay for him.

32 Million

That’s the new number, according to the CBO, of how many more people would lose health insurance if Congress just plain repealed Obamacare.

The legislation, which was posted shortly before the CBO released its score, tracks closely with a bill that Congress passed and then-President Barack Obama vetoed in early 2016.

The CBO report also said that premiums would double by 2026 under the Senate legislation, which eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s taxes, insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion, but keeps its regulatory regime in place.

The repeal of the subsidies and expansion would go into effect in 2020, while the elimination of individual mandate would take place right away.

That is roughly 10% of the U.S. population, and that’s 32 million on top of the current number of how many people are going without it now, which is about 11%.  So if that bill were to pass, we’d have somewhere around 20% of the nation uninsured.

What’s worse is the instability in the market; all this dithering by Congress and the right-wing nutsery to get rid of anything to do with Obamacare is driving insurers out of the health coverage business.  The CBO predicts that by 2026, three out of four Americans will be living in an area with no insurers.

In other words, you’d get better health coverage in Bangladesh than here.  Not to pick on Bangladesh, but if that poor country can provide better care for its citizens, why can’t we?

On The Hook

This explains a lot.

Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions. The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is the same reason Trump is adamant about not releasing his tax returns; he’s probably on the hook to the same gang for a lot more, and they’ve got him.

Short Takes

John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer.

Don Jr. and Paul Manafort to testify before Congress.

Supreme Court concurs with Hawaii court; relaxes travel ban for grandparents.

Voter “fraud” commission head casts doubt on 2016 election tally.

California wildfire gets close to Yosemite.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tantrum

Trump after the healthcare bill went out with a popcorn fart:

“It will be a lot easier and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it,” Trump said.

That’s not leadership, that’s a tantrum.  It’s also the mindset of someone who doesn’t care that upwards of 22 million people would have lost insurance if that turd of a bill had passed: “Not my fault!”

Even the worst president we’ve had so far — take your pick — would not have literally stood by while one of his chief campaign issues died aborning.  He’s letting Mitch McConnell and the rest of that crowd take the heat, not even lifting a finger to get it passed.  So I suppose you can say there’s an upside to Trump’s fundamental ignorance about what his job is.

But I can’t get past the level of cynicism and cruelty that must be embodied in someone who can so cavalierly toss off the idea of people struggling and dying for what should be a fundamental element of life in America — as essential as safe drinking water and police protection — and treat it as a campaign talking point.  And the vindictiveness of wanting something to fail just to get back at Barack Obama for being Barack Obama is a level of cruelty and callousness that belongs on HBO on Sunday nights.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Real Or Imagined

Via LGM:

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Nugget from our national poll coming out tomorrow- only 45% of Trump voters believe Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russians…
1:13 PM – 17 Jul 2017

And yet just as many believed Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor.  Or was it on Mars?  Anyway…