Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Despicable

This is sick.

The Trump Organization took in healthy profits in recent years for hosting a charity golf event to benefit children’s cancer research, despite claiming the use of the course had been donated Forbes reported Tuesday.

Since 2007, President Trump’s son Eric Trump has held an annual charity golf event at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y., to raise money for the Eric Trump Foundation on behalf of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Forbes reported. To date, Eric Trump has raised more than $11 million — including $2.9 million last year — for the hospital’s research, most of it through the golf tournaments, according to Forbes.

The costs for the tournaments averaged $50,000 during the first four years, which is about what other charities pay for events at Trump courses. But the expenses quickly began to rise, reaching $322,000 by 2015, Forbes reported, citing IRS filings.

If accurate, these figures are hard to reconcile with Eric Trump’s claims that the charity is able to use the course for free and that many other expenses are donated. “We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” the president’s son told Forbes.

“In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free — that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization,” Forbes reported. “Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.”

[…]

According to Forbes, the spike in costs for the tournament started in 2011 when Donald Trump insisted the charity begin paying the Trump Organization for the events.

Ian Gillule, who worked as a membership and marketing director at the Westchester course, told Forbes that Donald Trump was not happy with the expenses the charity wasn’t being billed for.

“Mr. Trump had a cow,” Forbes quoted Gillule as saying. “He flipped. He was like, ‘We’re donating all of this stuff, and there’s no paper trail? No credit?’ And he went nuts. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s my son or not — everybody gets billed.'”

There are fewer things in this world that I hate more than people who use other people’s pain for their own profit.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

High-Speed Pileup

The travails of the Trump administration are starting to pick up speed and ferocity.

First up, it appears that the statement issued by then-FBI Director James Comey last July about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail was in part prompted by a fake e-mail slipped into the mix by the Russians.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.

So the FBI was punked by the Russians.  That was all part of a larger plan.  As the New York Times reports, they were playing us like a Stradivarius.

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.

Anything else?  Well, let’s see what the Attorney General was up to…

Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials when he applied for security clearance because he was told not to do so by advisers and the F.B.I., a Justice Department spokesman said Wednesday.

Mr. Sessions met with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, at least twice in 2016. But asked on an official government form to note any contact he or family members had with foreign governments or their representatives over the past seven years, Mr. Sessions did not include his encounters with Mr. Kislyak. It is a federal crime to make false statements or withhold relevant information on the background check form.

“As a United States senator, the attorney general met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The attorney general’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the F.B.I. investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.”

Mr. Sessions filled out two such forms, Mr. Prior said, one last July, as he was first formally vetted by the Trump campaign, and one after the election in November.

The news, first reported by CNN, renewed questions about Mr. Sessions and the Russia issue. Mr. Sessions, who represented Alabama until his confirmation as the nation’s top law enforcement officer this year, was the first United States senator to endorse Mr. Trump, backing him in February 2016.

What I find most amazing is the speed at which all of this is happening.  It took over two years for Watergate to unravel, and back in those innocent times we thought that was pretty quick.  But this whole Trump administration experiment is running out faster than a mini-series on HBO (which I am sure is already being planned out).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

GOP Coup In North Carolina

Like some third-world junta that refuses to give up power after they lose an election, the Republicans in North Carolina are in the midst of attempting to change the laws so the incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper has no power.

While many people were worried about whether there would be a court-packing plan for the NC Supreme Court (about to have a majority of Democratic members)  in the special session on disaster relief that NC Governor Pat McCrory had called, it seems that NC GOP legislative leaders had a different trick up their sleeve: they have called a special session to start now at the end of the session called by the governor, and the plan seems to be to propose measures to cut the power of the incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper.

Among the bills that have now been filed is one that would move from giving the state board of elections and county election boards a majority of seats for the sitting governor, to one which would make the sessions be evenly divided on a bipartisan basis.  So a partisan advantage was good enough when there was a Republican governor, but no longer.

In the meantime, NC Democrats are claiming that the call for the special session was itself unconstitutional, potentially rendering any bills from the session invalid.

And here’s the kicker: any lawsuit over these alleged rules will end up before the state Supreme Court with its new Democratic majority, unless the special session itself produces a court-packing plan, and if that happens the Court itself would have to resolve a key question about its own membership.

Democratic representative Darren Jackson on the special session: ““This is why people don’t trust us. This is why they hate us.”

Ow.

But the Democrats are the ones who are the sore losers, right?

HT to Adam at Balloon Juice.

Short Takes

Report: Putin personally involved in hack of U.S. election.

Video shows shelling in Aleppo and the end of the ceasefire.

Over a billion Yahoo customers had their data hacked in 2013.

North Carolina Republicans try to pull off banana republic attempt to cling to power.

Church-goer describes attack by gunman in South Carolina murder trial.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

They’re That Desperate

Via ThinkProgress:

The National Republican Congressional Committee has set up a number of websites that look like they could be a Democratic candidate’s campaign page, unless you read the fine print. They may even violate a Federal Election Commission regulation, Campaign Legal Center expert Paul S. Ryan explained to ThinkProgress.

The NRCC has set up these pages for various congressional opponents, including Amanda Renteria, Martha Roberston, Kyrsten Sinema, Amy Kirkpatrick, Alex Sink, and John Tierney. Each follow a similar format, they list the candidate’s name “for Congress” to ask for donations.

Alex Sink NRCC Phishing 02-04-14

Note that it says “make a contribution to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her.”

Ms. Sink is running in a special election in Florida to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R).

Such deceptive ads violate Federal Election Commission rules, but knowing how fast they work, it’ll be long after the election is over before they do anything about it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Or So I’ve Heard

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) raised a few hackles with his claims that he’s been told by unnamed people that Mitt Romney may not have paid any taxes. Even Jon Stewart called him out on it. But as Steve M points out, it’s rather hypocritical for the GOP to get their tails all puffed up over unfounded and unsourced rumors and innuendo.

Y’know, it’s a bit like saying that the current president is a secret Muslim socialist who lied about his U.S. birth and has a fake Social Security number and is secretly plotting to take away all privately owned guns if he’s reelected, either before or after he finishes the job of deliberately destroying American capitalism. It’s also a bit like saying that the previous Democratic president was a drug dealing serial murderer and rapist whose lesbian wife had her male lover killed when she wasn’t hanging sex toys on the White House Christmas tree.

It’s almost like that. The difference is that Romney’s not facing an ever-expanding list of accusations, most of them truly grotesque and preposterous, many of them of a felonious or treasonous nature, spread by multiple prominent rumormongers over the course of years, and believed in every particular by roughly a third of the country. Hell, what he’s being charged with isn’t even illegal.

It reminds me of the probably-apocryphal story about Lyndon Johnson. He was running for Congress in Texas and decided to spread the rumor that his opponent had committed indecent conduct with certain barnyard creatures. His campaign manager said, “Lyndon, you know he doesn’t do that!” Johnson replied, “I know. I just want to make him deny it.”

Or So I’ve Heard

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) raised a few hackles with his claims that he’s been told by unnamed people that Mitt Romney may not have paid any taxes. Even Jon Stewart called him out on it. But as Steve M points out, it’s rather hypocritical for the GOP to get their tails all puffed up over unfounded and unsourced rumors and innuendo.

Y’know, it’s a bit like saying that the current president is a secret Muslim socialist who lied about his U.S. birth and has a fake Social Security number and is secretly plotting to take away all privately owned guns if he’s reelected, either before or after he finishes the job of deliberately destroying American capitalism. It’s also a bit like saying that the previous Democratic president was a drug dealing serial murderer and rapist whose lesbian wife had her male lover killed when she wasn’t hanging sex toys on the White House Christmas tree.

It’s almost like that. The difference is that Romney’s not facing an ever-expanding list of accusations, most of them truly grotesque and preposterous, many of them of a felonious or treasonous nature, spread by multiple prominent rumormongers over the course of years, and believed in every particular by roughly a third of the country. Hell, what he’s being charged with isn’t even illegal.

It reminds me of the probably-apocryphal story about Lyndon Johnson. He was running for Congress in Texas and decided to spread the rumor that his opponent had committed indecent conduct with certain barnyard creatures. His campaign manager said, “Lyndon, you know he doesn’t do that!” Johnson replied, “I know. I just want to make him deny it.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bush White House Tried “To Get” Juan Cole

The Bush White House went after Juan Cole, a prominent blogger and critic of the war in Iraq.

A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.

In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.

After what they did to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, this does not surprise me in the least. Professor Cole has been one of the most articulate and forceful critics of the war in Iraq, and he’s done it in a way that isn’t overblown or over the top; just facts and evidence that were devastating to the lies and the misleading statements from the Bush administration simply because they were not trumped up and shrill. It’s usually the quiet critics who are the most powerful.

Professor Cole’s response to this news is characteristically low-key.

Carle’s revelations come as a visceral shock. You had thought that with all the shennanigans of the CIA against anti-Vietnam war protesters and then Nixon’s use of the agency against critics like Daniel Ellsberg, that the Company and successive White Houses would have learned that the agency had no business spying on American citizens.

He then suggests that Congress might want to look into the matter, which sounds like a good idea… but in the current climate, I don’t hold out much hope.

Professor Cole concludes:

What alarms me most of all in the nakedly illegal deployment of the CIA against an academic for the explicit purpose of destroying his reputation for political purposes is that I know I am a relatively small fish and it seems to me rather likely that I was not the only target of the baleful team at the White House. After the Valerie Plame affair, it seemed clear that there was nothing those people wouldn’t stoop to. You wonder how many critics were effectively “destroyed.” It is sad that a politics of personal destruction was the response by the Bush White House to an attempt of a citizen to reason in public about a matter of great public interest. They have brought great shame upon the traditions of the White House, which go back to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who had hoped that checks and balances would forestall such abuses of power.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Curbing Their Enthusiasm

Here’s what is known so far about the curbside incident outside the Rand Paul/Jack Conway debate the other night: the man who is seen on the video putting his foot rather forcefully on the head and neck area of Lauren Valle, a volunteer with MoveOn.org, is Tim Profitt. He is not just some bystander; he is — or was — a campaign volunteer for Rand Paul. Mr. Profitt has apologized — sort of — for the incident but explains “that the camera angle made the scuffle Monday night appear worse that it was.” And that Ms. Valle should never have put her head under his boot in the first place. Meanwhile, at least one right-winger is blaming Ms. Valle for “provoking” the incident and that MoveOn.org owes an apology to the poor beset Tea Party.

Ms. Valle was treated at a local hospital for her injuries and recovered enough to be able to appear on Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC last night. She plans to press charges, as the the local sheriff.

Meanwhile, the object of all this turmoil and violence, Rand Paul, was remarkably circumspect about expressing much more than mild admonitions in the passive voice about the whole thing. At one point he said that “both sides” need to calm down but failed to illustrate his theme with any examples of where a group of liberals assaulted a volunteer for a conservative organization and stepped on their head. I’m sure that if it’s happened, we would have heard about it, Barack Obama would have been blamed for it, Glenn Beck would have wept about it, Rush Limbaugh would have made a crude but sly racist comment, and Michele Bachmann would have declared that she will open a House investigation as to why liberals are allowed to demonstrate at campaign events.

As Ms. Valle noted last night, it’s ironic that the people who have been carrying on about standing up for the Constitution and the rights guaranteed therein seem to have a problem when other people exercise their rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

That’s So Juvenile

Someone played a trick on Karl Rove’s car while he was out of town by wrapping it in Saran Wrap, putting a couple of stuffed eagles on the trunk, an “I (heart) Obama” sticker on the winshield, and Post-It notes on the windows with the phrase “King Karl.”


Karl’s punk’d Jag

According to Politico, it was done by White House colleagues “…who say they’ll miss [Rove’s] puckish humor.”

That’s so high school. I would have used the flaming bag of dogshit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

E-Busted

The White House is finding out, much to their peril, the same thing every teenager with a computer learns when he’s busted for downloading porn: there’s no way to cover your tracks on a computer.

When Karl Rove and his top deputies arrived at the White House in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided them with laptop computers and other communication devices to be used alongside their government-issued equipment.

The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House — that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.

Now, that dual computer system is creating new embarrassment and legal headaches for the White House, the Republican Party and Rove’s once-vaunted White House operation.

Democrats say evidence suggests the RNC e-mail system was used for political and government policy matters in violation of federal record preservation and disclosure rules.

In addition, Democrats point to a handful of e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggesting the system may have been used to conceal such activities as contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted on bribery charges and is now in prison for fraud.

Democratic congressional investigators are beginning to demand access to this RNC-White House communications system, which was used not only by Rove’s office but by several top officials elsewhere in the White House.

Of course the White House is saying that nothing nefarious went on and that it’s “entirely appropriate.” Yeah, right… “C’mon, Dad, I was only reading the articles….”

The best part of this is that there is no way the White House can claim executive privilege on these communications, and Congress can subpoena all the records if necessary.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week formally requested access to broad categories of RNC-White House e-mails.

Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate “e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act,” which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.

Waxman’s initial request to the RNC seeks e-mails relating to the presentation of campaign polling and strategy information to Cabinet agency appointees. He is also expected to ask for e-mails relating to Abramoff’s activities, which Waxman is also investigating.

The Senate and House Judiciary Committees are also expected to formally request e-mail records from the RNC that relate to last year’s firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

For all their vaunted political skills and acumen in getting their message out, the Bushies seem pretty dense when it comes to using modern technology. It’s not surprising that Mr. Bush doesn’t use e-mail — any computer without a joystick is above his clock-speed (not to mention the fact that he spent an hour looking around on the keyboard for the “Any” key when the software said, “Hit Any Key to Continue…”) But they should have learned from the Nixon administration — and certainly there were enough old codgers hanging around from that time to tip them off — that you should never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the paper; or to be completely up to speed, at the top of a blog.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Submarine Warfare

If it sounded a little too convenient that the White House and the lapdog editorials pounced all over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the Middle East last week, including the story that the Israeli government had to “clarify” the message Ms. Pelosi carried from Jerusalem to Damascus, it’s because, according to Josh Marshall, there appears to have been some backstage efforts on the part of the White House to make her look bad.

The message the Israelis sent to Damascus was intended to convince the Syrians that the Israelis were not planning to attack the Syrians in concert with an American attack on Iran. There was concern in Israel that this might lead to a preemptive Syrian attack. A message like that from Israel to Syria might be very unwelcome to some people in the White House. Did the White House pressure Olmert? If there was no message, why was the existence of the message being discussed by Israeli officials before Pelosi went to Damascus? Will the White House deny pressuring Olmert? And did any of this occur to the folks who write the Post’s editorials?

So what’s the story? Maybe this whole episode deserves some real reporting.

Would the Bush administration really go behind the backs of the visiting Americans and pressure the Olmert government to submarine Ms. Pelosi? Would they go to the lengths of messing with the delicate and highly unstable situation between Syria and Israel just to score points in the domestic political arena? Well, seeing as how they previously had no qualms about outing a CIA agent and putting her and her contacts’ lives at risk, this sort of thing would be all in a day’s work for them.