Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Twitter Tantrum

Via C&L:

True narcissists can never stop bragging about themselves.

Trump lives on Twitter and brags about his Twitter success, yet now he’s complaining that the social networking platform is targeting him and his followers.

He’s losing followers.  It happens when you come across as borderline insane; people slowly walk away from you like they do when they hear someone muttering about the voices in their head while standing on the subway platform.  So he blames it on some vast conspiracy by the folks at Twitter to silence him to the point that he calls in the CEO of Twitter to complain.

Yesterday morning in the same time frame that the only people up are insomniac cat burglars and blogger, he tweeted over 50 rants about everything from Mueller to taunting Joe Scarborough to why doesn’t Gene Shalit comb his hair.  (Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.)

In all, Trump tweeted or retweeted more than 50 times in a 24-hour period.

The media was the primary target of Trump’s ire Tuesday morning, as he complained that he is subject to an unprecedented level of press scrutiny and lashed out at outlets from The New York Times to morning cable news shows while also taking shots at individual personalities.

In normal times with normal people and normal people keeping an eye on things, this would be the time to call the doctor and prescribe a nice vacation in a place where nice people will take care of you and you can watch TV in the day room and play cards under the watchful eye of Nurse Ratched.

But as we all know, these are not normal times.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

From Here On Out

Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker:

In the most memorable scene in the most anticipated government report in recent history, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, takes us inside the Oval Office on May 17, 2017. President Trump, having fired the F.B.I. director in an apparent effort to shut down the investigation of him and his 2016 campaign, was in the middle of interviewing candidates for the new vacancy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, much to the President’s fury, stepped out of the room to take a phone call. He returned with bad news: his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, had appointed Mueller to be a special counsel and conduct an independent investigation. Russiagate would live on. Trump “slumped” over in his chair, according to the report. “Oh, my God, this is the end of my Presidency,” he said. “I’m fucked.”

For now, at least, it appears that he was wrong. The appointment of Mueller did not lead to the end of Trump’s Presidency. Not yet, and probably not ever. The release of the special counsel’s report, on Thursday, showed that Mueller did not turn up conclusive evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians who interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy. But the report’s belated publication, almost four weeks to the day after Mueller submitted it to Attorney General William Barr, is hardly the “complete and total exoneration” that Trump initially claimed it was and that Barr misleadingly and incompletely portrayed to the country. We knew that wasn’t the case the minute Trump said it.

What we didn’t know until Thursday, when we finally saw the four-hundred-and-forty-eight-page document, is how much evidence Mueller had amassed about the President, panicked and in crisis mode, trying to shut down and block the investigation. The report documents ten different incidents that raise questions about the President’s behavior. Was it obstruction of justice? The Mueller report concluded (albeit in legalistic and unclear language) that that is a matter for Congress to decide. And Congress, as a matter of political calculation and senatorial math, remains unlikely to pursue the question to its bitter end.

Whatever happens, and for however long the Trump regime lasts, be it until 2021 or 2025, it will be scarred, tarred, and broken by the Mueller report, redacted or not, or whether or not it winds up as a series on Netflix.  History will prove that how Trump got to office and how he dealt with the aftereffects will overshadow and skew anything he does, and just as Watergate will forever be the tagline and epitaph for Richard Nixon, not to mention the people who worked with and for him, the story of Russian meddling and how the Trump regime responded to it will be the first line in its obituary.

And it’s all his own doing.  The only reason he’s not under indictment for collusion is that his campaign couldn’t get their act together to do it right.  As for obstruction of justice, it’s certainly not for the lack of trying.

So despite all the crowing and calls to move on from the base and the Wormtongues at Fox, Trump called it: he’s fucked.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Quick Work

It has to be a record.

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has opened an investigation into ethics complaints against the agency’s newly installed secretary, David Bernhardt.

Mr. Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, was confirmed by the Senate last week to head the agency, which oversees the nation’s 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters. He has played a central role in writing policies designed to advance President Trump’s policy of “energy dominance” and expanding fossil fuel exploration. He has been dogged by allegations of ethics violations since joining the Trump administration as the Interior Department’s deputy secretary in 2017.

He was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, April 11 and under investigation by Monday, April 15.

Next time just to save the work, not to mention the catering bill, they should announce the replacement at the swearing-in.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Acting Out

Trump fired DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, resigned on Sunday after meeting with President Trump, ending a tumultuous tenure in charge of the border security agency that had made her the target of the president’s criticism.

“I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside,” Ms. Nielsen said in a resignation letter. “I hope that the next secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse.”

Ms. Nielsen had requested the meeting to plan “a way forward” at the border, in part thinking she could have a reasoned conversation with Mr. Trump about the role, according to three people familiar with the meeting. She came prepared with a list of things that needed to change to improve the relationship with the president.

Mr. Trump in recent weeks had asked Ms. Nielsen to close the ports of entry along the border and to stop accepting asylum seekers, which Ms. Nielsen found ineffective and inappropriate. While the 30-minute meeting was cordial, Mr. Trump was determined to ask for her resignation. After the meeting, she submitted it.

The move comes just two days after Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly expressed anger at a rise in migrants at the southwestern border, withdrew his nominee to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement because he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher” direction.

[…]

The president said in a tweet that Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, would take over as the acting replacement for Ms. Nielsen, who became the sixth secretary to lead the agency in late 2017. But by law, the under secretary for management, Claire Grady, who is currently serving as acting deputy secretary, is next in line to be acting secretary. The White House will have to fire her to make Mr. McAleenan acting secretary, people familiar with the transition said. Ms. Grady has told colleagues that she has no intention of resigning to make way for Mr. McAleenan.

We now have an acting Secretary of Defense, Interior, and DHS, not to mention all the other unfilled positions at various levels of government that haven’t been confirmed by the Senate.  They’ve got more people in “acting” positions in government than the cattle call for the national tour of “Cats.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Orange Is The New What?

Trump wants to go after people who want to release the full Mueller report despite the fact that on several occasions has said he’s fine with letting the public see it.  Maybe that’s because someone read him the part that doesn’t exonerate him from obstructing justice, or maybe he’s just forgotten that he said he was fine with it in the first place.

He’s determined to find out the oranges of the investigation, too.

Aside from the fact that he mangles words, sentences, syntax, and cannot seem to keep a clear thought trail in his head for more than a few seconds, to label a legitimate investigation as “treasonous” run by very bad people is just plain deranged.  I’m willing to bet that there are any number of neurologists who are reviewing these tapes with a clinical perspective and wondering who to contact in the White House to warn them that there might be a problem.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

About What You’d Expect

Aside from the fact that the White House’s attitude about security clearances is on the same level as Trump’s self-control on Twitter, they are retaliating against Tricia Newbold, the whistle-blower at the White House Personnel Security Office, for telling Congress that a number of high-level appointees flunked their background checks.

Ms. Newbold, who has a rare form of dwarfism, also accused Mr. Kline, the former director of personnel security, of retaliating against her when she repeatedly pointed out to him that actions he was taking, including overriding recommendations to issue clearances to two senior officials, were violating protocol. Ms. Newbold said that Mr. Kline oversaw a workplace where files — including extensive and sensitive background check documents — were not secured properly, and stopped the performing of credit checks for potential employees. She told the House committee that she had “never seen our office so ill-staffed and with such lack of experience.”

Last fall, Ms. Newbold filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing Mr. Kline of moving office files to a shelf several feet above her, deliberately out of her reach, beginning in December 2017. That month, she hired Mr. Passman, her lawyer.

“As little as I am, I’m willing to fight and stand up for what I know is right, and they’ve always respected that about me,” Ms. Newbold told the House committee last week. “It’s humiliating to not be able to independently work and do the job that you need.”

In January, Ms. Newbold was suspended for two weeks without pay after NBC News reported that Mr. Kline had approved a security clearance for Mr. Kushner despite staff objections. The office’s new director, Crede Bailey, said at the time that Ms. Newbold had refused to “support new procedures your supervisor implemented.”

Within the past two weeks, Mr. Passman said she was also removed from her supervisory role at work. On Monday, the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether she could expect to continue in her job. In the evening, Ms. Newbold’s lawyer said she had gone back to work without incident.

Frankly, I’m impressed that so far Trump hasn’t come out with some kind of flagrant mockery of Ms. Newbold and her disability; it’s not like he’s never done that before, and it’s about at his level of maturity.  But the kind of workplace harassment she’s been subjected to is about on the level of what you would expect from the people who think it’s an honor to work for such a venial and petty autocrat.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Goading Him

I can’t help but think Nancy Pelosi is doing some jujitsu here.

I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.

It’s the last sentence that nails it.  She’s basically telling the world — and Trump — that he’s small potatoes and she’s got more important things to worry about, like, oh, repealing daylight saving time or ordering something from Amazon.

Trump is pure ego and telling him he’s just not worth it will piss him off more than if she raised a huge stink and threatened him with impeachment.  But this is tantamount to ignoring him, and he can’t stand that.  “Oh, yeah!?  I’ll show you I’m worth it!”

This is also a message to the more restive members of the Democratic caucus: cool it, people; he’s digging his own grave and all we have to do is stand by and watch.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Live From Capitol Hill

The breaking news banners will be out in force today on cable TV as Michael Cohen, Trump’s former consigliere, goes to Congress to tell his side of the Trump saga.

Cohen, who said in court last year that he once worked to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds,” will return to the Hill on Wednesday, where those familiar with his testimony say he is expected to describe personal, behind-the-scenes encounters that portray Trump as a lying racist and provide what Cohen’s supporters say they believe is evidence that Trump broke the law after he was sworn in.

But Cohen — who was convicted of lying to Congress and whose allies have been known to exaggerate or misstate the information he possesses — will have to withstand attacks on his credibility. The strength and reliability of his anticipated claims about the president’s possible wrongdoing could not immediately be ascertained.

The Republicans will go after him for lying because, of course, Republicans cannot tolerate lying, exaggeration, or false statements ever at all from anyone no way no how.  So there.

Cohen is expected to describe to lawmakers what he views as Trump’s “lies, racism and cheating,” both as president and in private business, and will describe “personal, behind-the-scenes” interactions he witnessed, a person familiar with the matter said. Perhaps more explosively, he is expected to provide accounts of possible criminal conduct that occurred while Trump was in office, according to two people familiar with his testimony.

It was not immediately clear what those accounts or alleged conduct might be, though one of the people familiar said it had to do with the hush-money payments Cohen helped arrange to buy the silence of women who alleged having affairs with Trump years ago, before he became president. That person said Cohen will provide lawmakers an exhibit to support his assertion; another person said he would provide “very specific details” about the payments, some of which have not been made public.

As sordid and shocking as Mr. Cohen’s revelations about Trump and his dealings may be, it is safe to say that no matter what he says it will not move the needle on the GOP base’s love for Trump one micron.  In fact, it may even harden their support for him because the Deep State and those people (and you know who they are) have had it in for Trump ever since he fleeced his first tenant back in the ’70’s.  And while there may be private misgivings bordering on panic on the Republican side because clearly their president is out of his mind and out of control, they still want their job in Washington because it’s a lot easier — and more lucrative — to say you’re representing your district back in Ohio or Montana or Alabama than it is to actually have to live there and make an honest living.

As for the base itself, they honestly don’t give a shit whether or not Trump lied, cheated, or is a racist because to a lot of them, those are qualities a real man must have to get ahead in this world dominated by political correctness and minorities suddenly having the same rights as everyone else.  (Paying off a porn star?  If only!)  And even if they had any moral qualms about his character, it’s the results that matter according to one billboard seen on I-95 in Broward County, Florida, that thanked Trump for making America First!  So what if the tax cut was basically a Ponzi scheme (Oh, you thought you were getting a big refund? Oops) and the tariffs against the Chinese ripped the bottom out of the agricultural market and the tirade against immigrants left crops rotting in the field and lawns in Beverly Hills unmowed?  What about Hillary’s e-mails?

So, yeah, get the popcorn and enjoy the show, but remember that even when John Dean told the truth about Richard Nixon’s complicity in Watergate in June 1973, it still took another fourteen months for the chickens to really come home to roost, and only then when the Republicans realized that it was their asses on the line if he stayed in office.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Catching Up

I’ve been away all weekend and so there’s a lot of things that went on that I am now catching up on.  Such as:

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots got busted for solicitation at a strip mall (so to speak) “massage” parlor in Jupiter (nowhere near Miami) Florida.  He’s not the victim.  The women being trapped and trafficked in the joint are.

Trump is taking over the Washington, D.C. 4th of July celebration as his own orgy, taking his cue from his BFF KJU of North Korea;

Trump Jr. put out a self-aggrandizing tweet about possibly running for president in 2024;

Roger Stone, who is G. Gordon Liddy to Trump if Liddy were played by any one of the Three Stooges, got slapped down by the judge overseeing his case but still can’t keep his clods in line;

“Green Book” won the Oscar as best picture of 2018.  Haven’t seen it yet.

What else did I miss?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sixteen States

See you in court.

A coalition of 16 states filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block President Trump’s plan to build a border wall without permission from Congress, arguing that the president’s decision to declare a national emergency is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, brought by states with Democratic governors — except one, Maryland — seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent the president from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, a San Francisco-based court whose judges have ruled against an array of other Trump administration policies, including on immigration and the environment.

Accusing the president of “an unconstitutional and unlawful scheme,” the suit says the states are trying “to protect their residents, natural resources, and economic interests from President Donald J. Trump’s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution.”

The complaint, filed by the attorneys general of nearly a third of the states and representing millions of Americans, immediately became the heavyweight among a rapid outpouring of opposition to the president’s emergency declaration. In the White House Rose Garden on Friday, Trump announced that he was instituting a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border because Congress did not provide enough money for a wall, that has stood as one of the most enduring promises from his 2016 campaign.

By the time this case actually gets to its final resolution, Trump will either be voted out of office or the presiding judge at trial will already be occupied by presiding over his impeachment in the Senate.  And this is just the first of many, many suits that will be filed in state and federal court on everything from eminent domain challenges to states’ rights.

Basically it comes down to Trump doing this to keep a campaign promise mnemonic about immigration and to keep Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh from turning on him.  And now we’ll find out how much it costs to feed an ego.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Reading

Every Day Is A New Low — Andrew McCabe excerpts his new book “The Threat” in The Atlantic.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.

A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.

The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”

The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?

He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?This is what it was like: You could go to any floor and you would see small groups gathering in hallways, some people even crying. The overwhelming majority liked and admired Director Comey—his personal style, the integrity of his conduct. Now we were laboring under the same dank, gray shadow that had been creeping over Washington during the few months Donald Trump had been in office.

I didn’t feel like I could say any of that to the president on the phone. I’m not sure I would have wanted to say it to him in person, either—or that he would have cared. I told him that people here were very surprised, but that we were trying to get back to work.

The president said he thought most people in the FBI voted for him—he thought 80 percent. He asked me again, as he had in his office, if I knew that Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation. Then he got to the reason for his call. He said, I really want to come over there. I want to come to the FBI. I want to show all my FBI people how much I love them, so I think maybe it would be good for me to come over and speak to everybody, like tomorrow or the next day.

That sounded to me like one of the worst possible things that could happen. He was the boss, and had every right to come, but I hoped the idea would dissipate on its own. He said, Why don’t you come down here and talk to me about that later?

After we agreed on a time to meet, the president began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.

I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.

I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.

The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.

Toward the end of the conversation, the president brought up the subject of my wife. Jill had run unsuccessfully for the Virginia state Senate back in 2015, and the president had said false and malicious things about her during his campaign in order to tarnish the FBI. He said, How is your wife? I said, She’s fine. He said, When she lost her election, that must have been very tough to lose. How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?

I replied, I guess it’s tough to lose anything. But she’s rededicated herself to her career and her job and taking care of kids in the emergency room. That’s what she does.He replied in a tone that sounded like a sneer. He said, “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”

I wrote a memo about this conversation that very day. I wrote memos about my interactions with President Trump for the same reason that Comey did: to have a contemporaneous record of conversations with a person who cannot be trusted.

People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.


After Comey’s firing, the core of my concern had to do with what might happen to the Russia case if I were to be removed. I convened a series of meetings about that investigation—including the one interrupted by the call from the president—in which I directed an overall review of every aspect. Was the work on solid ground? Were there individuals on whom we should consider opening new cases? I wanted to protect the Russia investigation in such a way that whoever came after me could not just make it go away.

As requested, I went back to the White House that afternoon. The scene was almost identical to the one I had walked into the previous night. Trump was behind the Resolutedesk. He lifted one arm and jutted it out, fingers splayed, directing me to take a seat in one of the little wooden chairs in front of him. Reince Priebus, then the chief of staff, and Don McGahn, then the White House counsel, were in the other chairs.

The president launched back into his speech about what a great decision it was to fire Jim Comey, how wonderful it was that the director was gone, because so many people did not like Comey, even hated him—the president actually used the word hate.

Eventually he changed the subject. He said that he wanted to come to FBI headquarters to see people and excite them and show them how much he loves the FBI. He pressed me to answer whether I thought it was a good idea. I said it was always a good idea to visit. I was trying to take some of the immediacy out of his proposal—to communicate that the door was always open, so that he wouldn’t feel he had to crash through it right away. I knew what a disaster it could turn out to be if he came to the Hoover Building in the near future. He pressed further, asking specifically, Do you think it would be a good idea for me to come down now? I said, Sure.

He looked at Don McGahn. The president said, Don, what do you think? Do you think I should go down to the FBI and speak to the people?McGahn was sitting in one of the wooden chairs to my right. Making eye contact with Trump, he said, in a very pat and very prepared way, If the acting director of the FBI is telling you he thinks it is a good idea for you to come visit the FBI, then you should do it.Then McGahn turned and looked at me. And Trump looked at me and asked, Is that what you’re telling me? Do you think it is a good idea?

It was a bizarre performance. I said it would be fine. I had no real choice. This was not worth the ultimate sacrifice.

In this moment, I felt the way I’d felt in 1998, in a case involving the Russian Mafia, when I sent a man I’ll call Big Felix in to meet with a Mafia boss named Dimitri Gufield. The same kind of thing was happening here, in the Oval Office. Dimitri had wanted Felix to endorse his protection scheme. This is a dangerous business, and its a bad neighborhood, and you know, if you want, I can protect you from that. If you want my protection. I can protect you. Do you want my protection? The president and his men were trying to work me the way a criminal brigade would operate.

For whatever reason, the visit to the FBI never happened.


One of the regularly scheduled meetings with the attorney general, deputy attorney general, and some of their staff came two days later, on Friday, May 12. After the meeting, I asked the deputy, Rod Rosenstein, if he could stay behind. In part I wanted to talk with him about ground rules governing the separate investigations of the Russia case by the FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rosenstein had oversight because the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had had to recuse himself owing to his own interactions with Russians during the campaign. But my main message was this: I need you to protect the process.

After speaking to these points, Rod shifted his gaze. His eyes were focused on a point in space a few yards beyond and behind, toward the door. He started talking about the firing of Jim Comey. He was obviously upset. He said he was shocked that the White House was making it look as if Jim’s firing had been his idea. He was grasping for a way to describe the nature of his situation. One remark stands out. He said, There’s no one that I can talk to about this. There’s no one here that I can trust.

He asked for my thoughts about whether we needed a special counsel to oversee the Russia case. I said I thought it would help the investigation’s credibility. Later that day, I went to see Rosenstein again. This is the gist of what I said: I feel strongly that the investigation would be best served by having a special counsel. I’ve been thinking about the Clinton email case and how we got twisted in knots over how to announce a result that did not include bringing charges against anyone. Had we appointed a special counsel in the Clinton case, we might not be in the present situation. Unless or until you make the decision to appoint a special counsel, the FBI will be subjected to withering criticism that could destroy the credibility of both the Justice Department and the FBI.

Rosenstein was very engaged. He was not yet convinced. I brought the matter up with him again after the weekend. On Wednesday, we would be briefing the Hill. As I saw it, by informing Congress of the bureau’s actions, we would be drawing an indelible line around the cases we had opened—the four cases known publicly and any others that may have gone forward. The four known publicly were those of Carter Page, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign and a man with many Russian ties; George Papadopoulos, another foreign-policy adviser, who had told a foreign diplomat that the Russians had offered to help Trump’s campaign by providing information on Hillary Clinton; Michael Flynn, for a brief period the president’s national security adviser, who had pursued multiple high-level contacts with the Russian government; and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, who had shady business dealings with Ukrainians and Russians.On the afternoon of May 17, Rosenstein and I sat at the end of a long conference table in a secure room in the basement of the Capitol. We were there to brief the so-called Gang of Eight—the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Rosenstein had, I knew, made a decision to appoint a special counsel in the Russia case. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, was to our right. Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky and the Senate majority leader, was to our left. The mood in the room was sober.After reminding the committee of how the investigation began, I told them of additional steps we had taken. Then Rod took over and announced that he had appointed a special counsel to pursue the Russia investigation, and that the special counsel was Robert Mueller. The Gang of Eight had questions. What was the scope of the inquiry? Who would oversee the special counsel? How could the special counsel get fired? Rod answered every question. Then it was over.

When I came out of the Capitol, it felt like crossing a finish line. If I got nothing else done as acting director, I had done the one thing I needed to do.

Doonesbury — Out with the old…

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Time Off

No, not me.  Him.

Trump claims he doesn’t watch Morning Joe, but he seemed to be paying close attention on Monday morning as he apparently responded on Twitter to scathing criticism from co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski about his so-called “executive time.”

The president’s unorthodox schedule—which features large portions of “executive time,” in which Trump watches TV, tweets, and calls friends—has been repeatedly leaked to Axios via a White House source. The digital news site reported that newly obtained daily agendas, which were published over the weekend, show “the president spent 50 percent of the four days last week in non-structured ‘Executive Time.’”

During a segment about the Axios reports, Brzezinski derided the president, claiming that Trump’s day is filled with “playtime.” Scarborough deemed Trump’s schedule “an absolute joke.”

“We’ve seen one person after another saying he often just hunkers down upstairs in the personal quarters, he spends of majority of his time watching cable news, tweeting, yelling, staring at TV sets like an old man in a retirement home instead of a President of the United States who is supposed to be working 24 hours a day,” continued Scarborough.

“I’m sure most older men in retirement homes live far more active lives than does Donald Trump, but for these people to come out and suggest—and for Donald Trump to suggest—he’s worked harder than most any president before him is just an absolute joke,” he added.

“Historians will record, when this presidency is over, that Donald Trump was the laziest president ever to occupy the Oval Office,” Scarborough concluded.

Within minutes of Scarborough’s rant, President Trump tweeted: “No president ever worked harder than me (cleaning up the mess I inherited)!”

Trump also defended himself after Axios’ second report, tweeting: “When the term executive time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing.”

He added, “In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past President.”

The White House has, meanwhile, launched an internal hunt to find the source of the scheduling leaks.

Actually, if he really is just sitting upstairs and watching TV (“The Incredibles 2” is pretty good, Trump, and it’s on Netflix), then he’s not working and doing more damage than he’s already done.  So maybe all this “executive time” is a good thing.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, FDR did more in his first day in office than Trump’s done in two years, and he did it from a wheelchair.  Beat that with a stick.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Talk About Presidential Harassment

Aw, poor baby:

Never happened before?  Really?

It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.

It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”

It was not true in 2014, when Mr. Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

It was never true, any of it. Mr. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.

Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally, on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president.

Or this?

Donald Trump, who in recent days has accused Bill Clinton of rape and suggested he and Hillary Clinton may have had a role in the death of one of their close friends, plans to focus next on the Whitewater real estate scandal, POLITICO has learned.

Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo on Wednesday morning emailed a researcher at the Republican National Committee asking him to “work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible. This is for immediate use and for the afternoon talking points process.”

The first one was outright and blatant racism, the second was basically small potatoes compared to the real estate scamming and corruption that Trump has bragged about since he was a kid.  So, like all bullies, he can dish it out but of course can’t take it.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

It’s On

From the Washington Post:

Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business “ridiculous” and “presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an “all-out threat” to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power.

The oversight wars officially kicked into high gear this week as House Democrats began investigating the Trump administration in earnest. With Thursday hearings scheduled on presidential tax returns and family separations at the Mexican border, and a Friday session to question acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, the lights are about to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little examination from a Republican Congress.

But Democrats are moving carefully after spending weeks forming their committees, hiring staff and laying the groundwork for coming probes — mindful that Trump is eager to turn their investigations into a political boomerang as his critics demand swift action to uncover various alleged misdeeds.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump lambasted “ridiculous partisan investigations” and built a case that undue Democratic oversight would impede progress for the American people.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted sharply to Trump’s insinuation that there could be no progress on legislation while lawmakers pry open the doors of his administration.

“Presidents should not bring threats to the floor of the House,” she said. “It’s not investigation; it’s oversight. It’s our congressional responsibility, and if we didn’t do it, we would be delinquent in our duties.”

Translation: Oh, yeah, it does work that way, and if the evidence leads to it, we’re gonna nail your ass.

And this is why Trump is going off like he’s got something to hide.  From the Daily Beast:

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia is officially back. And under the panel’s new Democratic management, it’s beyond supersized.

In its first official business meeting of the new Congress on Wednesday—facilitated by the House Republican leadership’s somewhat belated announcement of GOP membership on the committee—the much-watched House panel voted to re-establish an inquiry into what now might be called Collusion-Plus.

It’s about as different as possible from the committee’s previous investigative incarnation under Republican management, which last year released a report absolving the president and his campaign of any culpability in Russian manipulation of the 2016 election and turned its ire on those within the Justice Department and FBI investigating Trump.

Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) has made no secret of his emphasis on going after financial ties between Trump and Russia and subpoenaing documents thus far untouched by the panel. And on Wednesday, the committee voted to execute another long-standing priority of Schiff’s: giving Special Counsel Robert Mueller the transcripts of all witnesses before the House probe. Misleading the committee and its Senate counterpart has already led to indictments of former Trump advisers Michael Cohen and Roger Stone—and they may not have been the only ones to give false or incomplete testimony.

For those of us of a certain age and who watched Watergate unfold like one of those huge corpse flowers that stink like rotting flesh when they bloom, this news is taking us back to the the days when Congress began to really look into what was going on.  The outcry then, as now, was “PARTISANSHIP!”, which is the default for everybody who is being investigated by Congress.

Well, of course.  What did you expect?  That’s why the voters elected to put the Democrats in office back in November.  They — we — wanted to change how things were being — or more accurately — not being done.  That’s how it works.  That’s why we have elections.  And elections have consequences.

Trump was saying Tuesday night that as long as Congress is investigating him, there will be no cooperation from the White House, which presumably means he won’t sign any legislation passed by Congress.  Fine.  Rep. Schiff’s committee doesn’t need new legislation to investigate him; neither does Robert Mueller.  And if Trump decides to shut down the government because of the investigation, they can add that on to the articles of impeachment or the justification in the letter removing him from office under Amendment 25.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

That’s A Wrap

Since I was asleep moments after 9 p.m. last night, I missed all the talk.  According to press reports, Trump went on and on until after 10:30 p.m.  Here’s some reactions.

Josh Marshall:

All things considered, for Trump, this struck me as a fairly anodyne speech. It was fairly long for a State of the Union address. Trump hit his key bloodthirsty points, portraying undocumented immigrants as a tide of murderers threatening the country. He bragged on his supposed accomplishments – some real, most pretended. But overall, it tended to emphasize national unity, regardless of how empty that charge may be coming from what is certainly the most intentionally divisive President in modern American history. He even had some genuinely touching moments, such as the stories at the end of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, with US soldiers who were the liberators and inmates who were there that day.

[…]

It was a rather sedate speech for Trump. But in so many ways its themes were unmoored from his actual presidency which has been built on defiance and confrontation.

Matthew Yglesias:

Trump does not have any big ideas or grand transformative vision. His administration is essentially a three-legged stool. On the first leg, the slow but steady improvement in economic conditions that happened during Barack Obama’s final six years in office has continued through Trump’s first two. On the second leg, he’s turned over essentially every government agency to business interests who enjoy lax regulation and thus ensure he and his party remain well-funded. On the third, he has anti-immigrant demagoguery to blame for every problem under the sun.

There are no real ideas here to tackle the escalating costs of health care, higher education, housing, and child care. No interest in economic inequality, no real thought about foreign policy, and basically no real energy or sense of purpose. Trump’s key idea was that to maintain peace and prosperity, Congress needs to abdicate its oversight responsibilities and let him be as corrupt as he wants. That’s all he’s left with — a vague hope that the economy holds up and nobody catches him with his hand in the cookie jar. But the investigations are going to happen, and they’re going to be fascinating.

Trump himself, meanwhile, is just dull now.

Based on these and other reactions, including this (“BOR-ing!”) from Jennifer Rubin, supposedly a conservative, it sounds like Trump is just tired of the whole shtick and is subconsciously looking for a way to get out, gracefully or otherwise.  So now what?  Not run in 2020?  Let the Mueller investigation pile up and bury him?  Just quit and retreat to Mar-a-Lago?

None of those would be a surprise, and frankly, I don’t care how he goes as long as he goes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Big Parade

One of the first lies told by the Trump folks after he was sworn in was that his inauguration was the biggest and the bestest EVER and that more people watched it, saw it, and were there to make history.  So there.

Well, that may have been bullshit (and it was proven so in minutes), but there were some other things going on that made it unique.

Via ABC News (note: auto-start video):

Prosecutors in New York’s Southern District have subpoenaed documents from President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News, indicating that even as the special counsel probe appears to be nearing an end, another investigation that could hamstring the president and his lawyers is widening.

The subpoena from the Southern District, which came from its public corruption section, is the latest activity focusing on Trump’s political fundraising both before and immediately after the 2016 election.

“We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” a spokesperson for the inauguration told ABC News.

Prosecutors are seeking documents and records related to the committee’s donors to the massive inauguration fund, according to sources familiar with the request. Prosecutors also are seeking information on attendees to the events surrounding the inauguration, including benefits to top-level donors such as photo opportunities with Trump, sources said.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, has been interviewed extensively by prosecutors in the Southern District office. Longtime family accountant and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg has agreed to cooperate, though the extent of his help is unknown.

The Trump family business also has been in contact with prosecutors, but sources familiar with those discussions would not spell out the specific topics covered.

Those involved in discussions surrounding the inaugural fund, a nonprofit tasked with organizing festivities surrounding the president’s swearing-in, declined to detail specific questions from investigators. Trump’s inaugural fund raised $107 million — the most in modern history.

“This is why I’ve been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing,” said former federal prosecutor and ABC News contributor Gov. Chris Christie.

A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

It would be ironic on a Greek tragedy/O. Henry level if the thing that finally brings Trump down is the crime and corruption behind the big event that celebrated his entry into office, and the next parade that we get to watch for him is his cronies being marched into court in those bright orange outfits.

Ten Better Things

Rather than watch Trump bloviate in front of Congress tonight, here’s a list of things you can do instead.

  1. Read a book.
  2. Clean out the grease trap in the kitchen sink.
  3. Get a parakeet.
  4. Give that parakeet a karma transplant.
  5. Give a bath to a bobcat.
  6. Binge-watch “My Mother the Car.”
  7. Teach your children the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island.”
  8. Count the number of meals served on “Downton Abbey.”
  9. Dive headfirst into your own vomit.
  10. Run up an alley and holler “fish!”

All of these will be more enlightening.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Part-Time Job

Axios got Trump’s daily schedule going back to the mid-terms.  He spends most of his day watching TV and talking on the phone with friends.

A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump’s private schedule for the past three months.

Why it matters: This unusually voluminous leak gives us unprecedented visibility into how this president spends his days. The schedules, which cover nearly every working day since the midterms, show that Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured “Executive Time.”

  • We’ve published every page of the leaked schedules in a piece that accompanies this item. To protect our source, we retyped the schedules in the same format that West Wing staff receives them.

What the schedules show: Trump, an early riser, usually spends the first 5 hours of the day in Executive Time. Each day’s schedule places Trump in “Location: Oval Office” from 8 to 11 a.m.

  • But Trump, who often wakes before 6 a.m., is never in the Oval during those hours, according to six sources with direct knowledge.
  • Instead, he spends his mornings in the residence, watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.

In other words, he has the work habits of a teenager without a job.

According to his wormtongue, Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“President Trump has a different leadership style than his predecessors and the results speak for themselves.”

Yeah, okay, who wants to hit that one out of the park?