Klown Kar – Bark Bark Woof Woof The Blog of Mustang Bobby 2019-02-18T10:36:56Z https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Sunday Reading]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=54084 2019-02-17T09:44:56Z 2019-02-17T11:03:40Z 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…

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Time Off]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=54051 2019-02-12T08:37:39Z 2019-02-12T08:37:39Z 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.

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Talk About Presidential Harassment]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=54027 2019-02-08T08:40:42Z 2019-02-08T08:40:41Z 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.

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[It’s On]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=54018 2019-02-07T08:15:05Z 2019-02-07T08:15:05Z 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.

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[That’s A Wrap]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=54010 2019-02-06T08:56:38Z 2019-02-06T08:45:24Z 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.

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[The Big Parade]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=54004 2019-02-05T08:43:07Z 2019-02-05T08:43:07Z 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.

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Ten Better Things]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=53998 2019-02-05T09:18:24Z 2019-02-05T08:12:51Z 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.

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Part-Time Job]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=53982 2019-02-04T08:17:40Z 2019-02-04T08:00:55Z 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?

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Agree To Disagree]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=53932 2019-01-30T09:21:27Z 2019-01-30T08:24:01Z There’s Trump and his assessment of threats from overseas, which seem to consist of brown people under the age of six from Central America, and then there’s the people he appointed to run the intelligence services and actually read and evaluate the information they’ve been getting from their assets overseas.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and other top officials joined [Director of National Intelligence Daniel] Coats in a discussion that covered a wide array of national security challenges, including cyber attacks that will aim to disrupt the 2020 presidential election and the continued threat posed by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

Coats, speaking on behalf of the assembled officials, gave a global tour of national security challenges, focused mainly on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

He said that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” which the country’s leaders consider “critical to the regime’s survival.”

That assessment threw cold water on the White House’s more optimistic view that the United States and North Korea will achieve a lasting peace and that the regime will ultimately give up its nuclear weapons.

It was not the first time that U.S. intelligence has determined North Korea is not on the path to surrendering its weapons. And throughout the hearing, officials found themselves repeating earlier assessments on subjects that also were at odds with the president’s public statements.

The statement on North Korea drew extra attention coming ahead of a planned summit meeting next month between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Their first summit last year ended with a vague agreement that contained few concrete goals and deadlines.

The distance between the intelligence community and the White House extended to areas that have ignited fierce political debates in Washington.

None of the officials said there is a security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where Trump has considered declaring a national emergency so that he can build a wall.

Coats noted that high crime rates and a weak job market are likely to spur migrants from Central America to cross into the United States. But he also sounded optimistic that Mexico will cooperate with the Trump administration to address violence and the flow of illegal drugs, problems that Trump has said Mexico isn’t addressing sufficiently.

Officials also warned that the Islamic State was capable of attacking the United States and painted a picture of a still-formidable organization. Trump has declared the group defeated and has said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as a result.

So when the people who really know what’s going on are at odds with a president who refuses to read anything that doesn’t have pictures or coloring instructions, what happens when the non-nuclear North Korea launches an ICBM at Guam or the defeated ISIS loads up another 757 and heads towards the new World Trade Center?  Are we going to suddenly realize that building a mythical wall across the Sonora desert was a huge waste of resources and criminally negligent?

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Bobby Cramer <![CDATA[Sunday Reading]]> https://barkbarkwoofwoof.com/?p=53903 2019-01-27T10:16:54Z 2019-01-27T11:52:48Z Here Beginneth the Lesson — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on how Trump got schooled.

Perhaps the most disturbing lesson of the stupid and pointless five-week partial government shutdown, which ended on Friday, is that Donald Trump and his cronies—step forward, Wilbur Ross—are just who they appear to be: rich, out-of-touch old white guys who don’t have any conception of what it is like to be a regular government worker living from paycheck to paycheck. The other takeaway, a more encouraging one, is that Trump is also just a regular politician, subject to the normal laws of political gravity.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, the President said he would sign a temporary spending bill, which will enable shuttered federal agencies to reopen and allow about eight hundred thousand federal employees to start receiving back pay for the wages they have missed out on. He also expressed confidence that Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill would use the three weeks to reach a “fair deal” on additional spending for border security. And he claimed that the Democrats had “finally and fully acknowledged that having a barrier, a fence, a wall, or whatever you call it, will be an important part of the solution.”

The Democrats haven’t acknowledged anything of the sort. Earlier in the week, House Democrats indicated that, if the President agreed to reopen the government, they would support a $5.7-billion spending package—matching Trump’s figure—for over-all border security. They also made clear that this package wouldn’t include any money for a wall. With his poll ratings falling and some key Republican senators threatening to abandon the White House, Trump did what any other President who had dug himself into such a hole would do: he capitulated and tried to put a positive spin on things. But the lengthy, campaign-style speech that he delivered didn’t fool anybody on either side of the political divide. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a President go to the Rose Garden and take a defeat lap,” the Democratic congressman Dan Kildee, the chief deputy whip, said, on CNN. Jonathan Swan, Axios’s White House correspondent, tweeted, “A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: ‘Trump looks pathetic…he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi.’”

That was going too far. Trump is still the President, and, at the end of his speech, he repeated his threat to use his Presidential powers to declare a national emergency if he doesn’t get what he wants out of the upcoming negotiations. But, whatever happens next, he’s just learned a pair of harsh lessons: how futile government shutdowns are, and how constricted Presidential power is when the opposition party controls at least one house of Congress. In the modern era, divided government has become the norm in Washington. At some point in their Presidencies, Trump’s four most recent predecessors—George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—had to learn how to deal with it. Now it is Trump’s turn. In the words of Robert Reich, a former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration, “Nancy Pelosi just showed that Congress remains a coequal branch of government, despite Trump’s refusal to accept the limitations of his own power.”

The President can’t say he wasn’t warned about the risks he was taking. Back before Christmas, when he started the shutdown and indicated that he was prepared for it to be an extended one, he was apparently working on the theory that the longer it lasted, the more leverage he would have in his campaign to get the funding for his beloved border wall. Practically everybody else in Washington, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, and Paul Ryan, the departing House Speaker, believed the political dynamic would work in the opposite direction—the longer the shutdown went on, the more angry the public would get, and the more pressure there would be for the President and his party to cave. Of course, he could try to blame Democratic obstructionism, but that was always going to be difficult, especially since he had preëmptively seized ownership of the shutdown during an Oval Office meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

According to reports, McConnell and Ryan both advised Trump not to take the plunge. He ignored the advice, as he is apt to do. And, of course, the wizened old pols turned out to be right. As a two-week shutdown turned into a three-week shutdown, then a four-week shutdown, then a five-week shutdown, stories emerged of federal employees attending food banks and being unable to afford their chemotherapy sessions. Public opinion turned sharply against the President. By Friday morning, even Christopher Wray, the man Trump appointed to lead the F.B.I. after he fired James Comey, had had enough. “Making some people stay home when they don’t want to, and making others show up without pay, it’s mind-boggling, it’s shortsighted, and it’s unfair,” Wray said, in a video message to the Bureau’s thirty-five thousand employees, many of whom were working without pay. “It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time.”

By that stage, Trump had already accepted the inevitable and decided to sue for peace. This was all but confirmed on Wednesday, when Pelosi refused to allow the President to deliver this year’s State of the Union address from the House chamber; rather than going into a rage, Trump responded more or less politely. At that point, McConnell, who had remained above the fray for weeks, reëngaged. The same night, Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, floated the idea of using a temporary spending resolution to reopen the government and allow time for further negotiations on some sort of border-security package, even with no guarantees of any money for the wall.

Even though the President had stated repeatedly that he wouldn’t open the government until he received adequate funding for his wall, this was the deal that he ended up accepting. Once he made the announcement, it didn’t take long for the darts to start flying in from right field, including this one, from the columnist Ann Coulter, who was one of the people who encouraged him to start the shutdown in the first place: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”

Get Your Programs — Laura Collins Hughes in The New York Times on what it means to hold a theatre program in your hands.

“Could I get a program, please?”

You can feel the bafflement percolating in the audience when ushers have nothing to give out before a performance in New York. We theatergoers have gotten used to the fact that some shows don’t want us getting our paws on a playbill until afterward — they don’t want us distracted, maybe, or a surprise spoiled — but the new twist is no program at all.

At least not one we can hold in our hands.

Often, they want us to go online to read a digital version — a money-saving move, surely, but one that shortchanges artists and audiences alike.

That lovely Palestinian actor, Khalifa Natour, who starred in “Grey Rock” at La MaMa in early January? I’d have loved to glance down at a piece of paper that evening and find out that he’d been in the movie “The Band’s Visit,” which I adored. But that fact was in the program, and the program was online.

I don’t mean to pick on La MaMa. Going digital has become such a trend Off and Off Off Broadway that I’m no longer surprised to be directed to a theater’s website if I want to know whose work I’m seeing. It’s not just a wrongheaded tack, though. It’s also counterintuitive, because it’s contrary to the spirit of live performance.

Theater is one of our most intimate art forms, one that asks us to step away from the outside world and — this sounds like yoga talk, but it’s valid anyway — be present for a while, our attention on what’s unfolding in the room.

But any information you access on a phone or tablet exists in a space that lets the whole restless world in, coming at you in a calm-shattering barrage of text messages, emails and news alerts. A digital program doesn’t stand a chance of holding someone’s attention against all that. It’s not a great place to send people to think about the art and artists they’ve just seen.

And an e-playbill, unlike a printed one, won’t ease anyone into the experience of seeing a show, acclimating them as surely as an overture would. If that sounds like an exaggeration, think about how focused you feel reading a physical book or newspaper, and how relentlessly interrupted when your eyes are on a digital device.

I don’t say that as a Luddite; I’m writing this on a digital device. It’s not that I’m unconcerned with saving trees, either, or unaware of the punishing economics of nonprofit theater.

But theaters have been alert for a long time to their need to compete for an audience that has a jillion other ways to spend its time. That’s part of the reason they devote such resources to engagement, with all the pre- and post-show programming, and all the fun extras that they put online.

Programs, though, aren’t extras; never mind what the British have decided, with their practice of charging for them. They’re essentials that help spectators navigate the production and process it afterward. (That’s why those one-sheet playbills can be so frustrating, with their frequent lack of bios and other crucial information.)

My youngest brother, who is in his 20s, isn’t a habitual theatergoer, at least not yet. But when he goes with me to a show, he sits down and opens his program right up, reading it to see which actors he knows and what the director might have to say. He peruses the ads for other shows, too, in case any of them appeal.

So it’s not just the oldsters who like a good paper program, though they can be downright poignant in their dismay when they don’t get one. Recently at Classic Stage Company, a good chunk of the row behind me went all aflutter when they thought for a moment that someone sitting nearby had printed out the online program.

I’m sure that wasn’t the effect Classic Stage intended. But when a theater bypasses paper playbills, it is outsourcing a job to its audience members — saying that if they want to know more, that’s on them. Why do that to people who’ve already proved their curiosity by their presence? If they don’t want to take the thing home, they can always give it back.

I’m not a program hoarder, either, actually; I hang onto all of them for a while, then keep the ones that mean the most to me. I find it comforting — and useful — that Playbill, the company, has an archive of its programs online, and that digitization is preserving other programs from long ago. But that’s for history. In the moment, I want that tangible souvenir.

When I admire something I’ve seen onstage, I often spend my subway ride home scouring the artists’ bios, my paper program in full view of fellow riders — advertising that doubles, sometimes, as a conversation starter. But honestly (and I’m talking here about shows I’m not writing about), if the onus is on me to track that information down, there’s an excellent chance I won’t do it. When I turn on my phone, I’ll probably use it to read the news.

Program-wise it seems lately that many theaters — whether they use e-playbills or not — are moving boldly in a direction to which the audience is meant to adjust. So it was heartening at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival to see an about-face midstream.

Early in the run, ushers politely told theatergoers that if they wanted a festival program, they could find one in the first-floor lobby — not the most helpful response if you’re two stories up at the time, and stymieing given the scarcity of booklets down there. (My personal quest to get one took two days.) Later in the festival, though, ushers would hand one right to you. Progress!

Still, after that, I caught myself feeling relieved at the Prototype Festival to be given a program with my ticket. And I was completely charmed by the buoyant young usher at “Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State” who greeted each person with: “Would you like some programs?” Plural.

The most sensible approach I’ve seen recently on the playbill front was at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, where when I arrived for “Lewiston/Clarkston,” the box office offered a choice: Printed program, e-program or both?

I went with printed, of course, and what I got was nothing fancy — just a sheaf of pages stapled together. But, riffling through them, I found everything I needed.

Doonesbury — Vocal disconnect.

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