Notes and Comment Blog

New charge

Feb 20th, 2018 7:10 am | By

Bloomberg reports:

An attorney who worked for a prominent law firm was charged with making false statements to federal authorities as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.

Alex Van Der Zwaan was charged Feb. 16 in federal court in Washington with lying to investigators about conversations related to a report he helped prepare on the trial of a Ukrainian politician, Yulia Tymoshenko. Van Der Zwaan was charged with a criminal information, which typically precedes a guilty plea.

Van Der Zwaan, identified on his LinkedIn page as an associate in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, was questioned regarding the firm’s work in 2012 on behalf of the Ukraine Ministry of Justice. He allegedly lied to investigators about his last communications with Richard Gates, who was indicted in October with ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort over their consulting work in Ukraine.

What Manafort and his assistants were doing in Ukraine was helping Putin and Yanukovych grab it back for Russia. Not a good thing to do.

The firm produced a report earlier in the decade for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine that largely defended the prosecution and conviction of Tymoshenko. The report defied the view held by the U.S. and the European Union that the case against her was politically motivated. The firm’s $12,000 fee was modest, just below the amount that required public bidding.

The following year, however, with no further work done, Ukraine sent Skadden $1 million. After the pro-Russian government was run out of town in 2014, the new authorities began investigating.

So it was “$12,000” for the sake of avoiding public bidding and then later when no one was looking, a little sweetener of $1,000,000 was added. Sounds legit.

White House much relieved at mass shooting timeout

Feb 19th, 2018 4:24 pm | By

The slaughter of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school was a welcome relief to people at the White House, because it took the heat off them for a change. They’d been having a baaaaaad week until then. Whew! Thanks, 17 dead people!

One White House official said the shooting forced the White House to focus on critical and serious issues — like consoling the victims and trying to heal the nation — rather than getting bogged down in what they view as more trivial West Wing drama.

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said the White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.

“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.

Awww. That is sad. Poor White House aides. If only there could be a mass shooting every other day.

The three-day Presidents’ Day weekend added to the hiatus, with Trump traveling to his private Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., with only a few aides and giving others on his beleaguered staff a chance to rest and recuperate.

Among those accompanying the president was Kelly, who earlier in the week appeared in serious jeopardy of losing his job. The chief of staff had lost the support of some senior aides, and last Tuesday evening rumors were rampant that his days — or even hours — were numbered because Trump had been sounding out friends and advisers about possible replacements.

Wednesday’s shooting, how­ever, effectively stabilized Kelly’s standing internally, officials said, shifting the media glare away from him and giving the retired four-star Marine general a chance to perform his job in helping to coordinate the federal response.

So that sure turned out well for Kelly, didn’t it! What a stroke of luck.

“The national tragedy in Florida has really, for now, turned the page on some of these crises,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist close to the White House. “They’re going to come back, but what it does do is give the White House a chance to collect itself and, if they can, organize a communications strategy and get their ducks in a row.”

Yay! Thanks, Nikolas Cruze. What a good citizen.

And Donald Duck will be giving a speech on constitutional law

Feb 19th, 2018 3:50 pm | By

This again.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what has been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family’s real estate projects. But he’s also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Princess Ivanka sat in on that meeting with Abe at Trump Tower in November 2016, and she “sat in” for Daddy at the G20. Prince Jared is working to solve the slight problem in Israel/Palestine. Now Crown Prince Don 2 is giving a foreign policy speech in company with the Indian PM. They might as well invite random people off the street to do it. These people have no relevant experience or knowledge and they are not intelligent enough to make up for that lack. Trump’s very average children and children’s-spouses have no more business making “foreign policy speeches” than John Kennedy Junior did when his father was president.

ndian newspapers have been running full-page, glossy advertisements hyping his arrival and the latest Trump Tower project under the headline: “Trump is here — Are You Invited?” The ads also solicited home buyers to plunk down a booking fee (about $38,000) to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner.”

Corrupt enough?

News that the Trump Organization would be offering buyers in the Trump Tower the chance to meet the president’s son sparked criticism of potential conflicts of interest, and the fact that Trump Jr. will be giving a foreign policy speech while on a private business trip complicates the matter further, ethics experts said.

The senior Trump did not divest himself of his businesses when he was elected president. Rather, he turned the day-to-day operations over to his older sons, Don Jr. and Eric, to run. Eric Trump told The Washington Post last year that “the company and policy and government are completely separated. We have built an unbelievable wall in between the two.”

It’s “unbelievable” in the sense that it’s complete bullshit.

“Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” said Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is frequently critical of the first family. “For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes.”

Critics have often complained of the high cost of Secret Service agents accompanying the Trump children on private business trips, straining the agency’s budget. The Trump Organization’s spokesman did not return requests for comment.

Of course not. They don’t care; they do what they want.

Not just yours, Don

Feb 19th, 2018 3:32 pm | By


If not a Russian bot, might as well be

Feb 19th, 2018 12:17 pm | By

Three days ago Mary Beard mused aloud on Twitter.

And lo, there was a pile-on. (I read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed a couple of months ago. I recommend it.) There are currently 828 replies.

She attempted to clarify her point many times but most of the pilers weren’t listening.

It’s surely a genuine issue. In one reply she said: “I do not like the tone of some of the criticism here which suggests an overwhelming confidence that our own morality would survive through thick and thin.” Her point was about what happens to people in desperate situations, and about judging such people from a safe and comfortable distance. It’s the kind of issue Orwell liked to take on. But it was taken as something much cruder, something that could be summed up with lashings of “white feminist” and “colonialism.”

Later she tried again.

Ah yes, just as students asked about the Milgram experiment all confidently say they would have stopped pushing the button, when in fact only a minority did stop. The students can’t all be right.

The truth is we don’t know how we would behave in emergencies we’ve never had to deal with. Judging harshly from a very great distance is easy but not all that fair.

Some got it, which is reassuring.

But many simply put the boot in, and one of the bootiest was another (less well-known) Cambridge academic, Priyamvada Gopal. She created a pretty intense pile-on all by herself, with lashings of extra venom.

I’ve written a few posts about Gopal over the years, starting all the way back in 2007, when she was sticking the boot in Salman Rushdie, with equal venom and lack of accuracy. June 18th 2007:


Sir Salman, on the other hand, is partly the creation of the fatwa…The Sir Salman recognised for his services to literature is certainly no neocon but is iconic of a more pernicous trend: liberal literati who have assented to the notion that humane values, tolerance and freedom are fundamentally western ideas that have to be defended as such.

No he isn’t, no he doesn’t, no they haven’t. That’s crap. What they’ve assented to (the liberal ones – if they haven’t they’re not liberal) is the opposite: that humane values, tolerance and freedom are universal ideas that have to be defended as such, and that claiming they are a monopoly of any one region or nation or ethnic group is highly illiberal as well as dangerous.

The next day:

Lisa Appignanesi gives Priyamvada Gopal one in the eye though.

During the dark years of the Fatwa, Rushdie lent his fame to help less well-known writers around the world who suffered similar fates or found themselves persecuted either by states or religious hierarchies for their work. As a vice-president of English Pen, the world association of writers, and for some years president of American Pen, he worked indefatigably for the cause of free expression, joining with us here to combat the worst excesses of the government’s “religious hatred” legislation. Perhaps in awarding him this honour, the government has also come to recognise the crucial importance of a freedom which underpins so many others. Rushdie’s “services to literature” also extend to a singular generosity in helping young, and particularly Asian, writers make their way in what is often a difficult literary marketplace.

Universal values, universal liberal values, not western, not European, not white. Universal. Think about it, Priyamvada Gopal.

Nearly 11 years later she’s still not thinking about it.


Feb 19th, 2018 11:30 am | By

Newsweek reports:

White nationalist provocateurs, a pair of fake news sites, an army of Twitter bots and other cyber tricks helped derail Democratic Senator Al Franken last year, new research shows.

While everyone has been focused on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to support Donald Trump, the Franken takedown originated in—and was propelled by—a strategic online campaign with digital tentacles reaching to, of all places, Japan. Analysts have now mapped out how Hooters pinup girl and lad-mag model Leeann Tweeden’s initial accusation against Franken became effective propaganda after right-wing black ops master Roger Stone first hinted at the allegation.

A pair of Japan-based websites, created the day before Tweeden came forward, and a swarm of related Twitter bots made the Tweeden story go viral and then weaponized a liberal writer’s criticism of Franken. The bot army—in tandem with prominent real, live members of the far right who have Twitter followers in the millions, such as Mike Cernovich—spewed thousands of posts, helping the #FrankenFondles hashtag and the “Franken is a groper” meme effectively silence the testimonies of eight former female staffers who defended the Minnesota Democrat before he resigned last year.

And so on and so on, with a lot of details.


Guest post: Let’s politicize the shit out of this

Feb 19th, 2018 11:15 am | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on No politics, please, we’re here to solicit $$$$.

Here’s what I want someone (well, someone other than me, someone with actual influence) to say after the next mass shooting:

The NRA and its lackeys don’t want us to talk about guns now. They say that would be “politicizing” this tragedy. And I say: yes, it would, and that’s exactly why we should do it.

“Politics” has come to be a dirty word, that brings to mind petty bickering and disingenuous posturing. But that’s not all that politics is. Politics is the means by which we, as a society, decide how to govern ourselves. It’s how we make changes that might prevent or reduce the frequency or severity of these tragedies that have become all too common.

Simply put, politics is the way we can come together to address this problem. The gun lobby knows this. While they’re telling us how wrong it is to “politicize” this issue, they’re busy politicking hard. Already they’re emailing their membership lists, scaremongering their supporters about how any discussion of reasonable gun control means that those crazy liberals are a-coming for your guns, so you better buy some more, and donate to us, and warn your government representatives that you won’t stand for it.

And that’s how they keep winning. Polling data consistently shows that reasonable gun control legislation has broad majority support. Most responsible gun owners don’t object to background checks and prohibitions on dangerous individuals owning firearms. But what the gun lobby counts on is that this broad majority doesn’t vote on this issue. That most people won’t make noise with their elected representatives about it, or donate or volunteer or otherwise get active about it. Meanwhile, their side is showing up. They’re voting, they’re donating, they’re making noise, they’re scaring their elected officials into believing that the safe thing to do is to either do the gun lobby’s bidding, or avoid the issue entirely, which amounts to much the same thing.

Even though they’re outnumbered, they keep winning, because their side shows up for the fight, and they’ve persuaded too many of us that’s it’s wrong or vulgar or undignified for us to show up and fight back.

Let’s stop being fooled or intimidated by this. Let’s put an end to not showing up for the fight and then wondering why we don’t win. Like it or not, “politics” is the battlefield on which this issue will be fought, the weapons are your vote and your voice, and the reasonable, sensible majority has disarmed itself for too long. So let’s politicize the shit out of this. Write or phone your Congressperson, your Senator, your state representatives and Governor to demand action. Attend rallies. Vote for, volunteer for, and donate to candidates who are willing to do more than shrug and offer “thoughts and prayers.” And if you can’t find one, than run yourself or encourage others to.

And when the gun lobby cries foul and demands that you stop “politicizing” this issue, you say: you first!

The howling and unreflective void at his core

Feb 19th, 2018 9:26 am | By

From David Roth in The Baffler last August:

The most significant thing to know about Donald Trump’s politics or process, his beliefs or his calculations, is that he is an asshole; the only salient factor in any decision he makes is that he absolutely does not care about the interests of the parties involved except as they reflect upon him. Start with this, and you already know a lot. Start with this, and you already know that there are no real answers to any of these questions.

It is not quite fair to say that Donald Trump lacks core beliefs, but to the extent that we can take apart these beliefs they amount to Give Donald Trump Your Money and Donald Trump Should Really Be on Television More. The only comprehensible throughline to his politics is that everything Trump says is something he’s said previously, with additional very’s and more-and-more’s appended over time; his worldview amounts to the sum of the dumb shit he saw on the cover of the New York Post in 1985, subjected to a few decades of rancid compounding interest and deteriorating mental aptitude. He watches a lot of cable news, but he struggles to follow even stories that have been custom built for people like him…

His mental life is drastically impoverished, and yet he loves to talk – he talks a lot, he does all the talking, he has no interest in listening to other people talk, he’s that windbag bore who traps you somewhere and embarks on an anecdote you can tell he’s told a million times before and he will not stop. That’s why he loved campaigning so much and why he keeps holding “rallies” – he got to talk and talk and talk and talk, and people would cheer him and wave flags. He has nothing to say but he never shuts up.

Trump doesn’t know anything or really believe anything about any topic beyond himself, because he has no interest in any topic beyond himself; his evident cognitive decline and hyperactive laziness and towering monomania ensure that he will never again learn a new thing in his life.

To understand Trump is also to understand his appeal as an aspirational brand to the worst people in the United States. What his intransigent admirers like most about him—the thing they aspire to, in their online cosplay sessions and their desperately thirsty performances for a media they loathe and to which they are so helplessly addicted—is his freedom to be unconcerned with anything but himself. This is not because he is rich or brave or astute; it’s because he is an asshole, and so authentically unconcerned. The howling and unreflective void at his core will keep him lonely and stupid until the moment a sufficient number of his vital organs finally resign in disgrace, but it liberates him to devote every bit of his being to his pursuit of himself. Actual hate and actual love, as other people feel them, are too complicated to fit into this world. In their place, for Trump and for the people who see in him a way of being that they are too busy or burdened or humane to pursue, are the versions that exist in a lower orbit, around the self. Instead of hate, there is simple resentment—abject and valueless and recursively self-pitying; instead of love, there is the blank sucking nullity of vanity and appetite.

The rest of the world is an abstraction to him, a market to exploit; there is no other person in it who is real to him. They’re all supplicants or subjects, fans or haters, but their humanity is transparently not part of the equation. What other people might want, or indeed the fact that they could want at all, is crowded out of the picture by the corroded and corrosive bulk of his horrible self.

There is no room for other people in the world that Trump has made for himself, and this is fundamental to the anxiety of watching him impose his claustrophobic and airless interior world on our own. Is Trump a racist? Yes, because that’s a default setting for stupid people; also, he transparently has no regard for other people at all. Does Trump care about the cheap-looking statue of Stonewall Jackson that some forgotten Dixiecrat placed in a shithole park somewhere he will never visit? Not really, but he so resents the fact that other people expect him to care that he develops a passionate contrary opinion out of spite.

That’s a gem of an insight.

No politics, please, we’re here to solicit $$$$

Feb 18th, 2018 3:35 pm | By

Paul Ryan doesn’t want to “talk about politics” at his own fundraiser. That’s his version, at least; what he apparently means is that he doesn’t want to talk about gun control – way too political, that.

Two protesters chanting “no more guns” were removed from a Republican fundraiser in Key Biscayne Friday night after confronting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about the mass shooting that happened days earlier and miles up the road.

Maria Thorne, a Key Biscayne activist, said she noticed motorcade traffic clogging up her commute home from her job as a fifth grade teacher at iPrep Academy, where she spent the day reassuring scared students that she could keep them safe from a shooter.

Thorne, 49, heard a rumor that the motorcade might belong to Ryan, so she took a friend into the Ritz to investigate. She said men with lanyards at the entrance of a private area confirmed that it was a fundraiser for Ryan.

The National Republican Congressional Committee — the national fundraising arm for House Republicans — lists a 2018 Winter Meeting held in Key Biscayne this weekend.

And Ryan was there.

Thorne said she found Ryan in the middle of the room — “I shook his hand and everything,” she said — and introduced herself as a teacher and Key Biscayner.

“Nice,” the Republican congressman replied.

“Nice?” Thorne said. “You’re here celebrating the death of 17 children.”

At that, Thorne said, Ryan told her he “didn’t want to talk politics” or argue. When Thorne tried to continue, security escorted her out.

He doesn’t want to talk politics, he just wants to raise money, including from the National Rifle Association.

To defy the PC goblins passes as radical truth-telling

Feb 18th, 2018 1:13 pm | By

Virginia Heffernan on John Kelly and “political correctness”:

How good it feels; it’s almost a high. When we can’t be bothered to temper our provincialism — or lechery and racism — we get to dress up ignorance as bravery, rebellion. To defy the PC goblins passes as radical truth-telling. In a flash, our existential terror about being obsolete and left behind — at being a “dinosaur,” as Harvey Weinstein once described himself — turns into bravado about that very same backwardness.

We know the type.

John Kelly, the beleaguered White House chief of staff, despises political correctness.

And he doesn’t just hate it on behalf of geezers who can’t get girls to laugh at their off-color jokes anymore. He hates it on behalf of violent men like former White House aide Rob Porter, a “man of true integrity and honor” with a straight part and squared shoulders, whom Kelly advised to weather the storm of emerging evidence that he had choked, dragged and punched his former wives.

That’s even though the FBI told him Porter was a security risk. Bros before…national security? That’s the motto now?

In December 2016, when Kelly accepted Trump’s nomination for the head of the Department of Homeland Security, his first post with this administration, he promised to put a stop to what he saw as the world’s two worst scourges: terrorism and political correctness.

“The American people voted in this election to stop terrorism, take back sovereignty at our borders, and put a stop to political correctness that for too long has dictated our approach to national security.”

For “political correctness” read “respect for human rights.”

Anyone who heard that statement knew what Kelly meant, and it was terrifying. Kelly’s contempt for political correctness had, years earlier, lurched into contempt for the law itself.

Kelly acted on this odd ideology when he ran the United States Southern Command, which put him in charge of Guantanamo Bay from 2012 to 2016. He was so keen on his private war on political correctness that he — a general whose status as a Marine seems to be the most important thing to him — subverted Obama, his commander in chief, by sabotaging the president’s efforts to resettle detainees. Under Kelly, Gitmo guards had no time for PC concepts like international norms; they subjected prisoners to what the rest of the world considers cruel and unusual punishment, including force-feeding and solitary confinement.

No wonder Trump chose him. No fucking wonder.


Feb 18th, 2018 11:53 am | By

Ruth Marcus at the Post points out that National security adviser H.R. McMaster wrote a book titled “Dereliction of Duty.”

Now, in the White House in which McMaster serves, the dereliction of duty starts at the top. And, as the past several days have shown, President Trump’s failure is dereliction on a grand, unprecedented scale: We find ourselves at war without a commander in chief; in national mourning without a consoler in chief; and in political gridlock without a negotiator in chief.

The first is the most appalling and most terrifying. “Incontrovertible,” McMaster said, and so it is for anyone who bothers to read the indictment of 13 Russians for running a massive operation not only to disrupt the election but to do so to Trump’s benefit. But of course Trump never has and apparently never will be able to accept this. Is it his fragile ego that cannot tolerate the implicit challenge to his legitimacy? Is it something more sinister?

Russia will, if it can, turn us into a subordinate replica of itself: an authoritarian oligarchy that tolerates no dissent.

We are at war with an enemy plotting to undermine our democracy, and our supposed leader, far from working to halt this, seems determined to ignore it.

Trump’s anger is directed against the democratic institutionsthat have rallied to discover what happened and seek to prevent its recurrence: “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

But there is no depth to which Trump will not sink in defense of the only thing he holds dear: himself. And so, the nation witnessed a tweet in which the president, a leader to whom the country once looked for healing in times of national tragedy, instead used innocent victims, high school children mowed down in their own school, to make his bogus, self-interested point: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

Did he? Did he really use dead children to attack an investigation into his campaign and his conduct in office? Yes, he did. This is a person devoid of empathy. He can experience the world only through the prism of his own ego. He can read the requisite words from a teleprompter — “To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain” — but he is incapable of feeling them. No one who imagines the shattered heart of a grieving parent could have written that despicable tweet.

Or grinned like someone who just won a lottery while standing next to the hospital bed of one of the survivors.

The interim

Feb 18th, 2018 11:38 am | By

David Frum too is underwhelmed by Trump’s attempt to show sympathy for the student of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school.

As the rest of America mourns the victims of the Parkland, Florida, massacre, President Trump took to Twitter.

Not for him the rituals of grief. He is too consumed by rage and resentment. He interrupted his holidaying schedule at Mar-a-Lago only briefly, for a visit to a hospital where some of the shooting victims were treated. He posed afterward for a grinning thumbs-up photo op. Pain at another’s heartbreak—that emotion is for losers, apparently.

I don’t think there was even that much thought involved. I think he completely forgot what he was there for, because there’s not room in his brain for both concern for himself and the details of what just happened to other people.

Having failed at one presidential duty, to speak for the nation at times of national tragedy, Trump resumed shirking an even more supreme task: defending the nation against foreign attack.

There again: not enough space. Focusing on the foreign attack on the nation would interfere with his focus on himself. It’s a kind of discipline, in a way –  he never ever loses that laser-like focus on his own wants and rages.

Trump has systematically attempted to shut down investigations of the foreign-espionage operation that operated on his behalf. He fired the director of the FBI to shut it down. His White House coordinated with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to misdirect the investigation. He mobilized the speaker of the House to thwart bipartisan investigations under broadly respected leadership. He has inspired, supported, and joined a national propaganda campaign against the Mueller investigation.

And all the while, Trump has done nothing—literally nothing—to harden the nation’s voting systems against follow-on Russian operations. On Sunday, he publicly repudiated his own national-security adviser for acknowledging at the Munich Security Conference the most incontrovertible basics of what happened in 2016.

We’re in an interesting interim state right now – plummeting towards an authoritarian disaster, but with many of the institutions of a liberal democracy still functioning, so that newspapers and tv news and individuals on Twitter and Facebook can still point out what’s happening. That can’t go on forever; if the plummet towards an authoritarian disaster continues to its goal, all that will be shut down or so hindered and crippled it might as well be shut down. But for now, we can still talk about what’s being done to us.

Americans who cherish democracy and national sovereignty need to start discussing a bigger and darker question.

Authoritarian nationalist parties across the western world have outright cooperated with the Russians. Russian money has helped to finance the National Front in France, and the election and re-election of the president of the Czech Republic. In Germany, Russia first created a hoax refugee-rape case—then widely publicized it—in an effort to boost its preferred extremist party in that country’s 2017 election, the Alternative for Germany. Russia supported pro-AfD comment in media favored by Germany’s surprisingly substantial Russian-speaking communities.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo predicted to the BBC at the beginning of 2018 that Russia “will be back” to help its preferred candidates in November 2018. To what extent does President Trump—to what extent do congressional Republicans—look to Russian interference to help their party in the 2018 cycle?

And how the fuck do we stop them?

Don’s bumpy morning

Feb 18th, 2018 11:12 am | By

That was just one of many deranged tweets from “the president” today. He’s more bonkers than ever, he’s more self-obsessed than ever, he’s as recklessly indifferent to the fate of the country and the world as ever. He’s also very very cross.

President Trump, in a series of angry and defiant tweets on Sunday morning, sought to shift the blame to Democrats for Russia’s virtual war to meddle in the 2016 election, saying that President Barack Obama had not done enough to stop the interference and denying that he had ever suggested that Moscow might not have been involved.

Mr. Trump, who has said little to publicly acknowledge a threat to American democracy that even one of his top aides called “incontrovertible” on Saturday, asserted that the efforts to investigate and combat the Russian meddling had only given the Russians what they wanted, saying that “they are laughing their asses off in Moscow.”

They are, of course, but not for the reason Trump claims. They’ve been doing it ever since November 8, 2016.

The president has repeatedly seized on the fact that the efforts started before he became a candidate, but has glossed over the conclusion that they evolved toward supporting his candidacy.

By “glossed over” they mean “totally and mendaciously ignored.”

In another tweet on Sunday, Mr. Trump, who has tried since the campaign to sow doubts about who was behind the election intrusions, said that he had “never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” quoting a comment he made in a 2016 presidential debate.

“I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,” Mr. Trump wrote. “The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia — it never did!”

Yet he has repeatedly denied that Russia was behind any meddling, even going so far in November as to suggest that he believed President Vladimir V. Putin’s denials of interference over the conclusions of American intelligence agencies.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said at the time, calling questions about Moscow’s meddling a politically motivated “hit job.”

He blew kisses to Putin at the dinner table, he went over and had a cozy intimate chat with him with only the Russian interpreter for a third.

Mr. Trump has long fought the idea that Moscow’s efforts might have influenced the election, viewing it as a threat to his legitimacy. He has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront the Russians for their intrusion.

Always hedging. He has made zero effort, and he has made strenuous effort to do the opposite.

On Saturday, the president’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said, referring to the Russian meddling, “With the F.B.I. indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.”

In a late-night tweet on Saturday, Mr. Trump criticized General McMaster for not saying at the security conference in Germany where he was speaking that the election results had not been changed as a result of the Russian interference. The nation’s intelligence agencies believe that it is not possible to make such a conclusion.

Trump is apparently too stupid even to grasp why it is not possible to draw such a conclusion.

What it’s all about

Feb 18th, 2018 10:47 am | By

Trump. Today.

Special rules

Feb 18th, 2018 9:59 am | By

Not at all scary or abnormal or reckless.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, whose inability to obtain permanent security clearance has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, requests more information from the intelligence community than any other White House employee who isn’t working on the National Security Council, according to an unnamed source who spoke with the Washington Post. Kushner continues to only have interim security clearance after 13 months in the White House, since his background check still isn’t finished, most likely because he has had to repeatedly revise his disclosure form regarding foreign contacts to add information he had previously omitted.

And for extra added bonus alarm, he has no foreign policy or intelligence or diplomatic expertise of any kind; he’s a real estate manager; he’s there because he’s married to the corrupt ignorant president’s daughter.

Also…he agreed to that meeting with the Russians. How do we know he’s not just plain feeding them the information he requests and gets?

At this point, it’s reasonable to wonder if the president’s son-in-law will ever merit permanent security clearance, yet in the meantime he enjoys access to classified briefings, top-secret and sensitive compartmentalized information, foreign leaders on behalf of the country, and, according to the Post, more requested intel than anyone who isn’t a member of Trump’s National Security Council.

Kelly did some belated tidying up last week but Team Trump says that won’t hinder Prince Jared at all.

Kelly’s new stricter policy would theoretically revoke Kushner’s access to classified information as of next Friday, but considering his position and relation to Trump, an exception will probably be made for him by either Kelly or the president. Kushner’s lawyer seems pretty sure of that too, telling the Post that Kelly’s new policy “will not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president.”

Why would anyone assign important foreign policy work to a callow real estate manager? No one but a reckless cynical idiot.


Feb 17th, 2018 4:14 pm | By

Incredible job, and everybody is talking about it

Feb 17th, 2018 4:09 pm | By

Josh Dawsey in the Post on the nightmare zombie visit of Trump to the Florida hospital yesterday.

President Trump, as he often does while responding to natural disasters, mass shootings or unfolding crises, spent much of his time congratulating the responders instead of memorializing the victims of Wednesday’s school shooting during a visit here Friday.

Trump, in two quick stops at a hospital and sheriff’s office near the school where 17 were killed and scores were injured, praised the doctors, police officers, fire officials and others who responded quickly to the mass shooting in Parkland, casting their response as heroic and record-setting.

“Incredible job, and everybody is talking about it,” Trump said of the response, with dozens of officers flanking a large circular conference room table on the fifth floor of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

No, what everybody is talking about is the horror of what happened, the students and teachers who were killed, the grief and terror and loss and anguish. The fact that emergency personnel responded quickly is not the core of the story.

“They were in really great shape,” he said of the families.

Yeah I’m sure they were ecstatic that their kids were in the hospital after being shot at school, and that some of their kids’ classmates are dead. I’m sure they’re in fabulous shape, ready to run a marathon, in peak tip-top happy condition.

“The job they’ve done is incredible, and I want to congratulate you,” Trump said as he shook the hand of Dr. Igor Nichiporenko at the hospital.

Not exactly. He thrust his hand out at the doctor, and when the doctor slowly took it, he yanked it hard.

He said he was impressed with the speed with which first responders reacted, calling it “record-setting” and “in one case, 20 minutes” from the school to the hospital.

“It’s an incredible thing,” Trump said. He later said the officers deserve a raise.

It’s a wonder he didn’t talk about what kind of gas mileage they got.

He did not give an emotional or rousing commemoration to the victims — like President Barack Obama’s after a mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church — nor did he publicly greet any families whose children were killed in the attack. Speaking at a funeral or a large vigil was not on the agenda. There were no calls for American resolve. There were no tears.

The visits were quick. For instance, Friday night, he was in the hospital for about 35 minutes, speaking to the news media for about 45 seconds.

There was no feeling, no understanding, no sorrow, no empathy, no concern, no compassion, no normal human reaction of any kind. He might as well have been playing golf. The most he could manage was that “It’s saaad that a thing like this could happen” – but that’s his “sad,” the one he puts at the end of his angry tweets, and he cut himself off instantly with “but the speed with which they got there was incredible” – as if to say let’s not get all mawkish here.

It’s chilling to watch. We know he’s empty, but seeing him demonstrate it at times like this…it’s dreadful.

Theory and practice

Feb 17th, 2018 12:04 pm | By

Meanwhile Trump sticks to his policy of hiring foreign workers for his own enterprises.

A Vox analysis of hiring records for seasonal workers at three Trump properties in New York and Florida revealed that only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. Foreign guest workers with H-2B visas got the rest.

Why would that be? Because they accept lower pay and crappier working conditions.

The H-2B visa program allows seasonal, non-agricultural employers — like hotels and ski resorts — to hire foreign workers when they can’t find American ones. The Trump administration temporarily expanded this guest-worker program in 2017 while restricting other avenues of legal immigration, including the H-1B program for high-skilled workers.

The Trump Organization is exactly the kind of company that relies on the H-2B visa program for low-skilled workers.

And Trump is exactly the kind of human who is eager to pay his employees as little as possible.

Under the H-2B program, employers must first try to hire American workers — or legal immigrants already in the United States — at reasonable wages for their openings. If they can’t find qualified US workers, then employers can ask the Department of Labor for permission to hire foreign guest workers on H-2B visas. Documents show that hiring managers at the Trump establishments made the minimum efforts required by law to recruit US workers.

Remember that story last year? In which the Mar-a-Lago managers put a tiny ad in one obscure paper for about 5 minutes, and that was it. Also they interviewed one American worker but did not hire her.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for immigration restrictions, said he was “displeased” when Trump temporarily expanded the H-2B program in 2017. He said Mar-a-Lago is just using the program how other employers use it: as a way to avoid paying higher wages or offering more benefits to attract American workers.

“It’s a bullshit law written to ensure that employers don’t have to hire Americans,” said Krikorian, who normally applauds the president’s immigration agenda.

No doubt he still does; it’s the hiring practices he’s objecting to.

In the past five years, a few of Trump’s golf clubs and resorts on the East Coast have relied heavily on hiring foreign workers to serve patrons during the summer months (in New York) and the winter months (in Florida). The H-2B database shows requests from Mar-a-Lago dating back to 2013. This practice has clearly not stopped since Trump became president.

In fact, the Trump administration temporarily expanded the H-2B program. In July 2017, the Department of Homeland Security raised the cap on H-2B visas for guest workers from 66,000 to 81,000 for fiscal year 2017. (Three days later, Trump’s properties asked for permission to hire 76 workers through the program.)

Tactful of him to wait three whole days.

He voiced no concern

Feb 17th, 2018 11:10 am | By

Trump yesterday found time to make survivors of the Florida massacre smile in his photo op, but not to say anything about stopping Putin and gang trashing what there is of our democracy.

After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he wrote on Twitter.

He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.

None, zip, zero. His first concern was for himself, and his second concern was for himself, and then he had a plane to catch.

Rather than condemn Russia for its actions, Mr. Trump in the past has said he accepts the denial offered by President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Trump has not imposed new sanctions called for in a law passed by Congress last year to retaliate for the attack on America’s political system, or teamed up with European leaders to counter a common threat. He has not led a concerted effort to harden election systems in the United States with midterm congressional elections on the horizon, or pressed lawmakers to pass legislation addressing the situation.

Instead he’s done

  • nothing
  • nothing
  • nothing

We have plenty of photos of him grinning and poking his thumb up in front of his gut though.

Michael A. McFaul, an ambassador to Moscow under President Barack Obama, called Mr. Trump’s reaction to the indictments “shockingly weak” and said he should instead have criticized Mr. Putin for violating American sovereignty or even announced plans to punish Moscow.

“Instead, he just focused on his own campaign,” Mr. McFaul said. “America was attacked, and our commander in chief said nothing in response. He looks weak, not only in Moscow but throughout the world.”

And not just weak; also indifferent, also self-absorbed and self-serving, also incompetent, also clueless, also reckless and irresponsible, also profoundly stupid.

Mr. Trump’s own aides readily acknowledge the reality that he does not. Besides describing Russian interference as undeniable on Saturday, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, said Mr. Mueller’s charges made clear that Russia had been engaged in a “sophisticated form of espionage” against the United States.

“With the F.B.I. indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” he said.

But the stuffed dummy at the top just keeps watching tv and paying sadistic hospital visits.

Smile, god damn it

Feb 17th, 2018 10:36 am | By

You in the bed, you too.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor