Notes and Comment Blog

The leaks are real but the news is fake

Feb 16th, 2017 12:28 pm | By

I just watched the last 40 minutes or so of Trump’s press conference. It was unbelievable. He’s always worse than it’s possible to imagine ahead of time. He’s incoherent – spasmodic – irascible – ignorant – boastful – truculent – prickly – vain – hyperbolic – absurd – mendacious of course – unctuous – clueless – childish –

I don’t see how anyone can watch him in action without wondering how in hell he managed to get the job he has and why we can’t kick him out right this second.

The Post has a transcript with annotations by Aaron Blake.

We have had great conversations with the United Kingdom, and meetings. Israel, Mexico, Japan, China and Canada, really, really productive conversations. I would say far more productive than you would understand.

He says that kind of thing a lot – you wouldn’t understand, you don’t know, you’re not involved. He understands less than almost anyone, yet he’s always turning it around that way. Dunning-Kruger on steroids.

I’m here following through on what I pledged to do. That’s all I’m doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn’t supposed to get 222. They said there’s no way to get 222, 230’s impossible.

270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes.

That’s exactly what he said yesterday to the Israeli journalist who asked what he would say to people worried about the surge in Antisemitism since the election. He’s obsessed with it.

We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It is’s disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.

Yeah I don’t know. No idea.

In response to a question he explained about Flynn and leaks and all that there.

As far as the general’s concerned, when I first heard about it, I said huh, that doesn’t sound wrong. My counsel came, Don McGahn, White House Counsel, and he told me and I asked him, he can speak very well for himself. He said he doesn’t think anything is wrong, you know, really didn’t think.

It was really, what happened after that but he didn’t think anything was done wrong. I didn’t either because I waited a period of time and I started to think about it, I said “well I don’t see” — to me, he was doing the job.

The information was provided by — who I don’t know, Sally Yates. And I was a little surprised because I said “doesn’t sound like he did anything wrong there.” But he did something wrong with respect to the vice president and I thought that was not acceptable. As far as — as far as the actual making the call, fact I’ve watched various programs and I’ve read various articles where he was just doing his job.

That was very normal. You know, first everybody got excited because they thought he did something wrong. After they thought about it, it turned out he was just doing his job. So — and I do. And by the way, with all of that being said, I do think he’s a fine man.


The reporter nudged him about the leaks.

Yes, we’re looking at them very — very, very serious. I’ve gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies and we’re — I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. They’re put out by people either in agencies — I think you’ll see it stopping because now we have our people in. You know, again, we don’t have our people in because we can’t get them approved by the Senate.

We just had Jeff Sessions approved. In justice, as an example (ph). So, we are looking into that very seriously. It’s a criminal act. You know what I say, when I — when I was called out on Mexico, I was shocked because all this equipment, all this incredible phone equipment — when I was called out on Mexico, I was — honestly, I was really, really surprised.

But I said “you know, it doesn’t make sense. That won’t happen” but that wasn’t that important a call, it was fine, I could show it to the world and he could show it to the world, the president who’s a very fine man, by the way. Same thing with Australia. I said “that’s terrible that it was leaked” but it wasn’t that important. But then I said to myself “what happens when I’m dealing with the problem of North Korea?”

Oh I’m glad you asked us that. What happens when you’re dealing with the problem of North Korea is that you do it in a public dining room at Mar-a-Lago while the people around you illuminate the documents with their phones. That’s what happens.

Them leaks though.

Well the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake. So one thing that I felt it was very important to do — and I hope we can correct it. Because there’s nobody I have more respect for — well, maybe a little bit but the reporters, good reporters.

It’s very important to me and especially in this position. It’s very important. I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true and, you know, over a course of time, I’ll make mistakes and you’ll write badly and I’m OK with that. But I’m not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.

I don’t watch it any more because it’s very good — he’s saying no. It’s OK, Jim (ph). It’s OK, Jim (ph), you’ll have your chance. But I watch others too. You’re not the only one so don’t feel badly. But I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting. I know how good everybody’s ratings are right now but I think that actually — I think that’d actually be better.

People — I mean, you have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that’s right. I don’t know, Peter (ph), is that one right? Because you know I think they have lower — I heard lower than Congress. But honestly, the public would appreciate it, I’d appreciate it — again, I don’t mind bad stories when it’s true but we have an administration where the Democrats are making it very difficult.

A reporter asked how it makes sense to say the leaks are real but the news is fake.

You know what it is? Here’s the thing. The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.

And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word “tone.” The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred.

I watched this morning a couple of the networks. And I have to say, Fox & Friends in the morning, they’re very honorable people. They’re very — not because they’re good, because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show. That’s all I can say. It’s the most honest.

But the tone, Jim. If you look — the hatred. The, I mean, sometimes — sometimes somebody gets…


TRUMP: Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth; the hatred coming from other people on your network.

Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it. And I just think you’d be a lot better off, I honestly do. The public gets it, you know. Look, when I go to rallies, they turn around, they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN. You know.

I — I think you would do much better by being different. But you just take a look. Take a look at some of your shows in the morning and the evening. If a guest comes out and says something positive about me, it’s — it’s brutal.

And why is that? It’s because he’s 1. a terrible human being and 2. totally unqualified to be president and incompetent at being president.

It’s true that the coverage is out of the ordinary – but there are reasons for that. The reasons have to do with Trump, not with the wickedness of the news media.

No, that’s how I won. I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I’m having a good time.

Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.” I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, “Donald Trump rants and raves.” I’m not ranting and raving.

Hahahahaha oh yes he was. He absolutely was ranting and raving.

Jim Acosta asks him if he doesn’t worry at all about undermining the free press.

Here’s the thing. OK. I understand what you’re — and you’re right about that, except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. And sometimes I’ll say, “Wow, that’s going to be a great story.” And I’ll get killed.

I know what’s good and bad. I’d be a pretty good reporter, not as good as you. But I know what’s good. I know what’s bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive — sometimes something that should be very positive, they’ll make OK. They’ll even make it negative.

So I understand it. So, because I’m there. I know what was said. I know who’s saying it. I’m there. So it’s very important to me.

Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right?

Of course, he had some questions also. But if you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me. But if you go – as an example, you’re CNN, I mean it’s story after story after story is bad. I won. I won. And the other thing, chaos because zero chaos. We are running – this is a fine-tuned machine and Reince happens to be doing a good job but half of his job is putting out lies by the press (ph).

That place where he says “I won, I won.” The paragraph should end there, because he did a dramatic pause there. He said “I won,” then a little pause, then more emphatically “I won!” with a wide accordion-gesture and a long pause. He said it meaningfully – as in, “I won, so what’s all this about saying I do bad things? How can the things be bad when I won?” He’s that stupid.

You know, I said to him yesterday this whole Russia scam that you guys are building so that you don’t talk about the real subject which is illegal leaks, but I watched him yesterday working so hard to try and get that story proper. And I’m saying “here’s my chief of staff,” a really good guy, did a phenomenal job at RNC. I mean, he won the election, right?

We won the presidency. We got some senators, we got some – all over the country, you take a look, he’s done a great job. And I said to myself, you know – and I said to somebody that was in the room, I said “you take a look at Reince, he’s working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires.” I mean, they’re fake. They’re not true. And isn’t that a shame because he’d rather be working on healthcare, he’d rather be working on tax reform, Jim (ph).

I mean that. I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right. I sort of understand there’s a certain bias maybe by Jeff (ph) or somebody, you know – you know, whatever reason. But – and I understand that. But you’ve got to be at least a little bit fair and that’s why the public sees it. They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred.

And the public is smart, they understand it.

That’s the president.

Andrew Jackson presiding

Feb 16th, 2017 9:53 am | By

Today in Donnie Disgusting:

So now we do diplomacy on Twitter, is that it? And what’s with the thumb? And why is he telling us this? And does he think he can do the whole thing one person at a time? Is this really what he thinks the job is – dispensing miraculous interventions to individual people by broadcasting their cases on Twitter?

Hmm. On the one hand Leopoldo Lopez is a political prisoner (politics unelucidated), on the other hand catch (and punish) the leakers. Unless they’re wikkyleeks and what they’re leaking is gossip about Hillary Clinton.

And that’s Today in Donnie Disgusting for now.

Persistence through obstacles, little lady

Feb 15th, 2017 4:42 pm | By


“Success depends on persistence through obstacles.” Well duh – success depends on persisting through for instance the obstacle of wanting to sit still and eat gelato instead of doing some sort of work. Obviously “success” depends on effort, which is what that fatuous banality boils down to. But does that mean some people should get lots of extra obstacles, so that they have to work much harder to persist through obstacles? No it fucking does not, and it’s only smug gits who aren’t subject to extra obstacles of that kind who can be smug enough say such stupid things.

Nobody should have to “persist” through the obstacle of an onslaught of messages telling her she is second rate, feeble, inferior, not good enough, stupid, a joke, there for other people’s sexual jollies, so ugly she should stay home, and fundamentally wrong and bad. That’s not like exercise equipment, it’s like a pool full of piranhas between her and what she’s trying to do.

He’s selling tickets

Feb 15th, 2017 3:58 pm | By

Not this again.

Very, very unfair

Feb 15th, 2017 12:40 pm | By

Trump is getting confused about his own story.

President Trump  criticized the intelligence community and the media Wednesday for the news reports that ultimately led to national security adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation Monday night, less than four weeks into his White House tenure.

“I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the ‘fake media,’ in many cases — and I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly,” Trump said at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked.”

Trump added that the leaks were a “criminal action, criminal act.”

Interesting – but then why did Donnie accept the resignation? Why didn’t he grab Flynn’s hand and jerk him back and forth a few times and say they were BFFs no matter what those lying Democrats said?

The president was responding to a question from the Christian Broadcasting Network about whether he thinks that recent reports concerning Russia — that Flynn misled government officials, including now-Vice President Pence, about conversations Flynn had with the Russian ambassador involving sanctions, as well as news that members of the Trump campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials — could undermine the goal of preventing a nuclear Iran.

His response, in which he defended Flynn as a “wonderful man,” added confusion to the White House’s account of Flynn’s dismissal and conflicted with his press secretary’s assertion that Trump fired Flynn.

“People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton,” Trump said. “I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated, and the documents and papers that were illegally — I stress that — illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.”

 So he’s confessing to having accepted Flynn’s resignation (or demanding it in the first place, or just plain firing him) by mistake. Awkward.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer emphasized that Trump asked Flynn to resign because he could no longer be trusted, particularly after misleading Pence about discussing with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak sanctions put in place by the Obama administration.

Well that was yesterday. I guess Donnie can’t be expected to remember that far back.

A cloud over the White House

Feb 15th, 2017 11:20 am | By

After Trump’s extended Twitter-diatribe, he took a break by meeting with Netanyahu and holding a joint press conference with him. He didn’t insult his guest by talking about issues important to Israel the whole time though.

President Trump lashed out at the nation’s intelligence agencies again on Wednesday, saying that his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was brought down by illegal leaks to the news media, on a day of new disclosures about the Trump camp’s dealings with Russia during and after the presidential campaign.

“From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked,” Mr. Trump said at a White House news conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel. “It’s a criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on. And people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.”

I’m sure Netanyahu was very pleased to be allowed to listen in on that conversation.

The Times on Wednesday* disclosed broader contacts between Russian intelligence officials and people with ties to the Trump campaign and Mr. Trump’s business empire during and after the campaign, and other news organizations followed with similar reports. The president declined to address that revelation and, as he has at other times in recent days, took questions at his news conference only from conservative news organizations, and ignored more challenging questions shouted to him as he left the podium.

So far, the White House has had little success in trying to shift the narrative from the Russian contacts to accusations about the leaking of sensitive information by the intelligence agencies, as well as by the F.B.I.


On Wednesday, Mr. Trump said on Twitter, “The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!”

The president also praised a column by Eli Lake of Bloomberg View, which criticized the selective leaking of intercepted communications between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak. Mr. Lake went on to suggest, however, that Mr. Flynn had been sacrificed to protect other officials, potentially including the president himself.

Well we can’t expect Trump to read an entire article all the way to the end.

Lindsey Graham has put out a statement saying this shit needs to be investigated.

Will he make it to five weeks?

Feb 15th, 2017 10:27 am | By

It appears that people in the Intelligence Community are getting increasingly anxious about Trump, so they’re talking to the Post and the Times more. The Post did a big late in the day drop on Monday, so yesterday it was the Times’s turn. CNN and MSNBC stayed up all night to discuss it.

Trump people talked to Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.

The IC people who talked to the Times declined to give important details, like which Trump people and what they talked about.

Trump of course is melting down, as conspicuously as possible.

Subtle, isn’t he.

Why would anybody care about covering up Clinton’s campaign mistakes now?

This from the guy who couldn’t praise Wikileaks enough during the campaign:

That’s just one of many; CNN showed a whole string of them last night. He loves “wikkyleeks.”

Wikkyleeks, dude. You love them.

When you’re the host

Feb 14th, 2017 5:39 pm | By

The hostility is a little too obvious with this one:

A bill advancing in Oklahoma would require a woman to get the written consent of the fetus’s father before obtaining an abortion.

The bill, which passed out of a House committee Tuesday, would also require a woman “to provide, in writing, the identity of the father of the fetus to the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion,” according to the bill’s language. “If the person identified as the father of the fetus challenges the fact that he is the father, such individual may demand that a paternity test be performed.”

The bill’s author, Rep. Justin Humphrey (R), could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

What’s the problem here? The father doesn’t gestate the fetus. That’s the problem here. It’s not his body that gets taken over for nine months. He doesn’t have the same kind of stake that she does. He may long for a baby, he may long for a baby far more than she does, but that has nothing to do with the fact that she is the one who has to share her body in order to make the baby.

It is because the woman does have to share her body in order to make the baby that the father must not have a veto power over her choice not to share her body, nor a right to force or compel her to share her body. His desire for a baby (gestated by someone else), however strong, cannot overrule someone else’s desire not to gestate a baby.

Humphrey says he gets all that “it’s her body” stuff – he just disagrees with it.

But in an interview with The Intercept earlier this month, Humphrey said that men should be able to have a say over the fate of a fetus, and suggested that a woman has greater responsibility in a relationship for preventing pregnancy because she would be the “host.”

“I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” he said. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

Not a problem he’ll ever have to deal with, is it. Easy for him to assume that women who get pregnant without wanting to are just “irresponsible” and that’s the end of it. Easy for him to assume that all pregnancies are “invited in.”

The solution is to look hard in the other direction

Feb 14th, 2017 4:54 pm | By

Oh, well, we can all relax, because everything’s fine. The people who know least about it say so, so what more do you want?!

Those silly excitable people who pay attention think it’s a massive dangerous clusterfuck, but that’s only because they pay attention. Paying attention is so elitist and coastal and wrong. Everybody should pay no attention and then we could all drink beer and watch football and be happy!

In record time, the 45th president has set off global outrage with a ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban and watched as federal courts swiftly moved to block the policy, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power.

The president has angrily canceled a summit meeting with the Mexican president, hung up on Australia’s prime minister, authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL member, repeatedly lied about the existence of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election and engaged in Twitter wars with senators, a sports team owner, a Hollywood actor and a major department store chain. His words and actions have generated almost daily protests around the country.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my lifetime about what may or may not happen in Washington,” said Leon Panetta, a Democrat who served as chief of staff, secretary of defense and C.I.A. director during a 50-year career that spanned nine presidents from both parties.

“I don’t know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt,” Mr. Panetta said in an interview on Tuesday. “You can do hit-and-miss stuff over a period of time. But at some point, I don’t give a damn what your particular sense of change is all about, you cannot afford to have change become chaos.”

Ah but you see he is badly handicapped by knowing so much about it. That completely distorts his thinking and makes him overlook Trump’s many accomplishments in the past 25 days.

Those accomplishments are catnip for the president’s most fervent supporters across the country, said Sarah Fagen, who served as a senior aide and political director for former President George W. Bush. The perspective on the White House is very different far outside the interstate freeway that rings Washington, she said.

“If you’re someone inside the Beltway, you think it’s been really rocky,” she said. “If you are outside the Beltway, you think, ‘That’s why we sent him there.’ There has been a lot of chaos and a lot of growing pains, but they have gotten a lot done.”

For sure. By the same token – if you know a lot about, say, dams, you might be worried about the Oroville dam and the people who live in the valley below it, but if you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away from the Oroville dam and never heard of it and couldn’t care less about it – why then you think everything’s fine! It works every time. Just be far far away geographically and know nothing at all about the object of worry, and hey-presto, you won’t worry about that thing.

Problem solved.


Feb 14th, 2017 4:22 pm | By

My Stealthy Freedom on Facebook:

First one is a picture for Trump where we (Swedish government) show that women are equal and important. Despite this picture, we also do not hesitate to show to the Iranian leader, with the second picture, that men are more equal and more important! We demonstrate that by not showing any opposition to the law of compulsory veil when visiting Iran.

Minister .@AnneLinde #Swedish female politician should confirm that.

We at My Stealthy Freedom believe that the female government officials should have also condemned an equally unfair situation in Iran. We would like to reiterate that we are not asking them to come and save Iranian women. We are merely asking them to stand their own ground and save themselves. Trump’s words on women are worthy of condemnation; so are the discriminatory laws in Iran.

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

The bumbling

Feb 14th, 2017 11:34 am | By

So much bumbling.

When Donald Trump ran for the White House, he insisted that his lack of experience in politics and his complete disdain for the details (or even the broad strokes) of policy were not only not a problem, they were a key reason why he’d be such a terrific president. The system needed to be shaken up, and it couldn’t be done by someone locked inside it.

This is inane. If you don’t like the way your mechanic is keeping your car running, you hire a better mechanic…

You don’t hire a pastry chef or a lawyer or a journalist. Incompetence and ignorance and lack of qualifications do not automatically combine into the ideal person to improve an imperfect government.

As the New York Times reports Monday, National Security Council staff “get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.” Then there’s this:

Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates.

Well I’m sure he knew how to look it up in the manual. There is a manual, isn’t there?

The truth is that no president has ever needed an experienced, capable staff more than this one. Trump’s own ignorance and lack of concern about policy and the bureaucratic details of governing meant that he came into office incapable of offering his staff clear direction on both what they should do and how things should run. In that vacuum, he needed people who could execute policy with a minimum of bumbling, and that takes at least some who understand the system.

Instead, he stocked the upper echelon of his staff with people without any government experience. Look at his closest advisers. Bannon was in the Navy in the 1970s and 1980s, but otherwise has never worked in government. Reince Priebus has never worked in government. Jared Kushner has never worked in government. Kellyanne Conway has never worked in government. Miller has worked in Congress, but not in the executive branch. The Cabinet, too, is filled with officials who have no government experience.

The result is an administration interested in “disruption” which in practice is going to create a lot of destruction.

Destruction is what they want – “starve the beast.”

Then there are the leaks.

Leakers have told reporters that Trump watches huge amounts of cable news, that he called Flynn in the middle of the night so Flynn could clarify whether it’s better to have a strong dollar or a weak dollar, that he interrupted a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin so someone could explain to him what the New START treaty was, that he was unaware that an executive order he signed had put Bannon on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council, that he threatened to send troops into Mexico in pursuit of “bad hombres,” and that he demands that briefing papers be kept to “a single page, with lots of graphics and maps,” among other things.

While Trump’s top advisers go on television and describe him as a kind of living god with infallible judgment and superhuman accomplishments (“We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration,” said Miller on Sunday), those a level or two below are rushing to the media to warn that their boss is a complete nincompoop.

We know. We can tell.

We don’t need plumbers

Feb 14th, 2017 10:46 am | By

The view from across the pond:

Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, said Mr Flynn’s resignation was a “troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus” and raises questions about Mr Trump’s intentions towards Russia.

Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican member of the Senate intelligence committee, called for an investigation into any alleged connections between Mr Trump and Russian officials.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranked Senate Republican leader, echoed calls for an investigation into Mr Flynn’s ties to Russia.

Meanwhile, US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told reporters on Tuesday he wants to investigate the leaks that led to Mr Flynn’s resignation.

McCain, Blunt, and Cornyn have it right; Nunes has it wrong. Investigate the love affair with Russia, not “the leaks.” The leaks exposed bad, criminal, perhaps treasonous activities. We need the leaks. Trump doesn’t get to do bad shit as long as he can keep it secret. We don’t want him doing bad shit.

Senior Democrat Adam Schiff said Mr Flynn’s departure would not end questions about contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Congressional democrats John Conyers and Elijah Cummings have demanded a classified briefing to Congress on Michael Flynn by the justice department and FBI.

“We in Congress need to know who authorised his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks,” their statement said.

Several House Democrats had already called on Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz to launch an investigation into Mr Flynn’s ties to Russia.

And Trump’s, please.

Flynn acted alone, and I’m Marie of Rumania

Feb 14th, 2017 10:20 am | By

And then there’s the whole Bigger Picture question.

The Trumpies are (of course) presenting this as shock-horror, this one guy lied to us. Please. He did what he was told, and then they pushed him onto his sword. The really surprising part is their bumbling – their failure to realize the Russian ambassador’s phone is bugged.

Ryan Lizza calls the Flynn/administration story self-serving and dubious, and reminds us of the chronology.

Almost immediately after Obama made his sanctions announcement, on December 29th, expelling thirty-five Russian diplomats and closing down two Russian compounds, the Russian government made clear that Putin would retaliate in kind.

“We, of course, cannot leave unanswered the insults of the kind, reciprocity is the law of diplomacy and foreign relations,” the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during televised remarks in Russia. “Thus, the Russian Foreign Ministry and officials of other authorities have suggested the Russian President to announce thirty-one personnel of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the Consulate General in St. Petersburg persona non grata.” Lavrov also said that he had recommended the closure of two U.S. facilities used by American diplomats.

Lavrov’s spokesman said similar things, and so did Putin’s press secretary. Then nothing happened. Then something different happened.

On Friday, December 30th, early in the morning in the United States (the afternoon in Moscow), an official statement from Putin was posted on the Kremlin’s Web site. “Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration,” the statement said. “We will not create any problems for US diplomats. We will not expel anyone.”

A few hours later, Trump celebrated the decision. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” he tweeted.

Why…goodness me, Spanky, could there have been phone calls in between those two items?

What happened between Obama’s statement on Thursday and Putin’s statement on Friday to change the Russian government’s response? This is the period when Flynn and the Russian Ambassador exchanged a flurry of communications, including, we now know with certainty, discussions about the Obama Administration’s sanctions. Before the Post confirmed with nine officials that Flynn had discussed sanctions on those calls, both Vice-President Mike Pence and Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, denied that Flynn had. The White House would like this to be a story about Flynn lying to them.

But now Flynn is gone, and there are some bigger unresolved questions. Did Trump instruct Flynn to discuss a potential easing of sanctions with Russia? Did Flynn update Trump on his calls with the Russian Ambassador? Did Trump know that Flynn lied to Pence about those contacts? What did the White House counsel do with the information that he received from Yates about Flynn being vulnerable to blackmail?

What did he know and when did he know it.

I doubt the Republicans can bury this.

Lying Flynn keeps on lying

Feb 14th, 2017 9:35 am | By

The Times account of Flynn’s belated expulsion.

Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Flynn, who served in the job for less than a month, said he had given “incomplete information” regarding a telephone call he had with the ambassador in late December about American sanctions against Russia, weeks before President Trump’s inauguration.

Please. He lied. He didn’t “mislead”; he didn’t give “incomplete information”; he lied.

“I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way,” Mr. Flynn wrote.

But it wasn’t in a distinguished way, was it. It was in a lying, chickenshit, and don’t forget incompetent way. It was probably in a treasonous way.

The F.B.I. had been examining Mr. Flynn’s phone calls as he came under growing questions about his interactions with Russian officials and his management of the National Security Council. The blackmail risk envisioned by the Justice Department would have stemmed directly from Mr. Flynn’s attempt to cover his tracks with his bosses. The Russians knew what had been said on the call; thus, if they wanted Mr. Flynn to do something, they could have threatened to expose the lie if he refused.

The Justice Department’s warning to the White House was first reported on Monday night by The Washington Post.

That Post story was so startling that I actually delayed slamming the laptop closed for the day to share it here. It reminded me of when Woodward and Bernstein shared their scoop.

Flynn’s lying is habitual.

Few members of Mr. Trump’s team were more skeptical of Mr. Flynn than the vice president, numerous administration officials said. Mr. Pence, who used the false information provided by Mr. Flynn to defend him in a series of television appearances, was incensed at Mr. Flynn’s lack of contrition for repeatedly embarrassing him by withholding the information, according to three administration officials familiar with the situation.

Mr. Flynn and Mr. Pence spoke twice in the past few days about the matter, but administration officials said that rather than fully apologize and accept responsibility, the national security adviser blamed his faulty memory — which irked the typically slow-to-anger Mr. Pence.

The slight was compounded by an episode late last year when Mr. Pence went on television to deny that Mr. Flynn’s son, who had posted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton on social media, had been given a security clearance by the transition team. The younger Mr. Flynn had, indeed, been given such a clearance, even though his father had told Mr. Pence’s team that he had not.

Oh really. I remember that back-and-forth. I think I too took their (Flynn’s, it turns out) word for it that Flynn Junior hadn’t been given a security clearance.

What a bunch of skeeves.

The real story

Feb 14th, 2017 8:39 am | By

Donnie admits what a fuckup it was and unreservedly apologizes and promises to do better.


Feb 14th, 2017 8:29 am | By

Good morning.

The plot curdles

Feb 13th, 2017 6:09 pm | By

Well this could get interesting. The Washington Post about 45 minutes ago:

The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.

The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.

In other words…Flynn lied about the calls, and the Feds know it.

U.S. intelligence reports during the 2016 presidential campaign showed that Kislyak was in touch with Flynn, officials said. Communications between the two continued after Trump’s victory on Nov. 8, according to officials with access to intelligence reports on the matter.

Kislyak, in a brief interview with The Post, confirmed having contacts with Flynn before and after the election, but he declined to say what was discussed.

For Yates and other officials, concerns about the communications peaked in the days after the Obama administration on Dec. 29 announced measures to punish Russia for what it said was the Kremlin’s interference in the election to help Trump.

After the sanctions were rolled out, the Obama administration braced itself for the Russian retaliation. To the surprise of many U.S. officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Dec. 30 that there would be no response. Trump praised the decision on Twitter.

Intelligence analysts began to search for clues that could help explain Putin’s move. The search turned up Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general with years of intelligence experience.

Emphasis added. The FBI routinely monitors Kislyak’s phone conversations. If Flynn lied about what he said in those conversations, the FBI knows he did, and has the evidence that he did. If Flynn told Kislyak not to sweat the sanctions, the FBI knows that – and apparently told Sally Yates that when she was Acting AG.

From that call and subsequent intercepts, FBI agents wrote a secret report summarizing ­Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak.

Yates, then the deputy attorney general, considered Flynn’s comments in the intercepted call to be “highly significant” and “potentially illegal,” according to an official familiar with her thinking.

So there’s that.

The Russians hacked the election, Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for doing that, Flynn told Russia not to bother about it because the Trump admin would make everything fine for the people who helped him steal the election. The FBI knows all this.

Scuzzy enough yet?

Read the whole thing – there are more details.

President Caddyshack

Feb 13th, 2017 4:31 pm | By

Commentary on the open-air situation room:

“Now you’ve got some pretty good pictures — the prime minister of Japan, and the president.”

That’s President Trump, crashing a wedding party at his Mar-a-Lago club on Saturday night, immediately after holding a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to address North Korea’s firing of a missile, which flew 310 miles before dropping into the Sea of Japan. The news conference took place after Mr. Trump held a meeting with Mr. Abe and their entourages out in the open in the club dining terrace, examining documents and talking on a commercial cellphone as guests drifted by and took photos, servers reached over the papers to deposit the entree, and Mike Flynn, his national security adviser, held up his phone, on flashlight setting, so everybody could get a good look.

Mike Flynn did that – that’s a new item (to me). He’s military…wouldn’t you think he’d be just a little security conscious? After all those years?

It apparently never occurred to Mr. Trump, Mr. Flynn or Steve Bannon, another member of the National Security Council, who also trained his cellphone on the paperwork, that holding a cellphone camera over these documents might allow foreign adversaries and hackers to get “some pretty good pictures,” too. Cellphones aren’t allowed even in secured areas of the White House. Yet there they all were, playing Situation Room in the open air, for a random crowd in Palm Beach, Fla.

Well Trump removed most of the adults from the National Security Council…but still. I would have expected basic precautions. Silly me.

Mr. Trump’s big weekend generated lots of Facebook and Twitter posts: the president holding a young woman around the waist, flashing a lecherous thumbs-up; vamping with a bevy of fuchsia-clad bridesmaids; posing in his golf togs with another group of women. And then there’s the video of his wedding “toast” to the happy couple. Of course, the wedding was of the son of a big-dollar political donor, a longtime Mar-a-Lago member who, Mr. Trump said, has “paid me a fortune,” according to CNN.

One must wonder how Rick, Mr. Abe or his diplomatic entourage felt as they were dragged like pull toys through Mr. Trump’s club, props in his bizarre and potentially dangerous effort to show off.

Disgusted and bewildered, is my guess.

One would think leadership of the free world would have scratched Mr. Trump’s itch for publicity. But this is the man who called reporters using a fake name to generate stories about himself; who introduced a member of one of his clubs to a Golf Digest reporter as “the richest guy in Germany,” instead of by name; who looks pained when having to share the podium with anyone, from Sarah Palin to the prime minister of Canada. This is rule by Al Czervik, Rodney Dangerfield’s character in “Caddyshack”: a reckless, clownish boor surrounded by sycophants, determined to blow up all convention. But this is real life, and every time Mr. Trump strikes a pose, the rest of the world holds its breath.

Oh well – it’s only nukes.

The open-air situation room

Feb 13th, 2017 4:02 pm | By

The Chicago Tribune on Trump’s idiotic recklessness:

Richard DeAgazio was already seated for dinner, on the Mar-A-Lago Club’s terrace, when President Trump entered with the Prime Minister of Japan on Saturday night. The crowd – mostly paying members of Trump’s private oceanfront club in Palm Beach, Fla. – stood to applaud. The president’s party sat about six tables away.

Then, DeAgazio – a retired investor who joined Mar-A-Lago three months ago – got a text from a friend. North Korea had just test-fired a ballistic missile, which it claimed could carry a nuclear warhead. DeAgazio looked over at the president’s table.

“That’s when I saw things changing, you know,” DeAgazio recalled in a telephone interview with the Washington Post on Monday. He said a group of staffers surrounded the two world leaders: “The prime minister’s staff sort of surrounded him, and they had a little pow-wow.”

What was happening – as first reported by CNN – was an extraordinary moment, as Trump and Abe turned their dinner table into an open-air situation room. Aides and translators surrounded the two leaders as other diners chatted and gawked around them, with staffers using the flashlights on their cellphones to illuminate documents on the darkened outdoor terrace.

An open-air situation room populated by members of a golf club, and their guests, and servers, and an alligator or two.

The scene of their discussion, Trump’s club, has been called “The Winter White House” by the president’s aides. But it is very different than the actual White House, where security is tight and people coming in are tightly screened. Trump’s club, by contrast, has hundreds of paying members who come and go, and it can be rented out for huge galas and other events open to non-members. On the night of the North Korea launch, for instance, there was a wedding reception going on: CNN reported that Trump dropped by, with Abe in tow.

What better place to discuss a security crisis? Well I suppose there’s Wal-Mart, but apart from that…

DeAgazio told the Post that, after Trump and Abe had spoken for a few minutes, they left the open terrace and spent about 10 minutes in private before conducting a joint press conference at about 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. Later, he said that Trump and First Lady Melania Trump had returned to listen to music on the terrace – which faces the Intracoastal Waterway – and shake hands and speak with club members.

DeAgazio said he’d been impressed with how the president had handled the situation.

“There wasn’t any panicked look. Most of the people [on the terrace] didn’t even realize what was happening,” DeAgazio said. “I thought he handled it very calmly, and very presidentially.”

Security experts have said this casual approach to national security discussions was very risky.

The two leaders could have discussed classified documents within earshot of waiters and club patrons. Those cellphones-turned-flashlights might also have been a problem: if one of them had been hacked by a foreign power, the phone’s camera could have provided a view of what the documents said.

But DeAgazio, for one, said he was impressed that Trump had not gotten up from the table immediately, to seek a more private (and better-lit) place for his discussion with Abe.

“He chooses to be out on the terrace, with the members. It just shows that he’s a man of the people,” DeAgazio said.

Membership at the Mar-a-Lago Club now requires a $200,000 initiation fee — a fee that increased by $100,000 after Trump was elected.

Salt of the earth. Trump is a man of the people. A crowded restaurant is an excellent place for two heads of state to discuss a security crisis. It all makes sense.


Trump likes showing off his new gig

Feb 13th, 2017 3:41 pm | By

The Times has more on Trump’s dinner with Abe and a few hundred of his closest friends.

President Trump and his top aides coordinated their response to North Korea’s missile test on Saturday night in full view of diners at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida — a remarkable, public display of presidential activity that is almost always conducted in highly secure settings.

The scene — of aides huddled over their computers and the president on his cellphone at his club’s terrace — was captured by a club member dining not far away and published in pictures on his Facebook account. The images also show Mr. Trump conferring with his guest at the resort, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister.

Well it could have been worse. They could have gone to Olive Garden or Applebee’s.

The fact that the national security incident was playing out in public view drew swift condemnation from some Democrats, who said it was irresponsible for Mr. Trump not to have moved his discussion to a more private location.

“There’s no excuse for letting an international crisis play out in front of a bunch of country club members like dinner theater,” Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, said in a Twitter message.

Discussions about how to respond to international incidents involving adversaries like North Korea are almost always conducted in places that have high-tech protections against eavesdropping, like the White House Situation Room. When presidents are away from the White House, they often conduct important business in a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility,” or SCIF, a location that can be made temporarily impervious to eavesdropping.

Mr. Trump and his White House aides who joined him for dinner, including Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, did not relocate the discussion to such a facility.

It’s like this. They were hungry, see? The steak and baked potatoes had just arrived, and they didn’t want to wait to dive in. They’re people too you know.

The president’s dinner with Mr. Abe was also a departure.

Mr. Trump’s predecessors have almost always held such working dinners in private facilities. In 2013, former President Barack Obama held a dinner with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands resort in Palm Springs, Calif. But the dinner between the leaders was out of sight of members of the public.

But Mr. Trump appears to enjoy presenting the spectacle of his presidency to those at his privately held club, where members pay $200,000 to join. While the club is not open to the public, Mr. Trump’s dinner with Mr. Abe was in the club’s dining room, where any member or their guests were likely to be.

But they had to pay 20 grand to be there, or at least be the guests of people who paid 20 grand to be there. Obviously those people are not going to be agents of North Korea. That’s biologically impossible, or something.

But seriously – I want to know why Trump is not being boiled in oil over this.