Notes and Comment Blog

A widening probe

Jun 14th, 2017 4:29 pm | By

There it is.

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

But Trump tried to put the arm on Comey so now that’s being investigated. Ironic, isn’t it. If he hadn’t done that, maybe the investigation would have proceeded without ever looking at him.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Five people briefed on the requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.

At least we know he doesn’t get infinite leeway.

The White House now refers all questions about the Russia investigation to Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz. “The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz.

Meh. He works for us, and he keeps snapping his fingers in our face. I say we have a right to know about this.

The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has now taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.

The interviews suggest Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a “he said, he said” dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.

I would hope so. It should be a very big deal indeed.

Officials said one of the exchanges of potential interest to Mueller took place on March 22, less than a week after Coats was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official.

Coats was attending a briefing at the White House with officials from several other government agencies. When the briefing ended, as The Washington Post previously reported, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Coats told associates that Trump had asked him whether Coats could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. Coats later told lawmakers that he never felt pressured to intervene.

A day or two after the March 22 meeting, Trump telephoned Coats and Rogers to separately ask them to issue public statements denying the existence of any evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president’s requests, officials said.

Again, he emptied the room – so he knew what he was doing was not ok.

Investigators will also look for any statements the president may have made publicly and privately to people outside the government about his reasons for firing Comey and his concerns about the Russia probe and other related investigations, people familiar with the matter said.

Well there’s the one he made to Lester Holt on national tv.

Our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace

Jun 14th, 2017 3:42 pm | By

The Times has updated news on the Alexandria shootings.

Local officers arrived minutes after they received desperate calls for help, including from those still under siege at the field, the authorities said. The F.B.I. said it would take the lead in the investigation, treating it as an assault on a federal officer.

Too bad the FBI is shorthanded right now…

The shooting stunned the capital as it began its workday. Out of caution, officials quickly put in place a “robust police presence throughout the Capitol complex,” and the Secret Service added security around the White House.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan addressed his colleagues in the House chamber shortly after noon, saying the body was united in its shock and anguish. “We do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber,” Mr. Ryan said, his voice seeming to nearly break at times. “For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family.”

Actually, though, Mr Speaker, you kind of do. You kind of do shed your humanity when you enter that chamber. If you didn’t you wouldn’t pass the legislation you do.

Mr. Trump came to the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House after the shooting and said, “We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.”

Again, no, I don’t think so. I think it’s a nice piety but it’s not true. Many who serve in the capital are there because they love money and rich people and a system that rewards rich people at the expense of everyone else. I don’t see why I should assume that’s either synonymous with or compatible with loving the country.

“We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are stronger when we are unified, and when we work together for the common good,” the president said.

Maybe we can all agree to that, but we obviously can’t then go on to putting it into practice. And can we all agree that Donald Trump is the right person to tell us “that we are stronger when we are unified, and when we work together for the common good”? No, we can’t, because I can’t. Donald Trump spits on unity every time he opens his mouth or presses the keys with his thumbs.

Also, if our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, it’s too bad the National Rifle Association has such a stranglehold on the entire government.


Jun 14th, 2017 12:04 pm | By

Meanwhile twelve people are known to have died so far in a horrific fire in a London block of flats. The number of deaths is expected to rise.

Firefighters rescued 65 people from Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, after they were called at 00:54 BST.

Eyewitnesses said people were trapped in tower block, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved.

Policing and fire minister Nick Hurd said checks are now planned on similar tower blocks.

Claire Heald reports from the scene.

Fire crews are fewer, police remain in force. The local MP has been. NHS workers, counsellors, volunteers come and go.

You hear snatched conversations – who is missing, who has news? And wails and crying.

I talked to carers who worked in the tower – and were swapping anecdotes about the clients with limited mobility, agoraphobia even, or multiple children who they know would have struggled to manage escape.

Some are really angry and have questions – whether they’re talking about inequality in London’s richest borough, or cladding and fire stairs.

I read somewhere that the cladding, which was added in a recent renovation, was to make the tower more attractive to the rich neighbors. Grenfell Tower isn’t a posh block of condos, it’s council flats.

The Guardian talked to an expert:

“A disaster waiting to happen,” is how the architect and fire expert Sam Webb describes hundreds of tower blocks across the UK, after the fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington that has left at least six people dead. “We are still wrapping postwar high-rise buildings in highly flammable materials and leaving them without sprinkler systems installed, then being surprised when they burn down.”

Webb surveyed hundreds of residential tower blocks across the country in the early 1990s and presented a damning report to the Home Office, which revealed that more than half of the buildings didn’t meet basic fire safety standards. He said: “We discovered a widespread breach of safety, but we were simply told nothing could be done because it would ‘make too many people homeless’.

“I really don’t think the building industry understands how fire behaves in buildings and how dangerous it can be. The government’s mania for deregulation means our current safety standards just aren’t good enough.”

If you look at video of the fire it’s absolutely horrifying – the tower is blazing as if it were a torch soaked in gasoline.

Webb advised the legal team for the families in the case of the last major tower block blaze in London, in July 2009, when a fire raged through Lakanal House, a 14-storey block built in 1958 in Camberwell, south-east London. Six people were killed, among them two children and a baby, when a fire caused by a faulty television in a ninth-floor home gutted the building.

An inquest into the deaths found the fire spread unexpectedly fast, both laterally and vertically, trapping people in their homes, with the exterior cladding panels burning through in just four and a half minutes. As with Grenfell Tower, the official advice was for people to remain in their homes in the event of a blaze. The inquest concluded that years of botched renovations had removed fire-stopping material between flats and communal corridors, allowing a blaze to spread, and that the problem was not picked up in safety inspections carried out by Southwark council. The council was investigated over possible corporate manslaughter charges, but eventually fined £570,000 under fire safety laws.

This is London. Not Lagos, not Dhaka, not New Orleans, but London.

There was so much gunfire, you couldn’t get up and run

Jun 14th, 2017 11:22 am | By

And now this.

A lone gunman opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in a Washington suburb Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck five people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives.

The first I knew of it was a Facebook post by a friend wondering wtf just happened in the park a block from where he lives. A torrent of gunfire, it sounded like. It turned out that’s exactly what it was.

The suspect was killed.

Law enforcement authorities identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis.

Two members of Mr. Scalise’s protective police detail were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with the gunman in what other lawmakers described as a chaotic, terror-filled ten minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. The police said two of the five people were critically wounded.

That’s what my friend heard. Not a joke, not a hoax, not practice with blanks.

The authorities said the Capitol Police and local officers arrived minutes after they received desperate calls for help from those under siege at the field. The F.B.I. said the bureau would take the lead in the investigation, treating it as an assault on a federal officer.

Witnesses described a man with white hair and a beard wielding a long gun standing behind the dugout.

“He was hunting us at that point,” said Representative Mike Bishop, Republican of Michigan, who was standing at home plate when the shooting began at 7:09 a.m.

Mr. Bishop said the gunman had seemed to be “double-tapping” the trigger of his weapon. “There was so much gunfire, you couldn’t get up and run,” he said. “Pop, pop, pop, pop — it’s a sound I’ll never forget.”

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was among the lawmakers practicing for an annual charity baseball game Thursday, told CNN that “the field was basically a killing field — it’s really sick and very sad.”

Hodgkinson was a Sanders supporter.

CNN reported on April 28th:

On the eve of his 100th day in office, President Donald Trump used a speech at the National Rifle Association to help renew his standing among a conservative base that’s wary after watching the President reverse course on a series of campaign promises.

Trump declared that an “eight-year assault” on gun ownership rights had come to a “crashing end” with his election.

I wonder if Alex Jones will be saying this was a conspiracy by people who want stricter gun laws.

It’s all so easy

Jun 13th, 2017 5:22 pm | By

Gwyneth Paltrow is still doing her home-made medical consultation thing. There was a GOOP health expo in LA last weekend.

Jen Gunter has some objections, starting with another tweet by Amy Kaufman perhaps now deleted, that said “try magnesium instead of antibiotics, unless life threatening.” Yeah that doesn’t sound any more right than “don’t eat” or “one ibuprofen blows a huge hole in your gut.”

Magnesium in lieu of antibiotics, you know, unless it’s life-threatening. This tweet concerned a lot of medical people who saw it.

A member of Dr. Meyer’s team has since reached out by way of the comment section to clarify that the person reporting “misheard or misremembered Dr. Myers’ comments.” You can see the comment below. I have amended some of the post below to reflect that assertion, but I have also asked for a transcript.

If it is true that the comment about magnesium is not a correct recounting of Dr. Meyers’ talk that does speak to how clarity is important at these kinds of events. By several accounts the medical information seemed unclear and contradictory. For example, Meyers’ representative states she said “it is wise to do a risk benefit analysis before deciding whether or not to take a course of antibiotics.” How could you possibly translate that message in a meaningful way to an audience in a tent? Might some people think that means you shouldn’t take antibiotics unless you are really sick? Clearly someone thought that was what Meyers meant. Messages about antibiotics need more nuance than those about tomatoes (apparently a lecture on how tomatoes will kill you was followed by a meal with tomatoes). When there is so much fear mongering how could there not be confusion? Detailed medical information can be confusing even at a medical conference where doctors are the only audience.

It is important for everyone to know that taking magnesium for infections unless things are life-threatening is the medical equivalent of saying it’s okay to play in traffic just avoid the really big trucks so I am very clad to hear that Dr. Meyers would not treat infections with magnesium.

But as for autoimmune diseases…

However, I am still curious though how Dr. Amy Meyers learned how to reverse autoimmune diseases with a six-week course and one easy payment of $297!

I hope they throw in a free pair of detox socks.

23 million people

Jun 13th, 2017 4:23 pm | By

The Senate is still huddled in its reeking cave working on its Top Secret annul health care bill that no one will have time to read before it’s passed.

A coterie of Republicans is planning to have the Senate vote before July 4 on a bill that could take health insurance away from up to 23 million people and make changes to the coverage of millions of others. And they are coming up with the legislation behind closed doors without holding hearings, without consulting lawmakers who disagree with them and without engaging in any meaningful public debate.

Well naturally. When you’re fucking over 23 million people you don’t do it where they can see you.

There is no mystery why the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is trying to push this bill through quickly. The legislation would repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Opening it to scrutiny before a vote would be the congressional equivalent of exposing a vampire to sunlight.

That is one mistake Mr. McConnell, a master of the Senate’s dark arts, is not about to make. As one Republican aide put it to Axios on Monday, “We aren’t stupid.”

Just evil.

Mr. McConnell’s strategy belies the disingenuous Republican complaint that Democrats jammed the A.C.A., or Obamacare, into law in 2010 without sufficient analysis or discussion. The Republican effort to undo the A.C.A. bears no resemblance whatsoever to that much more thorough exercise. Congress and the Obama administration spent a year on health care reform from March 2009 to March 2010. The House and Senate came up with several competing bills, held dozens of hearings, accepted Republican amendments and spent countless hours soliciting feedback from public interests groups and the health care industry. The Congressional Budget Office produced several reports to analyze the various proposals and the legislation that ultimately became law.

That’s because the Democrats are elitists. The populist thing to do is just force it on people under cloak of darkness.

Something we can do:

Here is a red alert from Move-On: Behind the scenes the Senate version of Trumpcare has been completed and the plan is to keep it secret until a few hours before calling for a vote with no town halls, no public forums, and immediately after the CBO score is released so there is no time to digest it.
They only need 50 votes to pass it, it can’t be filibustered and Pence can break a tie. At this point there are only 2 Republican Senators who will vote against it. We need one more.
If you know someone who lives in the following states with Republican Senators encourage them to call every day and “Blow up the phone lines”: Alaska; Maine; Tennessee; West Virginia; Louisiana; Arkansas; Arizona; Nevada; Colorado; Ohio. We have about 2 weeks.
Capitol Switchboard: 202 224-3121.

Shan’t tell you

Jun 13th, 2017 3:44 pm | By

Sessions is stonewalling.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered an indignant defense on Tuesday against what he called “an appalling and detestable lie” that he may have colluded with the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election, showcasing his loyalty to President Trump in an often contentious Senate hearing but declining to answer central questions about his or the president’s conduct.

Sounding by turns defiant and wounded, Mr. Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, often infused his testimony with more emotion than specifics. He insisted repeatedly that it would be “inappropriate” to discuss his private conversations with the president, however relevant they might be, visibly frustrating senators who have been conducting their own inquiry into Russia’s election meddling.

This isn’t a cotillion, it’s a Senate hearing. It would not be “inappropriate” to tell the legislators and the people what the fuck these thieves and traitors have been getting up to.

Yet at times, Mr. Sessions seemed committed to revealing as little information as possible, particularly about his interactions with the president. Pressed on his rationale, Mr. Sessions allowed that Mr. Trump had not invoked executive privilege concerning the testimony of his attorney general.

“I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses,” Mr. Sessions said.

As many people have sharply pointed out, Sessions doesn’t get executive privilege. It applies only to the president. The worm from Alabama is just refusing to tell the government and citizens what he’s been doing, as if he were the dictator’s lieutenant-dictator.

This is basically a junta.

Amazing, miraculous, resplendent, stupefying

Jun 13th, 2017 11:13 am | By

No automatic alt text available.

Women don’t get to count as human

Jun 13th, 2017 10:50 am | By

Sarah Ditum asks why abortion rights are brushed aside while LGBT rights are front and center in discussions about the Tory-DUP coalition.

[S]enior politicians were making it clear that the DUP’s regressive social agenda would be staying in Stormont. Same sex marriages remain unrecognised in Northern Ireland, and the 1967 Abortion Act (which permits abortion under certain conditions in England, Scotland and Wales) still doesn’t apply there. The DUP has blocked legislative efforts at liberalisation on both counts.

Over the weekend Ruth Davidson, the Conservative’s leader in Scotland, demanded – and got – assurances from Theresa May that LGBT rights would not be up for debate. Soon after, Jeremy Corbyn gave an interview in which he declared: “LGBT rights are human rights. They must not be sold out by Theresa May and the Conservatives as they try to cling to power with the DUP.”

But abortion rights? Nope.

So how come our political defenders of socially liberal values aren’t talking about it now? If LGBT rights are human rights, do women count as human?

Here’s the cynical answer. It’s also the answer that I think happens to be true. Women don’t get to count as human. LGBT rights are human rights because they affect men too. Women’s rights – well they only affect women, and don’t merit any special protections. It’s a particularly bitter disappointment that women like Theresa May, Arlene Foster and Ruth Davidson can enjoy the fruits of equality through their own positions without defending the reproductive choice that is the cornerstone of liberation for women.

Women just don’t matter as much.

No need to hire a lawyer yet

Jun 13th, 2017 10:25 am | By

It’s tricky, having a private lawyer working out of the White House.

Marc E. Kasowitz, a New York civil litigator who represented President Trump for 15 years in business and boasts of being called the toughest lawyer on Wall Street, has suddenly become the field marshal for a White House under siege. He is a personal lawyer for the president, not a government employee, but he has been talking about establishing an office in the White House complex where he can run his legal defense.

His visits to the White House have raised questions about the blurry line between public and private interests for a president facing legal issues. In recent days, Mr. Kasowitz has advised White House aides to discuss the inquiry into Russia’s interference in last year’s election as little as possible, two people involved said. He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary, according to another person with direct knowledge.

Such conversations between a private lawyer for the president and the government employees who work for his client are highly unusual, according to veterans of previous administrations. Mr. Kasowitz bypassed the White House Counsel’s Office in having these discussions, according to one person familiar with the talks, who, like others, requested anonymity to discuss internal matters. And concerns about Mr. Kasowitz’s role led at least two prominent Washington lawyers to turn down offers to join the White House staff.

He’s representing Trump, so WH aides shouldn’t be consulting him about anything, because his advice won’t necessarily be in their interests.

Mr. Kasowitz has been central to Mr. Trump’s recent legal battles, helping his client keep divorce records sealed and representing him in the Trump University fraud lawsuit, in which Mr. Trump ultimately agreed to pay $25 million to settle claims from former students that the institution had cheated them out of tuition money.

In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Mr. Kasowitz threatened to sue The New York Times for libel on Mr. Trump’s behalf over a story in which two women accused Mr. Trump of inappropriate touching years earlier. No lawsuit has been filed. A decade earlier, however, Mr. Kasowitz followed through on a similar threat, suing Timothy O’Brien, a Trump biographer and former reporter and editor for The Times, for libel and alleging that he had understated Mr. Trump’s net worth. That suit was dismissed by a New Jersey Superior Court judge.

He almost sounds more like an enforcer than a lawyer.

As for Mr. Kasowitz’s conversations with presidential aides, the White House Counsel’s Office typically supervises such discussions to make sure the aides understand their rights and do not feel pressured to help a lawyer who does not represent their interests, legal experts said. The counsel’s involvement is all the more critical in this case, they said, because many of the aides — potential witnesses in the government’s inquiry — do not currently have personal lawyers.

Mr. Kasowitz’s advice to administration staff may benefit the president more than the aides themselves, the experts said. The conversations he has with aides could shape their testimony before Mr. Mueller has a chance to interview them, should they be called as witnesses.

Staff are expendable. The Prince must be protected.

Partly because of concerns that Mr. Kasowitz is undermining the White House Counsel’s Office, at least two veteran Washington lawyers — Emmet Flood, a partner at Williams & Connolly, and William A. Burck, a partner at Quinn Emanuel — rejected offers to join the counsel’s office to help represent the administration in the Russia inquiry, according to people familiar with the hiring discussions, although they may yet represent individual White House officials.

Other noted criminal defense lawyers have similarly rejected offers to join Mr. Trump’s private legal team because of a range of uncertainties, including how much control Mr. Kasowitz exercises over his client, whether their advice would be secondary to his and whether Mr. Trump would pay legal bills. Besides Mr. Kasowitz, Mr. Trump’s personal legal team includes his partner, Michael J. Bowe, and Jay Sekulow, a Washington lawyer who specializes in free speech and religious liberties.

Emphasis added. It’s either funny or horrifying the way that’s slipped in there as if it’s just normal. Will the billionaire pay his lawyers? Hmmm, there’s no telling.

Under ethics rules, Mr. Kasowitz cannot interview any official who has hired a lawyer without that lawyer’s permission, meaning it would be in his interest if administration aides did not hire their own lawyers, experts said. “It is probably easier for him to represent Trump if he doesn’t have to deal with a bunch of other lawyers,” Ms. Sherburne said, adding that she believed it was inappropriate for Mr. Kasowitz to discourage aides from hiring their own counsel.

Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush who now teaches at the University of Minnesota’s law school, said that in a worst-case scenario, a staff member might listen to Mr. Kasowitz’s advice and “end up thrown under the bus.”

They are underlings. The Prince must be protected.

Kushner, of course, has his own lawyer.

The poison fruit

Jun 13th, 2017 9:05 am | By

Trump is thinking about firing the special counsel. Well of course he is, he’s Trump. But everyone around him is advising him not to. That means he will.

Newt Gingrich agrees with Trump though.

“I think Congress should now intervene and they should abolish the independent counsel,” the former House speaker said. “Because Comey makes so clear that it’s the poison fruit of a deliberate manipulation by the FBI director leaking to The New York Times, deliberately set up this particular situation. It’s very sick.”

Yeah, boy, that crazy Commie weirdo flake FBI director, that’s scary stuff man.

Adam Schiff urges time-thrift.

Schiff later told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he wouldn’t be surprised if Trump was considering ousting Mueller.

“You have to hope that common sense would prevail,” Schiff said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me at all, even though it would be absolutely astonishing were he (Trump) to entertain this. The echoes of Watergate are getting louder and louder.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, did say he would be “surprised” if Trump fired Mueller.
“I think he should let Bob Mueller do his job, do his job independently, and do his job quickly, because I think that that’s what he would want to have happen,” Ryan told conservative commentator Guy Benson.

Unless of course he doesn’t want Mueller to find what there is to find.

Conspiracy bullies

Jun 12th, 2017 4:42 pm | By

Someone in Florida was sentenced to five months in prison this week for threatening the father of one the children killed at Sandy Hook elementary school. There’s a whole big conspiracy theory about Sandy Hook.

[Leonard] Pozner has spent years using every tool at his disposal to scrub the online record of his son’s memory clean of videos suggesting that Noah and his surviving siblings and his parents are actors perpetrating a massive conspiracy against the American public. Pozner has made some progress in defending his family against these lies, but he said that countering hoaxers is still an uphill battle. Big tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are doing far too little to deter the conspiracies, harassment and hatred that flourish on their sites, Pozner said.

While these companies have been talking publicly about confronting fake news, “They really don’t do that much. They can be doing a lot more – especially Facebook. It really turns the other way.”

He said tech companies that allow the spread of conspiracies and hatred, including Islamic State propaganda, “have blood on their hands”.

Why would there be a conspiracy theory about Sandy Hook?

Pozner’s six-year-old son, Noah, was murdered alongside his first-grade classmates in Newtown on 14 December 2012. Pozner’s young son was one of 20 first-graders and six educators who were shot to death in a small suburban elementary school by a troubled local man with a military-style rifle in one of the most shocking mass shootings in US history.

But in the early stages of mourning their murdered children, the Pozners and other families of victims had to confront an extra burden: accusations that their children were not dead, and that the tragedy that upended their lives was all a fraud designed to undermine Americans’ gun rights.

Oh. That. Good god.

While he had no exact data, Pozner said he believes there are “tens of thousands” of conspiracy theorists globally who believe that mass casualty attacks such as Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon bombing and the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, are hoaxes.

As more and more people join social media sites, Pozner believes the problem is growing more acute – and more people vulnerable to conspiracy theories are exposed to the “contagious addictive content” that spread hoaxes like viruses across the internet.

Pozner, who once listened to InfoWars’ Alex Jones before Jones became a Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist, said that people were drawn to hoaxes for different reasons.

Some “have nothing else going on in their lives and this gives them a sense of community, a sense of identity. It’s like a cult,” he said. Others are drawn to feeling “smarter” than the people around them who do not believe the conspiracy, thinking, “Oh, I’m awake – you guys are not awake.”

That works going in both directions though, and if you do it in the other direction, at least you’re not harassing the families of the murdered children.

The Honr Network, the organization Pozner founded to hold hoaxers accountable for their behavior, now has about 300 volunteers who help monitor hoaxer content online.

It is a gruesome world to confront briefly, much less over and over again. Hoaxers, for example, will share videos of Boston Marathon bombing victims having their limbs blown off, and then debate whether the color of the blood in the footage is realistic, or look for evidence that the person in the footage whose limb was just blown off was already an amputee who is now faking a new injury.

The long fight to use copyright protections to remove family photographs of Noah and his surviving children from posts full of wild conspiracies has left him frustrated at tech companies, who he said often push back or simply refuse to take down content related to his young children.

“If you become the victim of a crime, shouldn’t you be protected by society somehow? Shouldn’t society hold you up when you’re kind of weakened? That’s not the case right now. If life has thrown you a curveball and you’ve been knocked to the ground, YouTube and Google and Facebook think that others should be allowed to kick you while you’re down as much as they like, and they’ll protect those people’s right to kick you.”

Yes, they do, and they will.

Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss

Jun 12th, 2017 4:29 pm | By

Now people are laughing at Trump for holding a Kiss the Ring or Perhaps the Ass ceremony at his first “Cabinet Meeting” today.

Donald Trump opened a cabinet meeting Monday by bragging about the “record-setting pace” of his legislation, which is his fantasy as opposed to fact. Then things got weird, as Trump invited members to introduce themselves. They knew what to do.

Watch the full 11-minute video

Tell him he’s awesome. Did I guess right?

The cabinet responded with appalling enthusiasm, viz: “we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda”; “great honor to serve you”; “my hat’s off to you”; “privilege of my life”; “thank you, great honor”.

Oh god oh god oh god it’s so embarrassing.

Chuck Schumer added his bit.

Smirnoff added its.


Jun 12th, 2017 12:17 pm | By

Then there’s that lawsuit filed today by the AGs of Maryland and DC:

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have announced they’ve filed suit against President Donald Trump, alleging he violated the Constitution by retaining ties to a sprawling global business empire.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh made the announcement at a jointly held news conference in Washington, confirming the suit has been filed in federal court in Maryland. Frosh and Racine cited Trump’s leases, properties and other business “entanglements” around the world as the reason for the suit, saying those posed a conflict of interest under a clause of the Constitution.

“The president’s conflicts of interest threaten our democracy,” Frosh told journalists. “We cannot treat the president’s ongoing violations of the Constitution and his disregard of the rights of the American people as the new acceptable status quo.”

The RNC attempted to brush it off with the usual lies:

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee says a lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia “is absurd.”

Lindsay Jancek said Monday that Trump has been committed to “complete transparency and compliance with the law.” She says the lawsuit represents “the kind of partisan grandstanding voters across the country have come to despise.”

Trump has been committed to complete transparency? Really? Even though he has never released his tax returns? Even though during the campaign he said he would eventually, but then when he got in he said no he wouldn’t? Come on. A lie that blatant would make a statue blush.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says it’s “not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations” in the lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump. He says the Trump administration will continue to move to dismiss the lawsuit in the normal course of business.

Of course it’s not hard to conclude that, and it’s probably even true, but that does nothing to erase the facts about Don’s self-dealing and conflicts of interest and furtiveness.

9th Circuit to President Liar: Nope

Jun 12th, 2017 11:55 am | By

Oh dear, poor Lying Don, another harsh blow. 9th Circuit says a big no to Don’s Excellent Travel Ban.

Another federal court has ruled against President Donald Trump’s revised executive order limiting travel from six predominately Muslim countries — and like other courts, used his tweets against him.

The ruling from a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is yet another stinging loss from a court that similarly refused to reinstate Trump’s original executive order on travel in February.

“We conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress,” the three judges, all appointed by President Bill Clinton, wrote. “(I)mmigration, even for the President, is not a one-person show.”

The judges cited Trump’s latest tweets in the travel ban saga.

“That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!” Trump tweeted on June 5.

Everybody warned him about that tweet. He doesn’t listen very well, does he.

They also cited White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s confirmation that the President’s tweets are “considered official statements by the President of the United States.”


When backed into a corner, lie like a rug

Jun 12th, 2017 11:41 am | By

Amber Phillips notes there’s this pattern President Liar has of throwing out criminal accusations whenever the heat gets too close to his bum.

We know that James B. Comey is a leaker. It’s doubtful that he’s a criminal; legal experts have said that even though the former FBI director shared his memos of conversations with President Trump with the media, if the information wasn’t classified, that probably wasn’t a crime.

Do we know that Comey is a leaker? I don’t feel as if I know that. He shared his own notes with a friend with a request to read portions to the Times. The notes were typed on a fed machine on fed time, true, but is that by itself really enough to qualify them as a leak if he shares them? Especially when the conversation they record was forced on him in the first place? When he would have avoided the conversation if he could have?

At any rate, Trump’s response was that tweet we saw yesterday:

Trump just basically accused the FBI director he fired of leaking classified information, days after Comey testified under oath to Congress that the president might have interfered in an FBI investigation.

In hindsight, this tweet probably shouldn’t have been surprising: When the president feels threatened, his go-to move is to accuse his opponent of doing something illegal and offer no evidence to back it up. Conspiracy theorists can and will pick this up and run with it, people can choose to believe which narrative they want, and the waters are sufficiently muddied.

And Trump, I would think, has opened himself to a libel suit.

But soon, Trump could regret this tweet. Congress might be calling the president’s bluff — if that’s what it is — by asking the White House to turn over tapes of Trump’s conversations with Comey (if they exist) and other evidence of their conversations. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) even invited Trump to testify before Congress. (“One hundred percent,” Trump said Friday when asked in a news conference if he’d testify under oath if asked.)

The problem for Trump is that Comey is a largely credible witness, and his testimony under oath was detailed and shocking.

Unlike Comey, Trump has offered no proof. And he appears to be going out of his way to create another story line: Comey is a leaker (true), and maybe even leaked more than we know about and it might be illegal (there is no evidence for this).

I don’t think Comey has offered any “proof” either, unless the legal definition is more relaxed than I realized. He’s offered evidence. We all learned at the start of his that an agent’s contemporaneous notes are considered admissible evidence in court, but evidence isn’t the same as proof. I think the actual claim should be that Comey has offered evidence while Trump has not. The nature of the evidence though is surely different when the agent in question is defending himself as well as his agency, the country, etc. I don’t for a second think Comey lied, but if I were Trump’s lawyer I’m sure I would point out that it’s certainly possible that he did, and that he had a motive.

Trump does this so often that reporters call him out in news stories for it. “It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle,” The Washington Post’s White House team wrote about the wiretapping tweet.

In November, just weeks after Trump’s election, he claimed that the biggest voter fraud in U.S. history caused him to lose the popular vote. Seven months later, there’s no investigation of this, and there is no evidence for it.

He’s a serial liar, who tells destructive lies about other people to protect or puff up himself. And he’s the president.

Act One scene 7

Jun 12th, 2017 10:57 am | By

So what might happen next? Don could fall a few more flights.

but how much worse could this get? The chatter on the Sunday shows hinted at where we may be headed. Here are a few things to watch for:

The tapes Trump hinted at turn out not to exist. On ABC’s “This Week,” Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal team, said Trump will make a decision very soon on whether to release the tapes he may have made of his conversations with then-FBI Director James B. Comey.  After the news broke that Trump may have demanded a “loyalty” pledge from Comey, the president tweeted that Comey had better hope he doesn’t have tapes of their conversations. Trump has since hinted he still might release them, and congressional investigators have demanded them.

This state of play is utter lunacy in its current form — the White House has still not said whether these tapes exist, even as Trump hints they might still be coming, and we are so numb to Trump’s daily crazy at this point that we now oddly treat this as somewhat unremarkable. Maybe they do exist. But what happens if the White House, in response to those congressional demands, ultimately confirms that they don’t? Experts think the White House will have to come clean in some way. At that point, it would be confirmed that Trump invented the existence of these tapes to chill Comey from offering a full public accounting of the events leading up to his firing — which itself was a massive abuse of power, given that Trump allowed it was because of the FBI’s Russia probe — in the full knowledge that Comey was going to serve as a witness before long. What will Republicans say about that?

Most of them? The usual – he’s new to the job, he’s still learning about the rules and norms, he ran as a mavericky rebel dude, he’s a CEO not a politician, but her emails, draining the swamp, but Comey and her emails, yadda yadda yadda.

But what if he confirms they do exist, and produces them, and it can be determined they were not altered in any way? Well then, clearly, he’d be in deep shit, so it’s not going to happen.

What, there’s no chance that Comey’s lying and Trump’s telling the truth? Correct: there’s no chance of that.

Viciousness is it?

Jun 12th, 2017 10:29 am | By

Aaron Blake collects some of Don’s viciousness in response to his children’s complaints about the viciousness of people who dislike Don:

For the second time in a week, one of President Trump’s children took to the Fox News airwaves to complain about just how rough-and-tumble our political system is.

A few days after Eric Trump decried the political left as “not even people” over its “hatred” and treatment of his father, Ivanka Trump went on “Fox and Friends” on Monday morning and decried the “viciousness” of Washington.

“There’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” she said. “I was not expecting the intensity of this experience.”

I guess she must think that her loathsome bullying father has some sort of right to be vicious because he’s so rich, and thus that she has some sort of right to complain about “viciousness” in his critics because she too is so rich (thanks to her vicious father).

In case you’ve blocked out everything that happened between June 2015 and November 2016 (which=understandable), here is a quick refresher of the things Donald Trump did as a candidate:

He also attacked Alicia Machado on Twitter and alluded to a non-existent “sex tape.” He also repeatedly called Senator Warren “Pocahontas.” He also brushed off his “you can grab them by the pussy” boast by calling it “locker room talk” – as if it were normal for men to talk about women like that.

He’s a bad, poisonous man, with a bad poisonous character. He’s malevolent and cruel and, yes Ivanka, vicious. Look to thine own nest and clear the excrescences therein.

Sweating, are ya, Don?

Jun 12th, 2017 10:06 am | By

Poor Donnie. Sad!

He’s not at all worried about any of it. Not at all. He’s chill and happy and focused and at peak performance. Definitely.

The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen

Jun 11th, 2017 4:39 pm | By

Unsurprisingly, Lyin’ Donnie is having a hard time finding top lawyers willing to take him on. Gee I wonder why.

Top lawyers with at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures to represent President Trump in the Russia investigations, in part over concerns that the president would be unwilling to listen to their advice, according to five sources familiar with discussions about the matter.

The president’s chief lawyer now in charge of the case is Marc E. Kasowitz, a tough New York civil litigator who for years has aggressively represented Trump in multiple business and public relations disputes — often with threats of countersuits and menacing public statements — but who has little experience dealing with complex congressional and Justice Department investigations that are inevitably influenced by media coverage and public opinion.

And is barely literate and is vulgar and crude, so probably not the best choice for the job.

The lawyers and their firms cited a variety of factors in choosing not to take on the president as a client. Some, like Brendan Sullivan, said they had upcoming trials or existing commitments that would make it impossible for them to devote the necessary time and resources to Trump’s defense.

Others mentioned potential conflicts with clients of their firms, such as financial institutions that have already received subpoenas relating to potential money-laundering issues that are part of the investigation.

But a consistent theme, the sources said, was the concern about whether the president would accept the advice of his lawyers and refrain from public statements and tweets that have consistently undercut his position.

“The concerns were, ‘The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,’” said one lawyer close to the White House who is familiar with some of the discussions between the firms and the administration, as well as deliberations within the firms themselves.

Other factors, the lawyer said, were that it would “kill recruitment” for the firms to be publicly associated with representing the polarizing president and jeopardize the firms’ relationships with other clients.

Other than that…