Notes and Comment Blog

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.

Loose lips star on Facebook

Feb 13th, 2017 11:47 am | By

The Times also notices the whole “talking about national security in a public place surrounded by people eating their highpriced dinners” issue.

By the looks of his Facebook feed, Richard DeAgazio is a big fan of President Trump’s. Witness his Facebook feed on anti-immigrant protests in Italy, courtesy of the Russian propaganda network RT, the photo of Bill Clinton with a woman that he spuriously identifies as the former president’s new girlfriend, and a caricature of Barack Obama in a sombrero.

But Mr. DeAgazio did the current president no favors with his fanboy posts from Mar-a-Lago this weekend in a public dining room as the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and the president of the United States scrambled to respond to a North Korean ballistic missile test.

Cool for the rest of us that he took snaps though.

It was a remarkable display on Mr. Trump’s part of a lack of concern for prying eyes and security awareness.

But hey, Mr. DeAgazio also posed with the service member who carries the nuclear launch codes for the president.

“This is Rick…He carries the “football” The nuclear football (also known as the atomic football, the President’s emergency satchel, the Presidential Emergency Satchel, the button, the black box, or just the football) is a briefcase, the contents of which are to be used by the President of the United States to authorize a nuclear attack.”

Public posts, too.

But hey, emails!!!

Speak directly into the mic please

Feb 13th, 2017 10:44 am | By

Holy shit. Trump was at din-dins with Abe at a public restaurant at Mar-a-fucking-Lago when they were told about North Korea’s latest missile-throw, and they discussed it right then and there. In public!

Sunday night, CNN reported details of the moment that Trump, joined by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, learned about a missile launch in North Korea. Trump and Abe were enjoying dinner at Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida at the time, but, CNN reported, began to discuss the details of this international incident right there at their table.

“As Mar-a-Lago’s wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak reported, “Trump and Abe’s evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

It’s not clear that anyone heard particulars of the conversation, but other diners certainly noticed. Richard DeAgazio was in the room and posted photos of the moment to Facebook.

The post has now been made private; a screenshot is below.

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 9.39.50 AM

Others who were there added their thoughts in the comments beneath the post. One wrote that he “was watching very close by. Had no idea what it was about.” That’s probably not the case for the waiters, who, CNN reports, “cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting with aides.”

Oh but it gets worse.

Notice, though, that the photos appear to corroborate an important detail from the CNN report. “The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents,” Liptak writes. In DeAgazio’s first photo, you can see a phone flashlight being used in that way.

It’s a funny thing – I’m surprisingly familiar with that scenario. Just last month, when I was on the Monterey Peninsula taking care of Cooper while his humans were away, he and I took our evening walk past that scenario regularly. It’s a posh golf club with condos, and I like walking us up to the inn after dark – past the outdoor terraces that surround the restaurant, where there are fire pits and torches and people shivering in the wind off the Pacific. It’s not what you would call a secure place to discuss national security. Not even close.

Why is this important? Mobile phones have flashlights, yes — and cameras, microphones and Internet connectivity. When Edward Snowden was meeting with reporters in Hong Kong at the moment he was leaking the material he’d stolen from the NSA, he famously asked that they place their phones in the refrigerator — blocking any radio signals in the event that the visitors’ phones had been hacked. This was considered the most secure way of ensuring that the phones couldn’t be used as wiretaps, even more secure than removing the battery. Phones — especially phones with their flashes turned on for improved visibility — are portable television satellite trucks and, if compromised, can be used to get a great deal of information about what’s happening nearby, unless precautions are taken.

Precautions weren’t taken. One of DeAgazio’s photos shows Trump using a phone at the table, within view of other diners (and while sitting next to a foreign leader). It’s not clear what phone Trump is using in that picture, but it’s known that he uses a relatively old Android device, even while serving as president. As we noted last week, Trump generally uses that device when he’s not in the middle of a work day. Shortly before the dinner with Abe, he tweeted from it.

And guess what! His phone is almost certainly compromised!

What about them, Mr Pussygrabber?

Feb 13th, 2017 10:21 am | By

Before he put his nasty hands all over Trudeau, Donnie from Queens told us what they would be chatting about.

Can you imagine? Talking about women in the workforce with the guy who bragged about being able to grab women by the pussy because he’s a star? Can you imagine?

Step back

Feb 13th, 2017 10:07 am | By

Oh god, poor Justin Trudeau.

Ew ew ew right up in his face, and the nasty little hands all over him. Ew.

The powers of the president will not be questioned

Feb 13th, 2017 10:00 am | By

Aaron Blake at the Post on Stephen Miller’s attempt to bully us all into silence:

Senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows over the weekend, and his comments about voter fraud have earned him justifiably dim reviews. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump and Fact Checker Glenn Kessler dealt with those claims in depth.

But amid all the baseless and false statements about electoral integrity, Miller did something even more controversial: He expanded upon his boss’s views of whether judges are allowed to question President Trump’s authority. And at one point, Miller even said Trump’s national security decisions “will not be questioned.”

Blake provides the transcript:

Here’s the key exchange, with “Face the Nation’s” John Dickerson (emphasis added):

DICKERSON: When I talked to Republicans on the Hill, they wonder, what in the White House — what have you all learned from this experience with the executive order?

MILLER: Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

Does nobody in Trump’s administration even know what the judiciary is?

“Will not be questioned.” That is an incredible claim to executive authority — and one we can expect to hear plenty more about. Trump has beaten around this bush plenty, yes. But Miller just came out and said it: that the White House doesn’t recognize judges’ authority to review things such as his travel ban.

Oh well I don’t think Trump was beating around any bushes; I think he came right out and said it too. “So-called judge” is pretty clear.

Miller clarified the threats somewhat though:

And on “Fox News Sunday”: “This is a judicial usurpation of the power. It is a violation of judges’ proper roles in litigating disputes. We will fight it. And we will make sure that we take action to keep from happening in the future what’s happened in the past.”

So…that will be a coup then? That’s what they’re telling us? On the Sunday talk shows?

Miller seemed to be serving notice Sunday that the administration thinks the courts should play no role in reviewing any of Trump’s decisions related to national security.

That makes even some Republicans uneasy.

“I mean, obviously, the president wants to keep the country safe. I recognize that. I think everybody does, and I applaud him for trying to do so,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on “Face the Nation” after Miller’s appearance. “But, obviously, it needs to be constitutional, and it needs to be wise.”

Miller is basically arguing that it doesn’t need to be constitutional — or, more specifically, that anything Trump decides to do when it comes to national security is inherently constitutional, regardless of whether it targets a specific religion or anything else.

That is a massive claim to power. And it apparently won’t be the first time Trump’s White House attempts to claim it.

I think he meant it won’t be the last time – and it clearly won’t.

Guest post: Because governments don’t exist to make a profit

Feb 12th, 2017 5:35 pm | By

Guest post by Robert Ahrens.

A remark made on one of my posts, last night I think it was, caused me to stop and think about what your average American knows about being a government employee.

To start out, for those who don’t know me or haven’t checked my profile yet, I was a Federal employee for 42 years and 4 months. I served the US Army for four years, and the Food and Drug Administration the rest of the time, starting out as a mail & file clerk and ending up as a senior IT tech overseeing a group of contractors who kept the FDA desktops updated and secure.

Along the way, I worked with scientists, lab people, investigators, inspectors, medical personnel, lawyers, contracting officers, instructors, administrators, and in one capacity or another, others from almost every Center in FDA.

Many of those people had worked in other major Departments, including a supervisor who had once worked for the Justice Department, and a Branch chief whose former intelligence agency employer was so classified, he still was prevented by law from disclosing that to us.

As many of you know from the private sector, each organization, private or public, has its own culture. Much of that culture comes from the top down and is informed by its mission – what it does as a primary function.

But governments, whether local, State or Federal, are different than private companies, large or small.

Why? Because governments don’t exist to make a profit.

Private companies do. That is the very reason they exist! If they cannot make a profit, eventually, they are forced to close and have their assets sold off to satisfy their debts.

Governments don’t go bankrupt. At the worst, they have their credit ratings cut to nothing, forcing them to “live” and operate from cash receipts obtained through statutory incomes, like taxes or receipts from licensing activities, fines, etc.

Their mission is to provide for the safety, welfare, public peace and security of the American people.

That’s a whole lot different from making filthy lucre to fill the bosses’ pockets. That’s why they operate differently, and that’s why Republicans are wrong to try and make the US Government run like a business.

Because it isn’t one.

That’s why the culture of each governmental Department is different, and why each has its own take on transparency.

Yeah, Transparency. Believe me, that’s a tightrope each and every supervisor in the government has to weigh on a regular basis.

Some agencies, by their mission’s demands, cannot be transparent. Intelligence agencies are a good example. We cannot allow foreign governments to know if, when, or how we may or may not be spying on them. We want them to be guessing, constantly, and we want them to guess wrong, every time.

Others, like the military, have inherent activities and equipment that by their nature, need to be secret. Otherwise, their effectiveness in combat is greatly lessened. Enemies who have to guess about what you may bring to the table in a conflict will be cautious and very careful before committing themselves.

Civilian agencies which are by nature enforcing various Federal laws are bound to be secretive in some ways for two reasons: First, they are bound by law to protect proprietary information belonging to the companies they need to inspect as part of that law enforcement activity. Second, they don’t want their enforcement activities to be publicly revealed, because sometimes a surprise inspection is what you need to catch someone who is willfully violating the law. Give them a chance to clean up, and you’ve got nothing for your efforts!

But other agencies have a tougher row to hoe regarding that word transparency. They have to balance letting the public know how they are operating in making policy vs. allowing either political opponents or foreign opponents know secrets that may allow them to counter those policies in ways harmful to the public.

Sometimes, getting that balance right is hard.

One of the things that turned me aside from being a republican early in my government career was their constant ragging on us for being lazy, or corrupt, or leaches sucking at the “government teat”.

I’ve known hundreds if not thousands of people in my career, and with the exception of one or two, not a damn one of them was lazy, or corrupt or anything approaching the description of a leach. They all worked hard for their paychecks. Many of them could have gone outside and gotten much bigger paychecks working for large corporations.

But they stayed, most of them, and they do because they CARE. The mission of the FDA is, among other things similar, to keep your food, your drugs, your cosmetics, your radiation emitting devices, your medical devices, safe, effective and the best American companies can make them to be. Every single FDA employee I’ve worked with cared about that single mission, cared about how their job, whether it was leading a Center, running a computer, or inspecting Mexican produce crossing the border, and how their job impacted the primary mission of the Agency.

I cannot imagine anyone in any other governmental agency feeling any less, whether they are working for the Federal government or a State or local government.

So, folks, when you hear the Republicans continuing to belittle public employees, whether they are US Park Service Rangers, or EPA scientists, or federal Judges, remember this post. Remember that these people CARE – they care about you, me, and their neighbors. They are there, doing their jobs, probably making less money than they could on the outside, because they give a damn about OUR COUNTRY.

They each took an oath, which is very similar to the one Trump just took, to protect and defend the Constitution. Not an oath of loyalty to a President, or to an Agency, or to a boss. To the Constitution of the United States of America.

To serve YOU. That also includes Congress, by the way.

It’s up to you to determine which of those public servants are upholding that oath.

And which are, very publicly, not.

From Howdy Doody to Bill O’Reilly

Feb 12th, 2017 4:29 pm | By

Trump still watches lots of tv, and no matter how often his people tell him it’s not a great idea, he goes on watching. I suspect he has to – I suspect it’s his life source. Not watching, for him, would be like a vampire seeing direct sunlight. He would fade fade fade fade pop – gone.

In the heat of the 2016 campaign, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Donald Trump whom he spoke to for military advice.

“Well, I watch the shows,” Trump responded. “I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals.”

“I watch the shows.”

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It’s where he gets his material.

Take this example from Sunday morning. At 6:25 a.m., Fox News showed a graphic claiming that 72 percent of all refugees admitted into the United States since Trump’s travel ban was put on ice by the courts hail from the seven countries that were on the no-admittance list of the executive order. Thirty minutes later, Trump tweeted: “72% of refugees admitted into U.S. (2/3 -2/11) during COURT BREAKDOWN are from 7 countries: SYRIA, IRAQ, SOMALIA, IRAN, SUDAN, LIBYA & YEMEN.” (Thanks to CNN’s Brian Stelter for documenting it!)

That’s the only one I blogged about today. I didn’t realize he’d gotten his “facts” from Fox News. Like a fool, I assumed he was looking at some special government source.

In fact, it has become something of a cottage industry to try to link Trump’s early-morning tweets to something he has seen on television in the very recent past. An Associated Press article this past week detailed Trump’s difficult transition to the White House and included this remarkable paragraph.

“The president’s advisers have tried to curb his cable news consumption during the workday. But there are no limits when the president returns to the residence. During another recent telephone conversation, Trump briefly put down the phone so he could turn up the volume on a CNN report. When he returned to the call, he was complaining about ‘fake news.’ ”

Angela Merkel? Malcolm Turnbull? Theresa May? “Hang on for a sec, I wanna hear this…FAKE NEWS.”

Strong words

Feb 12th, 2017 4:11 pm | By

Bernie Sanders today mentioned that Trump’s pants are on fire. Al Franken suggested he’s a hot dog short of a picnic.

Sanders made the charge on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as he attacked Trump’s travel ban — which faces a federal court challenge — and Republican plans to revamp the Affordable Care Act.

“We have a president who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar,” Sanders said.

“Those are strong words,” moderator Chuck Todd interjected while asking Sanders whether he can work with a liar.

Yes of course they’re strong words, but seeing as how they’re obviously true, since Trump barfs out blatant lies on Twitter daily, so what if they’re strong words? Why should we tiptoe around the truth while Trump lies himself blue? Why is the onus on everyone else instead of on him? It’s not our duty to use a euphemism, it’s his duty to stop lying.

“It makes life very difficult. It is very harsh, but I think that’s the truth,” Sanders replied. “When somebody goes before you and says that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally … nobody believes that. There is not a scintilla of evidence to believe that, what would you call that remark? It’s a lie. It’s a delusion.”

Well, lie and delusion aren’t the same thing. But a head of state has a responsibility not to blurt out whatever pops into his head or whatever he reads on some deranged alt-right blog. Trump’s total lack of responsibility makes his delusions into lies. He has no right to assume they’re true without doing any work to see if they are or not. He has no right to say things that people have repeatedly told him have no evidence to back them up.

Franken first raised questions about the president’s mental health Friday night on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” saying Republican senators privately express “great concern” about Trump’s temperament. The senator doubled down Sunday morning, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” that “a few” Republican senators feel that way.

“In the way that we all have this suspicion that — you know, that he’s not — he lies a lot, he says things that aren’t true, that’s the same thing as lying, I guess,” Franken told moderator Jake Tapper, mentioning the president’s repeatedly false claims of voter fraud.

“You know, that is not the norm, uh, for a president of the United States or, actually, for a human being,” Franken said.

Exactly. It’s not for a human being, and especially not for a president. A president’s lies can make things happen, and they can be very bad things. Gulf of Tonkin. Japanese internments.

Elsewhere, Democratic lawmakers called for investigations into White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who last week used a national television interview to encourage viewers to buy items from a clothing line designed by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. The comments appeared to violate a key ethics rule barring federal employees from using their public office to endorse products.

Hours after Conway’s interview, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called on the Office of Government Ethics to recommend discipline, given that Trump, who is Conway’s “agency head,” holds an “inherent conflict of interest” because of the involvement of his daughter’s business.

Conway’s comments were “a textbook case of a violation of the law,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“You cannot go out there as an employee of the government and advertise for Ivanka Trump or anyone else, their products. You can’t do that. And anybody else would be subject to a minimum, probably, of a reprimand, or they could literally lose their job over this,” he said.

Cummings added that Conway’s promotional message was “very blatant” and “intentional,” and said the Office of Government Ethics should “take a thorough look” at the situation before recommending a potential punishment.

It was as blatant as it would be possible to be – telling the people in tv land to buy Ivanka’s trash.


The White House has not provided “enormous evidence”

Feb 12th, 2017 11:50 am | By

Trump and his puppets are still telling lies about voter fraud.

White House adviser Stephen Miller doubled down on the Trump administration’s groundless claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire — and across the nation — during in an interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

Earlier this week President Trump claimed, with no evidence, that voters from Massachusetts were bused to New Hampshire to vote illegally.

That’s not a thing you just do – it’s not normal. It’s Hitlery. It’s what aspiring dictators do – they announce the whole thing is broken and corrupt and Only They can fix it.

On This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Miller, a senior White House policy adviser, to provide that evidence. In fact, he asked three times.

Miller said the show was “not the venue” to supply evidence, but repeated the baseless claim multiple times. He said in part:

“I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It’s very real. It’s very serious.”

New Hampshire’s secretary of state has said there is no proof of buses appearing at polling places, and that a large number of voters arriving like that would have attracted attention.

The New Hampshire voting fraud claims are a variant on a frequently repeated Trump claim of nationwide voter fraud — which is also unfounded.

It’s a red flag. It’s one of many, which makes it hard to focus on all of them, but that is what it is – he’s calling various elections fraudulent. That’s dictator territory.

It’s possible that he doesn’t even realize that, because he doesn’t realize much, but we can be sure Bannon does.

But Miller stood by those claims too, saying in part:

“The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud, with respect to people being registered in more than one state, dead people voting, noncitizens being registered to vote. … I’m prepared to go on any show, anywhere, anytime, and repeat it and say the President of the United States is correct 100 percent.”

The White House has not provided “enormous evidence” of massive nationwide voter fraud.

So, Miller lied.

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The new Spicey

Feb 12th, 2017 11:30 am | By

The Times kindly collected their neighbors’ Trump-related segments in one article. Go New Yawk.

Rejoice therefore: there’s more Spicer.