Notes and Comment Blog


Donnie Twoscoops is back

May 18th, 2017 7:55 am | By

They let Donnie have his phone back for a bit. He managed two tweets.

Well no, because it’s not a witch hunt at all. It’s an investigation, authorized by the Acting Attorney General (because the compromised Attorney General had to recuse himself), and overseen by a former FBI head.

Is Donnie Twoscoops being unfairly singled out by mean bad people who are just jealous of how awesome and huge he is?

No. Donnie Twoscoops is corrupt and incompetent and reckless, and there is plenty to investigate.

Says the guy who just blabbed sensitive intelligence to his Russian besties because he needed to brag about how important he is.



Trump’s Waco

May 17th, 2017 4:42 pm | By

The Times reports a lot of fervent endorsement of the choice of Mueller as Special Counsel.

Members of both parties view Mr. Mueller as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country. He served both Democratic and Republican presidents, from 2001 to 2013, and was asked by President Barack Obama to stay on beyond the normal 10-year term until Mr. Comey was appointed.

“He’s an absolutely superb choice,” said Kathryn Ruemmler, a former prosecutor and White House counsel under Mr. Obama. “He will just do a completely thorough investigation without regard to public pressure or political pressure.”

She added: “I cannot think of a better choice.”

John S. Pistole, who served as the F.B.I.’s deputy director under Mr. Mueller, also praised the appointment.

“You need an independent assessment of what the president has done, how he has done it and perhaps why he has done it,” said Mr. Pistole, who is now president of Anderson University in Indiana. “The appointment of Director Mueller is exactly what is needed to attempt to bring credibility to the White House when there are so many questions about the president’s actions and motives.”

The order to appoint Mr. Mueller was signed by Mr. Rosenstein on Wednesday, drawing on a regulation granting the attorney general the authority to appoint a special counsel for only the second time in history. The first time it was used was in 1999 by Janet Reno, who appointed Jack Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, to lead an investigation into the botched federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., in 1993 that killed 76 people.

People are pointing out that Trump could fire him. Am I naïve to think even Trump would see the problems with doing that?



As Kelly laughed

May 17th, 2017 4:18 pm | By

The Post on some high points today:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, praised the pick of Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor, calling him a “a respected public servant of the highest integrity.”

She said that did not go as far, however, as the creation of an independent commission. Pelosi said that would be more free of the Trump administration.

“The Trump Administration must make clear that Director Mueller will have the resources and independence he needs to execute this critical investigation,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was more positive, though [he] echoed Pelosi’s praise of Mueller.

“Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead,” Schumer said in a statement.

Plus he’s a former FBI head. I have a feeling people who fit that description don’t like seeing a corrupt dishonest president messing with the FBI to protect his own lies and corruption.

On Wednesday, President Trump spoke at the commencement ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

There, the president — who is currently mired in controversies — railed against the media and claimed that “no politician in history” had been “treated worse or more unfairly.”

During the commencement, Trump was presented with a ceremonial saber. After accepting it to applause, he returned to his seat next to Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John F. Kelly.

Smiling, Kelly leaned over the president and said, of the saber, “You can use that on the press.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Trump, as Kelly laughed.

Then Kelly gave Trump a few affectionate licks on the face.

 



Meet the new special counsel

May 17th, 2017 3:21 pm | By

Special counsel appointed.

The Justice Department on Wednesday appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to the position in a letter obtained by CNN.

Sessions of course has recused himself, and occasionally remembers that he has.

As special counsel, Mueller is “authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” according to the Justice Department order Rosenstein signed.

Mueller was Bush Junior’s FBI Director and stayed on in the Obama admin until 2013, when Comey took over.



Things will work out just fine

May 17th, 2017 12:33 pm | By

Don from the outer boroughs gave a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy just now. He talked about himself.

President Donald Trump, amid his own swirling controversies, advised United States Coast Guard Academy graduates that while things aren’t always fair, “you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.”

The comment was a clear reference to the fact that Trump’s White House is now besieged by bipartisan questions about his alleged request that former FBI Director James Comey to halt an investigation into his former top national security aide.

“Never, never, never give up. Things will work out just fine,” he said in New London, Connecticut, Wednesday.

Right. Good advice. Always assume you’re right, no matter what; always assume that any disagreement is wildly unfair and that you should fight fight fight fight fight fight fight fight. Unless of course you’re disputing Donald Trump, in which case you should prostrate yourself and beg for clemency.

Then he went to directly talking about himself – as he always does.

“Look at the way I have been treated lately, especially by the media,” he said. “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down, you can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”

No politician in history is it.



He keeps reading if he’s mentioned

May 17th, 2017 12:23 pm | By

Trump has to go Abroad now. He’s not the most cosmopolitan head of state we’ve ever seen, so it may be difficult for him. His aides have been working hard to prepare him.

White House advisers insisted Trump was up to speed on the Middle East, having already hosted Arab, Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the White House.

“His way of doing diplomacy, which really contrasts with President Obama’s approach, is to … prioritize the personal relationship,” said Michael Singh, a foreign policy adviser to former Republican President George W. Bush.

In other words his way of doing diplomacy contrasts with the sane adult approach. The personal relationship is largely beside the point, even though a good one doubtless does make discussion and negotiation easier. But of course Trump is Trump. It’s not that prioritizing the personal relationship is a considered approach, it’s that it’s all he knows.

Conversations with some officials who have briefed Trump and others who are aware of how he absorbs information portray a president with a short attention span.

He likes single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.

National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,” according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials.

Of course he does.



The necessary separation of the president and his Justice Department

May 17th, 2017 9:36 am | By

The Post’s Daily 202 points out that all this underlines how clueless Trump always was and still is about what exactly his job entails.

The same president who allegedly asked James Comey to drop the FBI’s probe into Michael Flynn – potentially imperiling his grip on power – has also said “nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” volunteered that he only learned containing North Korea is “not so easy” when the Chinese president tutored him on the region’s history and expressed surprise that government cannot be run like a business.

He seems to have thought it was like being a pretend boss on tv – you just give orders and say “you’re fired” when you feel like it. The end.

— Only an amateur would be surprised that Comey took notes after a meeting like this and that they would emerge if he got fired while the investigation in question was still ongoing. How the last several days have played out was entirely foreseeable for anyone who has even a basic grip of how Washington works and how Comey operates.

Dud theory of mind yet again. Trump saw it all from his point of view and didn’t even pause to remember that Comey has one too and it won’t consist solely of “must do whatever Trump wants because Trump awesome.”

Why did the president ask Pence and Sessions to leave the room when he talked to Comey? “This is the kind of conversation that rational, experienced presidents know not to have,” Ruth Marcus writes. “It is the kind of conversation that a White House counsel should make sparklingly, crystal clear to a president that he is not to engage in, not even close. It is the kind of conversation that seems completely in character for Trump, who, over the course of the campaign and now in office, has betrayed no — zero — understanding of the necessary separation of the president and his Justice Department when it comes to making independent judgments about political matters and political opponents.”

It’s not clear to me either how explicit that necessary separation is. News talkers keep pointing out that the president can fire anyone in the DOJ, the DOJ works for the president, the DOJ is part of the executive branch, yadda yadda. The message seems to be that Trump can do whatever he likes when it comes to the Justice Department and no one can stop him. They don’t talk nearly as much about this necessary separation.

Clearly though there should be such a separation when it comes to questions about the president’s own actions, because the president should be accountable and subject to the law. It’s pretty appalling seeing all these “actually, legally speaking, he has the right to ______” – to fire anyone in the DOJ, to declassify information on the spur of the moment while chatting with Russians with only Russian state media present, to fire prosecutors, to…what? Apparently asking the FBI director to let something go is a step too far, but it’s not clear to me where that bright line is.



Children of the Self-absorbed

May 17th, 2017 8:45 am | By

Nicely done.

Via Facebook:

No automatic alt text available.



These are the costs of working for Trump

May 16th, 2017 6:08 pm | By

Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare points out what Trump did to Rod Rosenstein and what Rosenstein did to himself.

Trump happily traded the reputation of Rosenstein, who began the week as a well-respected career prosecutor, for barely 24 hours of laughably transparent talking points in the news cycle. The White House sent out person after person—including the Vice President—to insist that Rosenstein’s memo constituted the basis for the President’s action against the FBI director. The White House described a bottom-up dissatisfaction with Comey’s leadership, which Rosenstein’s memo encapsulated and to which the President acceded. And then, just as casually as Trump and his people set Rosenstein up as the bad guy for what was obviously a presidential decision into whose service Rosenstein had been enlisted, Trump revealed that Rosenstein was, after all, nothing more than a set piece.

Trump used Rosenstein, Wittes says. Rosenstein knew it. He got the White House to correct the record and say that Rosenstein’s memo wasn’t the reason for firing Comey.

But.

The trouble is that while Rosenstein got what he wanted, Trump’s idea of correcting the record was to say publicly exactly the thing about a law enforcement officer that makes his continued service in office impossible: That Trump had used his deputy attorney general as window dressing on a pre-cooked political decision to shut down an investigation involving himself, a decision for which he needed the patina of a high-minded rationale.

Once the President has said this about you—a law enforcement officer who works for him and who promised the Senate in confirmation hearings you would show independence—you have nothing left. These are the costs of working for Trump, and it took Rosenstein only two weeks to pay them.

Wittes had a high opinion of Rosenstein, and thought his presence would keep the DOJ from being too terrible despite Jeff Sessions.

I was profoundly wrong about Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s memo in support of Comey’s firing is a shocking document. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. I have tried six ways from Sunday to put an honorable construction on it. But in the end, I just cannot find one. The memo is a press release to justify an unsavory use of presidential power. It is also a profoundly unfair document. And it’s gutless too. Because at the end of the day, the memo greases the wheels for Comey’s removal without ever explicitly urging it—thus allowing its author to claim that he did something less than recommend the firing, while in fact providing the fig leaf for it.

Just one of Trump’s incidental kills.



Senior aides shouting from behind closed doors

May 16th, 2017 5:37 pm | By

Ok Trump is in a really really bad mood now and he’s not going to take it any more. You people have got to stop fucking up this way. Heads are gonna roll!

Mr. Trump’s appetite for chaos, coupled with his disregard for the self-protective conventions of the presidency, have left his staff confused and squabbling. And his own mood, according to two advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has become sour and dark, turning against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — and describing them in a fury as “incompetent,” according to one of those advisers.

Seriously! And they all have ridiculous hair, too!

He called his PR peeps in on Monday to tell them to shape up and stuff, but he also said they could still keep their jobs. He told other people a different thing though.

Even as Mr. Trump reassured advisers like Mr. Spicer that their jobs were safe at the morning meeting, he told other advisers he knew he needed to make big changes but did not know which direction to go in, or whom to select.

Why that sounds kind of like…incompetence.

Also there’s another problem: nobody is going to want that job. Nobody.

Later, reporters could hear senior aides shouting from behind closed doors as they discussed a defense after Washington Post reporters informed them of an article they were writing that first reported the news about the president’s divulging of intelligence.

They turned the tv up to drown out the yelling.

A dozen of Mr. Trump’s aides and associates, while echoing Mr. Trump’s defiance, privately agreed with Mr. Corker’s view. They spoke candidly, in a way they were unwilling to do just weeks ago, about the damage that was being done to the administration’s standing and the fatigue that was setting in after months of having to defend the president’s missteps, Twitter posts and unpredictable actions.

“After months” – people keep saying that. Yes technically it is months, since it’s more than one, but that would usually suggest a bigger number than three. Almost four. It’s only been almost-four. It’s a short time.

There is a growing sense that Mr. Trump seems unwilling or unable to do the things necessary to keep himself out of trouble, and that the presidency has done little to tame a shoot-from-the-hip-into-his-own-foot style that characterized his campaign.

What did they think would happen? Why did they expect anything else? He’s a bad, stupid, malevolent man; what the fuck made them think he would be anything else after he took office?

There is a fear among some of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers about leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the president is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine being a serious grownup and having to try to manage that out-of-control monstrosity?

This has, at times, chafed the president, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Trump, who still openly laments having to dismiss his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, has groused that General McMaster talks too much in meetings, and the president has referred to him as “a pain,” according to one of the officials.

He keeps telling Don to turn off the tv.



He’s a good guy

May 16th, 2017 4:33 pm | By

So Trump took Comey aside and asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn.

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

You see he was being nice about it. He asked him nicely, in a nice way. He must be such a nice man.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

This is awful. This is just fucking awful – being dragged into the sewer like this with no one stopping him. We don’t have a good system; if we did this wouldn’t be happening.

Comey shared his memo with a number of people in the FBI.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

“Let this go” – let being in the pay of a hostile foreign rival, and lying to government officials about it, go. As if it were a parking ticket. Trump’s been a criminal his whole adult life; that’s how criminals think. We’re good guys; it’s cool that we can get away with this.

The White House issued an insultingly dishonest statement:

While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations.”

The hell he does.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

Well that should be interesting. He’s refused to testify in secret, but he wants to testify in public.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Remember during the debate when he told Hillary Clinton she’d be in prison if he won?



Trump was unaware of the source of the information?

May 16th, 2017 11:08 am | By

The Times reports it was Israel.

The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to the episode.

Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East. The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries. It also raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East.

Israeli officials declined to confirm.

In the meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, Mr. Trump disclosed intelligence about an Islamic State terrorist plot. At least some of the details that the United States has about the plot came from the Israelis, the officials said.

The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Israel previously had urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed.

Yes but this is Russia we’re talking about, our dear dear friend Russia, who loves us so much and has our best interests at heart, not to mention Israel’s. Russia is a great friend to Israel, as well as to us. All this is just a super-friendly conversation among three close buddies.

Mr. Trump said Tuesday on Twitter that he had an “absolute right” to share information in the interest of fighting terrorism and called it a “very, very successful meeting” in a brief appearance later Tuesday at the White House alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Erdogan. Of course.

“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” General McMaster said at a White House briefing, seeking to play down the sensitivity of the information Mr. Trump disclosed.

General McMaster added that the president, who he said was unaware of the source of the information, made a spur-of-the-moment decision to tell the Russians what he knew.

Wait. Why was Trump unaware of the source of the information? Because he didn’t read his briefings? Or because it’s one of the pieces the national security are keeping back from him because he’s so reckless? If it’s the second – doesn’t that just put the lid on it? He’s too dangerous for this job no matter what you do: if you give him the intel he blabs it, and if you don’t give him the intel he blabs it.

But General McMaster also appeared to acknowledge that Thomas P. Bossert, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, had called the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency after the meeting with the Russian officials. Other officials have said that the spy agencies were contacted to help contain the damage from the leak to the Russians.

General McMaster would not confirm that Mr. Bossert made the calls but suggested that if he did, he was acting “maybe from an overabundance of caution.”

An overabundance of caution? Really? I wonder if he’s consulted Israel on that.

Israel’s concerns about the Trump White House’s handling of classified information were foreshadowed in the Israeli news media earlier this year. Newspapers there reported in January that American officials warned their Israeli counterparts to be careful about what they told the Trump administration because it could be leaked to the Russians, given Mr. Trump’s openness toward President Vladimir V. Putin.

Oh well. At least we got those nice Oval Office photos out of the deal.



Interrupted

May 16th, 2017 10:40 am | By

Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker on Trump’s gymnastics:

In a series of early-morning posts on Twitter, Mr. Trump did not dispute reports that he might have provided enough details to reveal the source of the information and the manner in which it had been collected. The information about the Islamic State plot came from a Middle Eastern ally and was considered so sensitive that American officials had not shared it widely within their own government or among allies.

I think it’s probably obvious what Middle Eastern ally that is. What’s not obvious is whether or not Trump ever grasped that it doesn’t want the US blabbing what it shares, and why it doesn’t (angry mullahs would be one big reason), and what the consequences will be if it decides we can’t be trusted. It’s not obvious that Trump can follow a chain of reasoning with more than one moving part.

Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts on Tuesday morning appeared to undercut the carefully worded statements made by his advisers Monday night to try to dispute the original news reports without taking issue with specific facts in them. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said in a statement that the president “did not discuss sources, methods or military operations” with the Russians. Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, likewise told reporters that Mr. Trump had not disclosed intelligence methods or sources.

But The Post and the other news organizations did not report that he had done so. Instead, they focused on the breach of espionage etiquette, and on the possibility that American allies might be discouraged from sharing intelligence with the United States.

Different thing, see? But that could be too meta for Trump.

General McMaster told reporters on Monday that The Post’s account “as reported” was “false,” but on Twitter on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump made no such assertion and instead sought to justify what he had done.

As he did with the Comey firing. His people say he didn’t steal the cake, the next day he says he had an absolute right to the cake.

PAUSE TO READ BREAKING NEWS HEADLINE

Oh. I was wrong about which ally it was. I thought it was Saudi Arabia. The Times reports it was Israel.

I gotta go read more.



Plunging deeper

May 16th, 2017 9:58 am | By

The Washington Post’s Daily 202 on This Whole Disaster:

First there’s the fact that, just as he did last week after he fired Comey, he undercut his own Liars for Trump. They trotted out yesterday to say He did not either, it wasn’t like that, he didn’t do things that the Post never said he did in the first place. Today he said Yes I did! I did and I was right and I can do whatever I want to!

Then there’s the rising chaos.

The already dysfunctional West Wing has plunged deeper into a state of crisis. Here are some vignettes from last night that show just how messy everything has become:

From the Times’s Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Schmitt: “Before The Post’s article was published, its impending publication set off a mild panic among White House staff members, with the press secretary, Sean Spicer; the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and the communications director, Mike Dubke, summoned to the Oval Office in the middle of the afternoon. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his advisers, was not in the meeting. But internally, Mr. Kushner criticized Mr. Spicer, who has been the target of his ire over bad publicity for the president since Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, last week.”

Doncha wish you could work with those people?

Just kidding. It would be nice to have a bug planted though.

— “Obviously, they are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters at the Capitol.“The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating … a worrisome environment.”

— In an interview with Bloomberg TV this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “We could do with a little less drama from the White House.” With characteristic understatement, he added: “I think it would be helpful if the president spent more time on things we’re trying to accomplish and less time on other things.”

Also? It’s actually worse than we know.

— Other outlets confirmed The Post’s reporting last night, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Reuters. One U.S. official told BuzzFeed that, “It’s far worse than what has already been reported.”

Awesome.



In a fit of braggadocio

May 16th, 2017 9:12 am | By

Eliot Cohen spells out the harms that will ensue from Trump’s treasonous blurting of secret information.

The repeated spectacular breaks into the American security system by the Russians, among others, coupled with the ubiquity of personal information in the smartphone age, has caused some Americans to assume that secrets do not exist. They most certainly do. If someone finds out how you have gathered information, that artfully planted bug may go dead. Or a human agent may go dead. In the normal course of events, Donald Trump would never have been given a high-level security clearance because of his psychological profile and personal record, including his susceptibility to blackmail.

That’s a chilling sentence. The truth of it is self-evident, but seeing it put into words is still sobering. It’s the same point as the one Evan Osnos made about people who have anything to do with firing the nukes:

Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”

None of this makes any sense. Everybody else in the system is subject to rules and filtering – but there’s just this one Special Person who is exempt from everything. This is no longer tenable. I’m not sure it ever was, but it sure as hell isn’t now.

Back to Eliot Cohen:

To a remarkable degree, the United States relies on liaison relationships with other powers with whom it shares information. If Trump has indeed compromised a source of information, it is not merely a betrayal of an ally’s trust: It is an act that will jeopardize a whole range of relationships. After all, the Director of Central Intelligence cannot very well say, “Don’t worry, we won’t share that with the president.” So now everybody—even our closest allies like the United Kingdom—would be well-advised to be careful with what they share with us.

So he’s put us all at greatly increased risk, either because the Russians are blackmailing him or because he’s too stupid and lazy to read his briefings and remember what they say.

If any foreign government harbored lingering illusions about the administration’s ability to protect any information, including sensitive but non-intelligence matters like future foreign-policy initiatives or military deployments, they no longer do. They will be even more apprehensive about sharing sensitive information of any kind because…

He gave it to the Russians. In the Oval Office. In a fit of braggadocio.

Russia is antagonistic to the United States, although Trump has repeatedly indicated his desire to be chummy with the Russians—after all, as he notoriously said during the presidential campaign, we are both killers, and so on the same moral plane. He apparently divulged the information to show off, which not only shows a lack of self-discipline: It shows, yet again, how easy this man is to play, particularly by veteran manipulators like his two experienced, talented, and thuggish guests. The crisis is made worse by virtue of Trump having just fired the FBI director, apparently for having pushed that Russia investigation too far.

Quite apart from making himself and the country a laughingstock around the world, the president has now practically begged Vladimir Putin to toy with him, tantalize him, tease him, flatter him, manipulate him. He has shown the Russians (and others, who are watching just as closely) just how easy that is to do, and he has shown the rest of us that his vanity and impulsiveness have not been tempered by the highest responsibilities.

They’ve been augmented by the highest responsibilities. Now he gets to prance around the White House and eat extra ice cream in front of his guests. Now he gets to approve raids over dinner, discuss emergencies in the public restaurant at Mar a Lago, keep US reporters out of meetings with the Russians while letting the Russian ones in – and share highly classified information with those same Russians, officials of a hostile foreign rival.

He needs to go. Now.



Trump has the absolute right to blab classified intel

May 16th, 2017 8:21 am | By

President Treason confirms that he blabbed sensitive classified information to his BFFs the Russians, and reminds us that he has THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT to do that. He’s the boss aroun heya, unnastan? Nobody gonna tell him what he can and can’t do. He can do whatever he fucking wants to do, and you peasants can go dig up some more turnips.

An openly scheduled meeting, yes, but still a furtive secretive meeting, and no wonder. US journalists, in sharp contrast to Russian journalists, were not allowed to attend that meeting held in their own country by the head of their own state. US reporters out, Russian reporters in. And that’s the setting in which Prez Treason saw fit to blab information and thus likely guaranteed that no more information of that kind will be forthcoming.

That was 3 hours ago. What was supposed to be in tweet #4? Unknown. Maybe someone tackled him to the floor as he was trying to type it.



This is code-word information

May 15th, 2017 4:28 pm | By

God damn. I was out getting Cooper wet and muddy and tired all afternoon, and I was just browsing Twitter and kicking back when I encountered the Post’s latest scoop. Donnie talked about top-secret shit with his Russian guests.

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

A source on IS, and Mister BewareoftheScaryMooslims blabs it because he’s showing off to the Russians.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Those must have been awkward conversations.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

No wonder they were grinning so hard in those photos that Trump didn’t realize they were going to make public.

One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

Oh gawd.

Because he’s prez, he didn’t do anything illegal. It’s just that it was a very bad thing to do, that’s all.

But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.

But no biggy, right? Certainly Trump has never expressed any alarm about Islamic State…

“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. This is what we all knew would happen; this is the idiocy and engorged vanity that we knew would make it happen; but how is it possible that no one can stop this?

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Well, on the day when ten passenger jets are blown out of the sky, we’ll know we have Trump to thank…unless we were on one of the planes.

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.

This is horrifying.

A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”

At a more fundamental level, the information wasn’t the United States’ to provide to others. Under the rules of espionage, governments — and even individual agencies — are given significant control over whether and how the information they gather is disseminated, even after it has been shared. Violating that practice undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.

But we have an angry toddler as head of state, so that’s that.

The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.

Trump also described measures that the United States has taken or is contemplating to counter the threat, including military operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as other steps to tighten security, officials said.

Image result for head-desk

And this is inevitable and will go on happening because he refuses to read the briefings that tell him not to do this kind of thing, and why.

Trump has repeatedly gone off-script in his dealings with high-ranking foreign officials, most notably in his contentious introductory conversation with the Australian prime ministerearlier this year. He has also faced criticism for seemingly lax attention to security at his Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago, where he appeared to field preliminary reports of a North Korea missile launch in full view of casual diners.

U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points — and often ignores those.

“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

I keep saying – many people keep saying – this level of stupidity is dangerous in a president.

This shit has seriously got to stop.



Guest post: When ‘scholarship’ seems to be defined by counting citations

May 15th, 2017 10:51 am | By

Originally a comment by Ian on The broad, well-established, interdisciplinary scholarly fields.

All this mouthing off about ‘scholarship’ comes over to me as unbearably pretentious, especially when ‘scholarship’ seems at best to be defined by counting citations. I’ve read the article and it seems like something that, in the Journals I used to read, would have been in the Notes and Comments section. It is however clearly and unambiguously written, which in some academic fields I know will count against it.

Even if we take the claims of the writers of the open letter at face value, that they were concerned about the failure of the editors to maintain scholarly standards and it was not a personal attack on the author, they still demonstrate a breathtaking arrogance. If there are defects in ‘scholarship’ it isn’t enough to simply make the claim. It requires a counter-argument, with evidence that is more than just argument from authority.

I’m not in academia, but I spent 40+ years in a profession where I was expected to make arguments for policy decisions, often in legal or quasi-legal contexts. Had I attempted to make a case such as is presented in the open letter, I would have been almost literally laughed out of court.

I think many of them would do well to read Andreski’s ‘Social Sciences as Sorcery’ – it doesn’t look as if things have improved much since the 70s, when it was published. A quote:

So long as authority inspires awe, confusion and absurdity enhance conservative tendencies in society. Firstly, because clear and logical thinking leads to a cumulation of knowledge (of which the progress of the natural sciences provides the best example) and the advance of knowledge sooner or later undermines the traditional order. Confused thinking, on the other hand, leads nowhere in particular and can be indulged indefinitely without producing any impact upon the world.



His personal charisma

May 15th, 2017 10:24 am | By

The funniest first paragraph I’ve read so far today:

Donald Trump is embarking on a week of diplomacy and preparation for his first foreign trip as president, aimed at demonstrating that his personal charisma can override longstanding global divisions and conflicts of interest with old allies.

His wut?

Trump doesn’t have charisma; he doesn’t even lack charisma; he has whatever the opposite of charisma is. He’s a force that sucks all the charisma out of the air for miles in every direction. He’s repellent.

Trump’s personality-driven approach seeks to reassert US pre-eminence in the world through consolidating bonds with foreign leaders, most notably autocrats, as long as they are aligned with the administration’s priorities of defeating Islamic State and al-Qaida while containing Iranian influence. Pressure to observe human rights has been explicitly relegated as a foreign policy mission.

The president’s critics argue, however, that abandoning such values damages long-term US aspirations to global leadership. They warn that Trump’s overweening confidence in his own persuasive powers is simply delusional and will not help resolve intractable global conflicts and the often contradictory aims of his own foreign policy objectives.

And even if he were right about his persuasive powers, what good are they if he has all the wrong goals? But he’s not right about them, so we don’t really need to contemplate that question.

[National Security Adviser HR McMaster] laid out the agenda for Trump’s trip, which starts with visits to the ancient capitals of Islam, Judaism and Christianity and culminates in Nato and G7 summits at the end of the following week, describing it in almost messianic terms.

“This trip is truly historic. No president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths all on one trip,” McMaster said. “And what President Trump is seeking is to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress, and prosperity.”

It will be like a visit from God, but more fun.

Trump’s week starts on Monday with a meeting in Washington with the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that is supposed to underline US backing for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There is deep unease in the state department and the Pentagon about the UAE’s human rights record in its role as part of an Arab coalition against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. But Trump is not expected to raise those concerns in his meeting with the sheikh.

Of course he’s not. What does he care about human rights? They don’t put money in his pocket.

Trump has already made clear he will not let Obama-era opposition to Erdoğan’s creeping authoritarianism become a hindrance in the bilateral relationship. He formally congratulatedthe Turkish president on winning a referendum amending the constitution to give him more power.

For its part, Turkey has also focused on cultivating a personal relationship with Trump. A meeting of Turkish and US business leaders starting next Sunday has been moved to the Trump hotel in Washington.

Putting a lot of money in Trump’s pocket. That’s the important thing.

The consistent message being conveyed in this week’s meetings, and then in the trips to Saudi Arabia and Israel over the weekend, is that US support for its traditional allies is personal and no longer has to be balanced by scruples about human rights or by the pursuit of detente with Iran.

“One of the main comparisons with Obama is that he seemed to be aloof. He didn’t take sides. His temperament was cerebral and over the fray,” said Natan Sachs, the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

“Trump is the opposite. He is partisan. He is saying he is on their side. He is saying: ‘We are not the UN. We are not Sweden. We are the US and we are your ally.’”

We like authoritarians and dictators.



We must all stand with Mohamed Salih

May 15th, 2017 9:16 am | By

Maryam Namazie on Facebook:

We must all stand with Mohamed Salih

In a very brave step, Mohamed Salih, a young Sudanese, filed an official request for all mention of Islam to be removed from his documents, including his national ID. As a result, he was charged with apostasy, per Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Code, which states: “Whoever propagates the renunciation of Islam or publicly renounces it by explicit words or an act of definitive indication is said to commit the offence of Riddah (apostasy).”

Salih was, therefore, arrested on 8 May 2017 and held in Alqadisiyah police station, Ombada, a suburb of Omdurman. Since Aristide Nononsi, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan, was on a visit, the Sudanese government released Salih after declaring him mentally unfit.

Salih is currently in hiding given that he is at serious risk of mob violence. Though his request was declined by the court, he insists on continuing his case. He is also calling for his mental capacity to be properly assessed.

The grounds for his legal defence is the contradiction between Article 126 of the criminal code and Article 38 of the 2005 transitional constitution, which allows for the freedom of choice of religion and belief: “Every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same, by way of worship, education, practice or performance of rites or ceremonies, subject to requirements of law and public order; no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in, nor to practice rites or services to which he/she does not voluntarily consent.”

Whilst Salih’s Facebook page was initially removed, it is now back online raising once again concerns about Facebook’s compliance with governments aiming to censor and silence those deemed apostates.

The Council of Ex-Muslims calls on the Sudanese government to comply with Mr Salih’s request to remove Islam from his documents and protect his safety and security. We also call on the public to stand in firm support of Salih’s brave move in defence of freedom of conscience, which includes the right to leave Islam and atheism.

A petition support Mr Salih can be found here.

For more information:

Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)