Notes and Comment Blog

A civilization-warping crisis of public trust

Mar 4th, 2017 4:51 pm | By

Trump’s frothing at the mouth claims this morning don’t seem to be going over all that well so far.

The president, who regularly has access to classified information and intelligence briefings, relied on Breitbart News for his information about the alleged wiretap, according to the person.

Breitbart, the media outlet previously run by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, published a story Friday outlining actions supposedly taken by the Obama administration to monitor Trump Tower in New York during the campaign. The story, which claimed the moves were aimed at undermining Trump’s candidacy, referenced commentary on Thursday by radio host Mark Levin that made similar claims.

Neither Breitbart News nor Levin cited independent reporting to back up the assertions.

But Mark Levin said it. Isn’t that all that’s required? Somebody else saying it?

“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, said in an emailed statement on Saturday. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, also denied Trump’s claims on Saturday. “No President can order a wiretap,” Rhodes wrote on Twitter in a response back to Trump. “Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”

I would like more protection from people like Trump, and most especially from Trump.

Trump’s flurry of tweets sparked further concern by some in Congress, who called on the president to be more forthcoming about his wiretapping accusations.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who has been a Trump critic, said Saturday that Trump’s allegations suggest that even if Obama wasn’t involved, a court may have seen sufficient evidence to authorize a wiretap — a potentially groundbreaking development.

Ah. That would be interesting. President Bonehead lets us all know that Intelligence people may have evidence he’s been up to no good.

Any legal wiretapping would have been initiated by intelligence agencies, with court approval required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. According to federal law, a FISA court approving a wiretap of Trump’s home or offices would have had to find probable cause that the facility was being used on behalf of a foreign power, or that Trump’s associates were involved in espionage.

Such a wiretap could have been obtained without Obama’s involvement, if intelligence agencies determined — and got a court to agree — that Trump or his associates were acting on behalf of a foreign government. Trump has denied colluding with Russia, saying he has no links to the country.

“If it was with a legal FISA court order, then an application for surveillance exists that the court found credible,” Sasse said in a statement. “The president should ask that this full application regarding surveillance of foreign operatives be made available.”

The U.S. is “in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust, and the president’s allegations today demand the thorough and dispassionate attention of serious patriots,” Sasse said.

Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said Trump had “no evidence” to support his “spectacularly reckless” claims.

“No matter how much we hope and pray that this President will grow into one who respects and understands the Constitution, separation of powers, role of a free press, responsibilities as the leader of the free world, or demonstrates even the most basic regard for the truth, we must now accept that President Trump will never become that man,” Schiff said in a statement.

He seems to be heading very determinedly in the opposite direction.

Good-bye salmon

Mar 4th, 2017 4:19 pm | By

The man is scum.

The Trump administration has proposed cutting federal funding for restoring Puget Sound by 93 percent.

For the fiscal year ending this June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has spent $28 million on Puget Sound restoration and monitoring. It has channeled those funds through tribes, nonprofits and local governments, which carry out the on-the-ground work.

Next year, that would drop to $2 million under the White House proposal revealed this week.

I wonder how much salmon he and his wives and children and in-laws eat. I wonder where he thinks salmon comes from.

Many other EPA programs would be reduced or eliminated. Overall, the agency’s funding would drop from to $6.16 billion next year from $8.24 billion this fiscal year. (That’s down from a 2010 high of $10.3 billion).

One-fifth of the agency’s 15,000 jobs would be eliminated within a year.

Programs to clean up major water bodies were hard hit: The Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay would also lose more than 90 percent of their EPA funding; cleanup funds for San Francisco Bay and Long Island Sound would be eliminated.

EPA’s environmental justice and climate protection programs would be cut by more than two-thirds.

While Trump gets richer every day.

It could have come from anywhere

Mar 4th, 2017 12:45 pm | By

Politico gives a little snapshot of life as a presidential staffer.

In other phone conversations with several people over the last 48 hours, the image-conscious Trump has spoken more generally about his frustrations with his administration – and the perceptions surrounding it. “He’s tired of everyone thinking his presidency is screwed up,” said one person who spoke to him.

After the meeting, Trump left for Florida, where he spoke at a Republican National Committee meeting on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, he sent out a number of tweets, some of which accused former President Barack Obama of tapping Trump Tower phone lines during the final days of the 2016 election, without citing evidence.

Way to make everyone stop thinking his presidency is screwed up!

One White House official said he woke up Saturday morning to Trump’s tweets and grimaced. It was unclear, this person said, where the president had gotten the idea, but that it likely wasn’t from an official source. “It could have come from anywhere,” this person said.

Several other people close to Trump said they weren’t sure where he got his information for the posts. One of these people said most of Trump’s aides were back in Washington and woke up exasperated at the posts.

After making the explosive claims – and trashing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s TV ratings – in the Twitter rant, the president headed to the golf course near his Mar-a-Lago resort.

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Born amid the fever swamps of the far right

Mar 4th, 2017 10:42 am | By

Chris Cillizza at the Post looks at Trump’s raving paranoia.

Donald Trump’s political career was born amid the fever swamps of the far right. He seized on a favorite conspiracy theory bubbling there — that then-President Barack Obama was not, in fact, born in the United States and therefore was an illegitimate president — to boost his profile in national politics.

That boost eventually led to his 2016 candidacy. That candidacy led to President Trump. But what never changed is Trump’s roots in the conspiracy theory world.

That makes sense in a way. Trump is a remarkably empty, unthinking, incurious, ignorant guy. Conspiracy theory is attractive to people with those deficits, because it’s a Story, and a Story is all it is. Shiny! It doesn’t require thought or rich information, and in fact it flourishes in their absence.

There is, as you probably already guessed, no detail about the alleged wiretapping included in any of the Trump tweets. Trump’s tweets appear to trace back to an article Friday on Breitbart News headlined “Mark Levin to Congress: Investigate Obama’s ‘Silent Coup’ vs. Trump.” That article, based heavily on conservative talk radio host Levin’s views, suggest the Obama administration conducted a “silent coup” to keep Trump from the presidency.

Here’s the key paragraph:

In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.

The problem here, of course, is that what Levin — and Breitbart — use as evidence for these claims are a series of seemingly unconnected events — from FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court requests to Trump joking about the Russia email hack, to the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails in the fall. The proof that all — or any — of these events are tied together by actual facts as opposed to supposition is not offered.

But for Trump that’s fine – supposition is good enough for him, because he’s just that empty and mindless.

Here’s the thing: Conspiracy theorists see everything as connected. If you doubt them, well of course you do because you’re in on it. That’s not the standard that we can have for the president of the United States. Proof is required.

The ball is in Trump’s court. Short of convincing evidence to back up the wiretapping claims, the conspiracy-theory candidate has become the conspiracy-theory president.

And he has the nuclear codes. This just won’t do.


Mar 4th, 2017 10:14 am | By

The Post suggests what may have inspired Trump’s deranged tweets announcing that Obama wire tapped him.

Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.

And on the basis of that he makes libelous assertions on Twitter. He skips intelligence briefings, and demands that what intel he does read be kept very short, and instead he relies on right-wing media with minimal ethical standards for his “information.”

Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump’s assertion.

“It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. The former official continued: “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”

A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.

And you can’t just go around and accuse people of wire-tapping your building on the basis of nothing, either, but Trump thinks rules don’t apply to him.

Is it legal for a sitting President to be out of his tree?

Mar 4th, 2017 9:51 am | By

So…everybody around him must be thinking it’s all over, right? He’s too mentally unstable to have the [shudder] nuclear codes?

That was 6:30 a.m. at Taco Del Mar, so he probably hadn’t “just found out” anything, let alone that. No, I don’t believe that his staff sit up all night finding out stuff so that they can tell him it at six in the morning when he’s off resting his signing arm at the golf resort.

Then, two hours later, he got back to the serious business.

So it’s official now that he’s fucking batshit crazy, right? The kind of crazy that could decide to order the nukes on a whim at any moment?

Since the victims refuse to testify

Mar 3rd, 2017 5:09 pm | By

You know one thing that happens when you make undocumented immigrants afraid of the authorities? In addition to things like: they don’t go to the doctor or the dentist, they drop out of school, they don’t apply for library cards, they can’t call anyone in emergencies?

Multiple victims of domestic assault — who are living in the U.S. without proper documentation — are refusing to testify in a Denver courthouse out of fears of being deported, according to city officials.

Since President Donald Trump‘s executive order on immigration was issued on Jan. 25, at least four victims of domestic violence are unwilling to testify in court, said Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson on Friday to ABC News affiliate KMGH.

Since the victims refuse to testify, “four alleged perpetrators of domestic violence” are “back out on the streets without any kind of punishment.”

And free to abuse some more.

On Thursday, the Meyer Law Office, in Denver posted video of an immigration attorney questioning ICE agents who were at the city’s courthouse. In the video, agents admit that they are looking to arrest someone but refuse to elaborate beyond that. At least one agent admitted that he did not have any arrest warrants, but he would not confirm or deny whether he was working undercover.

While the actions of the ICE agents are not illegal, the law firm alleges that ICE is using “bully” tactics and destroying the trust between immigrants and law enforcement.


ICE issued a statement saying they did have warrants.

The secours was not very bon

Mar 3rd, 2017 4:38 pm | By

NPR has more details on the Tuam human remains story.

Authorities in Ireland say they have excavated the human remains of an undisclosed number of young children from the site of a former home for unmarried mothers.

The home, located in the town of Tuam, was operated by the Bon Secours nuns beginning in the 1920s and was home to women and babies until the 1960s. For years, some in the region had suspected there was a mass grave on the site.

That’s a good deal clearer and more blunt than RTE was. It was a Catholic home (aka an informal prison) for unmarried mothers in 1920s-1960s Catholic Ireland. We can be sure those mothers were not treated well.

On Friday, the Irish minister for children and youth affairs, Katherine Zappone, announced in a statement that the official commission investigating the Tuam site “revealed that human remains are visible in a series of chambers that may have formed part of sewage treatment works for the Home.”

The statement continued:

“It is not certain whether the chambers ever functioned for sewage purposes, but the Commission believes that there are a significant number of children’s remains there. The Commission recovered some juvenile remains for detailed forensic analysis. From this analysis, it has determined that the remains are between 35 fetal weeks and 2 to 3 years of age. From carbon dating it has correlated the age of these samples with the time period during which the home was in operation — between 1925 and 1961.

A time when the church operated with impunity and unmarried mothers were viewed with contempt or worse.

Zappone said the county council for the region was securing the site for now and had not yet decided how to handle the human remains.

As we previously reported, the Tuam site “was surrounded by an 8-foot wall, concealing these living conditions from the outside world.”

Ah yes, the all-important 8-foot wall.

Significant quantities of human remains

Mar 3rd, 2017 3:46 pm | By

Oh lord – remember the former Catholic mother and baby home in Tuam, Ireland, where human remains were found in the grounds?

They’ve found more. Lots more. RTE reports:

“Significant quantities” of human remains have been discovered at the site of the former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

It comes after the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation began test excavations at the site of the children’s burial ground on the Dublin Road housing estate in Tuam, Co Galway in October 2016.

The commission was established following allegations about the deaths of 800 babies in Tuam over a number of decades and the manner in which they were buried.

In a statement today, the commission said significant quantities of human remains have been discovered in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers which were examined earlier this year.

It added: “These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to two-three years.”

The mother-and-baby home operated from 1925 to 1961; a number of the samples are likely to date from the 1950s, the commission said. Further scientific tests are being conducted.

This isn’t a cemetery, with duly recorded deaths. This is dead children being thrown away in hidden places.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said it was very sad and disturbing news.

It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years.

“Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the mother-and-baby home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961,” Minister Zappone added.

It must not have been a very healthy “home” for mothers and babies.

The woman who first raised concerns about the site said she is relieved at the confirmation that the remains of babies and children are buried at the site.

Catherine Corless said “it is wonderful and emotional” that the truth has been revealed today.

She said survivors of the former Bons Secours home for unmarried mothers should be consulted to see what they would like to happen to the remains.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Ms Corless said their one hope was that the truth would come out.

She also said the Bon Secours sisters should apologise to them.

Ms Corless said that during her research into the site “everything pointed” to this area being a mass grave, but despite this she was told to leave it alone.

She said that it should have been properly investigated n the 1970s when the County Council, gardaí and the religious order knew what was there.

Ms Corless said she believes the graveyard extends further overground where remains are buried in coffins. and the whole area needs to be investigated.

Emphasis added. The religious order knew what was there.

H/t Stewart

He could have stated his response more accurately

Mar 3rd, 2017 3:34 pm | By

Childe Donald is back on Twitter.

Brian Williams on MSNBC had a good time last night pointing out that Trump is saying Sessions committed perjury there.

Brian William explained that any lawyer would tell Trump to shut up.

Trump has never been within sight of reality.

Remember when presidents used to try to act like adults, at least a little bit?

So pathetic. Totally, dude. So pathetic I can’t even.

Oh god the tiny fist. How I hate the tiny fist.

Weaker, smaller, stupider

Mar 3rd, 2017 11:20 am | By

He sounds nice.

A Polish lawmaker is facing punishment from the European Parliament after telling a colleague that it was right that women earn less than men — “because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.”

The comments were made by Janusz Korwin-Mikke on Wednesday evening, but came to widespread attention Thursday after the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament released footage of the comments.


Well anyway he has a point. Clearly Elizabeth Warren, for instance, is way less intelligent than, say, Donald Trump. All men are more intelligent than all women, so systematically paying them less would make sense.

Korwin-Mikke has faced censure from parliamentary authorities three times before. In 2014, he was fined after giving a speech that used the word “negroes,” and in 2015 he was temporarily suspended after giving a Nazi salute and later suspended again after describing immigrants as “human garbage.”

Before Korwin-Mikke was elected to the European Parliament, his views on women were already the subject of debate back home in Poland, where he has long been a figure on the libertarian and far-right fringes of politics. In the past, he has suggested that perhaps women should not be allowed to vote and said that domestic violence brought women “down to earth” (comments he later indicated were meant ironically).

Now where have we heard that before?


Mar 3rd, 2017 9:26 am | By

Also – why can’t Jeff Sessions swear in like a normal person? What’s with that ridiculous way out to the side and way up in the air arm-raise?

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Jaworski didn’t buy it

Mar 3rd, 2017 8:42 am | By

Richard Painter explains why Jeff Sessions should be fired.

He points out that we’ve been here before:

In 1972 Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a confirmation hearing on his nomination by President Richard Nixon to be attorney general. He was to replace Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who had resigned to run Nixon’s re-election campaign (and who would later be sent to prison in the Watergate scandal).

Several Democratic senators were concerned about rumors of White House interference in a Justice Department antitrust suit against International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, a campaign contributor to the Republican National Committee. They asked Kleindienst several times if he had ever spoken with anyone at the White House about the I.T.T. case. He said he had not.

That wasn’t true. Later, after Kleindienst was confirmed as attorney general, the special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, and his team uncovered an Oval Office tape recording of a phone call in which Nixon told Kleindiesnt to drop the I.T.T. case. Kleindienst claimed that he thought the senators’ questions were limited to a particular period, not the entire time during which the case was pending.

Jaworski didn’t buy it. He filed criminal charges against Kleindienst, who had earlier resigned as attorney general. Eventually Kleindienst pleaded guilty to failure to provide accurate information to Congress, a misdemeanor, for conduct that many observers believed amounted to perjury. He was also reprimanded by the Arizona State Bar.

Sessions is attempting a similar sort of dance.

Once again, we see an attorney general trying to explain away misleading testimony in his own confirmation hearing. A spokeswoman for Mr. Sessions says that “there was absolutely nothing misleading” about his answer because he did not communicate with the ambassador in his capacity as a Trump campaign surrogate. His contacts with the Russian ambassador, he claims, were made in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That may or may not have been the case (individual senators ordinarily do not discuss committee business with ambassadors of other countries, particularly our adversaries). Regardless, Mr. Sessions did not truthfully and completely testify. If he had intended to say that his contacts with the Russians had been in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and not for the Trump campaign, he could have said that. He then would have been open to the very relevant line of questioning about what those contacts were, and why he was unilaterally talking with the ambassador of a country that was a longstanding adversary of the United States.

He did not reveal the communications at all, however. He did so knowing that Senator Franken was asking about communications with the Russians by anyone working for the Trump campaign, including people who, like Mr. Sessions, had other jobs while they volunteered for the Trump campaign. Mr. Sessions’s answer was at best a failure to provide accurate information to Congress, the same conduct that cost Attorney General Kleindienst his job.

And, further weakening his explanation, he’s a lawyer. It seems pretty feeble for a lawyer to claim confusion about the question. Lawyers are trained not to be confused about such things.

And this time, unlike in 1972, the attorney general’s misleading testimony involves communications not with the president of the United States, but with a rival nuclear superpower. In 1972, any federal employee who provided such inaccurate information under oath about communications with the Russians would have been fired and had his or her security clearances revoked immediately, and probably also would have been criminally prosecuted.

The Cold War may be over, but Russia in the past few years has once again sought to destabilize the democratic process not only in the United States, but also in much of Europe.

Russia is not an ally. Putin’s Russia is an enemy as well as a rival. Putin’s Russia is an enemy without the figleaf of socialism.

Sessions should be fired and prosecuted.

Don’t need no stinkin ethics training

Mar 2nd, 2017 4:51 pm | By

We could tell:

President Donald Trump’s team rejected a course for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

I guess they were too busy watching Fox News and playing golf.

The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies — some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration.

But the contract was never awarded because after the election the transition team shifted its priorities, according to a letter the General Services Administration sent to bidders such as the Partnership for Public Service. The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show. The contract-based training program was authorized in 2000, and the Obama and Bush transitions both received the training.

But Trump has the most scorching case of Dunning-Kruger in the history of the world, so naturally he assumes he knows everything already. Why learn anything when you’re already the smartest and most informed guy in the world?

The Trump team has said it was determined not to spend all of its transition funds, and it returned millions to the government. To some Republicans, the program could be seen as wasteful.

Oh for christ’s sake. Penny wise pound foolish, people! Ethics training is not the place to scrimp, especially in the case of Trump & Gang.

The lack of training likely fueled a series of early missteps in the presidency, as aides fired off executive orders and new rules without briefing Congress or their peers at agencies.

“It looks like a good program, and I wish they had implemented it,” said Norm Eisen, a White House ethics lawyer in the Obama administration who now leads the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It might have spared them the numerous ethics and other messes they have encountered.”

But noooooooooooooo, because they know better than everybody.

It is an ugly, ugly phrase

Mar 2nd, 2017 1:38 pm | By

David Remnick and Evan Osnos were on Fresh Air yesterday. I know Remnick as the editor of the New Yorker, and a frequent editorialist there; I’d forgotten, if I ever knew, that he used to be Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post. The two of them and a third author, Josh Yoffa, wrote an article about Trump, Putin and the new Cold War. It was a very meaty – informative – interview.

They wrote the article to explore why Russia messed with the election.

DAVID REMNICK: Well, I think that goes to your first question about what we found out. Well, a lot of this article is not just about the what, the what happened. It’s the why. The why goes back a – fully a generation in politics and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union not as a liberation, not as the oncoming of freedom of the press and assembly and religion and all these things, and – and yippee, all the republics get to go their own way. That’s not the way he experienced it at all.

This is a KGB agent who was in East Germany and experienced the end of the Soviet Union as the loss of empire, the way someone in the Ottoman Empire – a servant of the Ottoman Empire would have that kind of tragic sense of loss of empire.

Or as Churchill and others did about “losing” India…which of course wasn’t theirs to “lose,” but they didn’t see it that way, just as Putin and co didn’t see it that way.

The Russians didn’t expect Trump to win, and were overjoyed when he did, and now…they’re not so sure. (Yeah we’ve had that. The Shah? That turned out to be not such a brilliant idea. Also the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. And so on.)

Toward the end of the show they talked about Trump and the press.

GROSS: Let’s look at what’s happening to the press under President Trump. Trump tweets a lot about the press. On February 17, he tweeted (reading) the fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people.

REMNICK: Yeah, what a phrase, the enemy of the people.

GROSS: Yeah, I know. That goes back to Stalin, right?

OSNOS: I recognize that from somewhere.

Then Remnick became impassioned:

REMNICK: Well, it goes back to Robespierre. It is an ugly, ugly phrase. I don’t know how self-aware Donald Trump is of that kind of phrase. I guarantee you Steve Bannon knows what enemy of the people means. Stalin used it to keep people terrified. If you were branded a vrag naroda, an enemy of the people, you could guarantee that very soon there would be a knock in the middle of the night at your door and your fate would be horrific.

To hear that kind of language directed at the American press is an emergency. It’s an emergency. It’s not a political tactic. And if it’s a political tactic, it’s a horrific one. And that needs to be resisted not just by people like me who are, you know, editors or writers but all of us. This is part of what distinguishes American democracy. And it’s untenable, immoral and anti-American.

Emphasis added, but it’s there in his voice, I assure you. They don’t include emphasis in the transcripts.

GROSS: So you just said that you’re not sure whether Donald Trump knows the pedigree of that expression enemy of the people, but you’re sure Steve Bannon does. So I’m wondering since this is…

REMNICK: That doesn’t excuse Trump at all.

GROSS: No, no, but I’m wondering since you’re implying here that Bannon probably knows that this is a word that was used by Stalin and that had very grave implications when it was used in the Stalinist era, what do you know about any either connections that Bannon has to Russia or about the influence of Russia on Bannon just as…

REMNICK: I know zero about that, nothing. And it’s been important for journalists to say when they don’t know things, too.

GROSS: Absolutely.

REMNICK: But I think it’s important to point out that right now you and I are having and have been having a free discussion. I’m going to go back to my office, and I will publish website and the magazine this week without any government interference. In fact, without any interference of the owners of The New Yorker. That is as close to an ideal situation as possible, and it obtains to this day. And to have people thrown out of the White House press pool for a day or even for a while does not mean the end of the press.

But it is a very ominous circumstance when the president of the United States uses this kind of language because, quite frankly, and it’s been pointed out more than once, it’s the kind of language that autocrats use in the beginning. And where it will go, we don’t know yet. But he is obviously – this is beyond dog whistles. He is signaling to the base that your enemy, your enemy is those people.

That’s how autocrats behave. They create an other. Whether it’s the press, whether it’s ethnic or otherwise, it’s the creation of an other. And I find it – I just, you know, it has to be stood up against.


GROSS: So, David, this is a question for you. It strikes me that The New Yorker has become more overtly political in terms of the covers. The covers have become more political. A lot of the investigations are political. You wrote something that I think may be unprecedented in The New Yorker, which is after Donald Trump was elected, you wrote an editorial saying the election of Donald Trump to the presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution and a triumph for the forces at home and abroad of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny and racism.

REMNICK: I wish I were wrong on every point. I hope to be wrong on every point. I mean, my hope for my country is much greater than my desire to be right in the moment. That was written on election night. And I wish that every moment in the transition, in the first month of the presidency had proved me wrong.

But it didn’t. It’s where we are. We’re in new territory, and it’s not good territory.

If it turns out he lied under oath

Mar 2nd, 2017 1:03 pm | By

Elijah Cummings put it clearly:

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, put out a written statement, declaring, “It is inconceivable that even after Michael Flynn was fired for concealing his conversations with the Russians that Attorney General Sessions would keep his own conversations secret for several more weeks.” Cummings said Sessions’s statement denying contact “was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks — and he continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn’t know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians.” He concluded, “Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.”

It just won’t do. It’s no good having an Attorney General who screws up this badly this early – not to mention the fact that he has that long history of opposing voting rights for a large segment of the population.

Now, it is possible — but unlikely — that Sessions did not recall the meetings with the Russian ambassador. His excuse — that he was not officially acting as a surrogate or that the conversation was not about the campaign — doesn’t absolve him over his blanket statement to Franken that he was unaware of contacts or his assertion to Durbin that he didn’t know of any reason he would need to recuse himself in an investigation of campaign figures speaking with Russian figures.

He should be immediately recalled to the Senate to explain his actions. Talk of “perjury” is premature, since such a charge would require, among other things, an intent to deceive. But members of Congress plainly think that Sessions was trying to hide something. Nadler told me, “If it turns out he lied under oath, he of course will be subject to criminal prosecution and should immediately resign.” Swalwell likewise stated, “At best, he was careless with a subject of great importance; at worst, like General Michael Flynn, the Attorney General lied about prior contacts with Russia.”

Flynn had to go. Sessions has to go.

No good reason

Mar 2nd, 2017 12:39 pm | By

Did Trump sign a secret executive order telling customs and border patrol to keep out as many brown foreigners as possible? Because if he didn’t, I don’t see why the Tibetan women’s football team was denied visas to come here for a tournament in Texas.

They say they were told they had “no good reason” to visit the US.

Most of the players are Tibetan refugees living in India, and had applied at the US embassy in Delhi.

India isn’t one of Trump’s random “seven countries.” Neither is Tibet.

Cassie Childers, the executive director of Tibet Women’s Soccer and a US citizen, told the BBC that she had accompanied the group of 16 players for interviews at the embassy on 24 February.

“I am disappointed because we had planned the trip for months. It was a big moment in every player’s life when they were told about the trip. It was their opportunity to tell the world that Tibetan women are capable of achieving anything,” she said.

Ms Childers added that she was “ashamed” that her country refused to grant visas to a women’s football team.

But she also said she didn’t think it was Trump’s doing. Apparently we don’t like to let Tibetans in, because they might ask for asylum.

The Women's Soccer team Tibet Women’s Soccer

Children of the Sun

Mar 2nd, 2017 11:02 am | By

What’s on Bannon’s bookshelf? What’s on his list of top most inspiring and influential reads? One item is a clerico-fascist named Julius Evola, whom he name-checked in a speech at a Vatican conference in 2014.

“The fact that Bannon even knows Evola is significant,” said Mark Sedgwick, a leading scholar of Traditionalists at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Evola, who died in 1974, wrote on everything from Eastern religions to the metaphysics of sex to alchemy. But he is best known as a leading proponent of Traditionalism, a worldview popular in far-right and alternative religious circles that believes progress and equality are poisonous illusions.

Stagnation and hierarchy are so much better – provided you have the good fortune to be at the top end of the hierarchy rather than the bottom end.

Evola became a darling of Italian Fascists, and Italy’s post-Fascist terrorists of the 1960s and 1970s looked to him as a spiritual and intellectual godfather.

They called themselves Children of the Sun after Evola’s vision of a bourgeoisie-smashing new order that he called the Solar Civilization. Today, the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn includes his works on its suggested reading list, and the leader of Jobbik, the Hungarian nationalist party, admires Evola and wrote an introduction to his works.

More important for the current American administration, Evola also caught on in the United States with leaders of the alt-right movement, which Mr. Bannon nurtured as the head of Breitbart News and then helped harness for Mr. Trump.

“Julius Evola is one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century,” said Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader who is a top figure in the alt-right movement, which has attracted white supremacists, racists and anti-immigrant elements.

And the president of the US and many people on his staff.

H/t Rrr

It is crucial to our system of justice that we demand the truth

Mar 2nd, 2017 10:46 am | By

Matt Zapotosky and Mark Berman at the Washington Post point out a touch of hypocrisy or double standarding in Jeff “lied to Congress” Sessions:

Sessions served as a senator for two decades, and he was an outspoken surrogate for Trump on the campaign trail. Because of that, he has talked extensively on all the topics for which he now faces criticism — lying under oath, the importance of meetings, handling sensitive investigations and even correcting the Congressional record. He was particularly critical of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and spoke extensively about the investigation of her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

They found examples of his stated views on items like lying under oath.

After former president Bill Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in December 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, Sessions—then a freshman senator from Alabama—went on television to discuss the significance of lying under oath.

“I am concerned about a president under oath being alleged to have committed perjury,” Sessions said in a January 1999 interview with C-SPAN that was resurfaced and widely shared on social media Tuesday night. “I hope that he can rebut that and prove that did not happen. I hope he can show that he did not commit obstruction of justice and that he can complete his term. But there are serious allegations that that occurred.”

Well but to be fair, Clinton was accused of lying under oath about his non-marital sexual adventures. That’s serious business, unlike lying under oath about being in cahoots with Russia in its campaign to promote Donald Trump.

Clinton was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999. Sessions, who voted to convict Clinton on both charges, said he was worried that the Senate’s decision would help anyone looking to lie under oath and could damage the country’s respect for the rule of law.

“It is crucial to our system of justice that we demand the truth,” Sessions said in a statement at the time. “I fear that an acquittal of this President will weaken the legal system by providing an option for those who consider being less than truthful in court.”

Sessions said that to him, it was “proven beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty” that Clinton committed perjury, and he assailed “the chief law-enforcement officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” for what he called an attack on the law.

Oh did he. Did he really.

This is important because during his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified under oath that he had not communicated with the Russian ambassador — despite two such contacts.

There’s plenty more.

He did not have sex with that ambassador

Mar 2nd, 2017 9:47 am | By

Well great. Brilliant. The new US Attorney General lied at his confirmation hearing. Just what we need: a lying corrupt racist Attorney General, working for the most authoritarian and corrupt administration we’ve ever had.

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

That should be it. Fire him. Never mind recusing himself, he should be gone.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

He should be gone.

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Is that scummy enough? It certainly seems scummy enough to me.

In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.

Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

Sessions is saying wull he didn’t talk to Kislyak about the election, so he told the truth.

When asked to comment on Sessions’s contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Post on Wednesday: “If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading.”

Senators have to be polite. I don’t.

Several Democratic members of the House on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.

“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement, adding that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”

He never was. The racism is a major disqualifier before we even get to the lying to Congress.