robert mueller

Members of Congress were aghast on Thursday after President Donald Trump suggested that he would move to fire special counsel Robert Mueller if his investigation into Russia’s election meddling turned towards Trump’s finances.

PREEMPTIVELY SHIELD

But those same members said that they were unable to preemptively shield Mueller from the threat of presidential interference.

INDEPENDENT COUNSEL

“That’s not our lane. It’s an independent counsel. So he should be independent. And we should do our job and the two things should not be connected,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told The Daily Beast. Heinrich sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is also investigating Russian meddling and potential collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

CONGRESS COULD NOT STOP

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) also acknowledged that Congress could not prevent the president from dispensing of Mueller. In a reflection of the powerlessness of the legislative branch in such a scenario, he humorously suggested that a robust social-media campaign might do the trick.  

TWEET STORM

“I think that maybe we could have a tweet-storm—a tweet-storm directed at the president that all of us, Democrats and Republicans, would tweet the same message to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and say: Mr. President, don’t you dare,” Carper said with a laugh.

Mueller enjoys bipartisan support on the Hill, where lawmakers expressed continued confidence in his ability to oversee the investigation. But as Heinrich noted, that investigation remains under the purview of the executive branch, which leaves it vulnerable to Trump’s whims. And that’s not a particularly secure place to be.

STARK WARNING

In an interview Wednesday with The New York Times, Trump issued a stark warning to Mueller to avoid looking into look into his personal finances.

 

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new trump

The legal team representing Donald Trump in the Russia scandal had a headcount of five when the week began. That headcount is now at three. Attorney Marc Kasowitz has officially quit yesterday evening after being hired to defend  him in the Russia scandal. And this wasn’t even the first defection from Trump’s legal team of the day.

KASOWITZ IN OUT

Marc Kasowitz is officially out, according to Major Garrett of CBS News (link). This comes just hours after the news that Donald Trump has begun inquiring about pardoning himself and his children, and one day after Trump publicly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a manner which further destabilized his tenuous grasp on the presidency. It also comes a few days after Kasowitz replied to an email from a stranger by threatening to hunt him down at his house. But Kasowitz wasn’t today’s only departure.

MARK CORALLO

Also yesterday, John Santucci of ABC News reported that Donald Trump’s Russia legal team spokesman Mark Corallo had resigned as well (link). No specific reason for Corallo’s departure was given. But this comes amid an on-air MSNBC report that Trump’s newest attorney Ty Cobb called a meeting with Trump yesterday and got him to agree not to speak with the media any further about the Russia scandal. Trump then immediately did an interview with the New York Times in which he extensively discussed the Russia scandal.

WHO WILL BE NEXT

So now we must keep an eye out for whether Cobb ends up resigning as well. Jay Sekulow is also still on Trump’s legal team, but he’s had multiple self-defeating incidents on the job. He tried to blame the scandal on the Secret Service, and he once contradicted himself so thoroughly during a Fox News interview that host Chris Wallace was left to mutter “Oh boy this is weird.”

 

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Posted by: maboulette | July 20, 2017

Now Eric Trump Is Accused of Stealing from a Cancer Charity


Eric Trump

Before we get into what the Trump kids have been doing with their time, let’s first acknowledge that life as a Trump is pretty dang plush. If they do absolutely nothing but wait, they’ll have more money than they could ever spend in a dozen lifetimes.

10 BILLION

The president’s stated fortune, $10 billion, is a bit larger than Forbes’s estimate, $3.5 billion. But no matter how you define it, he’s a very rich man and his family is firmly in the top 0.00001 percent of wealth holders.

TIFFANY TRUMP

Tiffany Trump appears to be the only one to truly understand the virtues of laying low. Her only major headline in recent months focuses on her recent vacation (or average Tuesday, to a billionaire heiress) on a yacht in Italy.

IVANKA TRUMP

Ivanka Trump has mostly stayed out of the news as well, albeit under very different circumstances, as one of her father’s closest advisers in the White House. Her only negative press in recent months involves allegations of poor labor conditions at supplier factories for her personal shoe brand — not a small scandal by any measure, though a depressingly familiar one in the workings of global capitalism.

So, what has the other Trump kid, Eric, been up to?

TAX EVASION

Investigative journalists at ProPublica tracked down real estate deals from April 2016 revealing that Donald Trump Sr. had sold real estate in New York at well below market value to a generic LLC. A bit of research showed the actual “buyer” was Eric Trump, Donald’s third-born.

TAX DODGE

Why sell below market value instead of just giving the property to his son, or selling it for the normal price you or I would pay? To dodge taxes.

GIFT TAX

Had Trump senior just gifted the units, they’d be subject to the gift tax, a levy of 40 percent on transfers of wealth. Actually, bargain sales count as gifts as well, but in order to avoid gift taxes here the Trumps likely misapplied a practice that allows real estate developers to reduce prices on first time sales of apartment units to arm’s length buyers.

Tax attorney and Institute for Policy Studies Associate Fellow Bob Lord asks, “This is really, really primo real estate. Why would you show a sale at $350,000 other than to play games for tax purposes?”

 

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healthcare

Republicans could actually screw this up, and they have Ted Cruz to “thank.” Extreme right-wing conservatives like Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah are insisting they won’t vote for any repeal bill unless it allow insurers to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and sell everyone junk insurance that doesn’t actually cover anything.

PROPOSAL ABHORRENT

Meanwhile, almost all other Senate Republicans find such a proposal abhorrent, and say they won’t vote for any bill that allows insurance companies to do that.

HEARTLESS

Cruz’s proposal is so heartless that even very conservative Republicans like Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jerry Moran of Kansas are strongly opposed to it.

BEST PART

The best part is, as long as most Republicans stay opposed to Cruz’s demand, then Trumpcare cannot pass the Senate. This is because there is no way that Cruz and his small band of extreme right-wing Senators will back down from their outrageous demand, and so Republicans will just be at an impasse.

Let’s keep the pressure on and make sure Senate Republicans remain hopelessly divided.

 

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Donald Jr

 

So much for Donald Trump Jr. merely being guilty of attempting to conspire with the Russian government to rig the election against Hillary Clinton. Today a Russian spy was outed as having attended the meeting, and he now claims that the Russian government lawyer at the meeting brought actual files on Clinton with her, and left those files with the Trump campaign.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

This is coming from the Associated Press, which for some reason decided to bury this stunning bombshell all the way down in the tenth paragraph of an article (link) which otherwise focuses on the mere fact that the Russian spy was in attendance at the meeting. This sentence from the AP article could not be any more alarming: “Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats.” Except maybe for the sentence that follows it: “He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates.”

RIG ELECTION AGAINST HILLARY

If this proves true, then it means the Donald Trump campaign didn’t just attempt to conspire with the Russian government to rig the election against Hillary Clinton; it did conspire to rig the election. Moreover, it means these documents may still be around. Everyone from Congress to the Special Counsel can now subpoena them. And because Congress long ago ordered the entire Trump campaign not to destroy any documents relating to Russia, if anyone in the campaign has since strategically trashed these documents, it means they’ve committed a crime.

QUALIFIERS

There are some qualifiers here. According to the above linked AP article, Donald Trump Jr. didn’t seem to think the secret files on Hillary Clinton were particularly useful once the Russian government lawyer explained that they weren’t completed research. So, it’s possible they hit the trash the minute the meeting was over. But if Junior was willing to take this meeting to try to get dirt on Hillary, it’s likely that he would have at least looked at the documents afterward and tried to find anything useful in them. Who else in the campaign might have helped him pore over these documents? This is where the scandal goes next.

 

 

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worried trump

With the floodgates having been thrown open last week in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, it seems inevitable that we’ll see a tidal wave of new revelations and incriminations going forward. Trump seems to think that a major new Russia bombshell is coming in the next day or two. I’m basing that conclusion on a bombastic new story that just landed in a British newspaper that actually has nothing to do with the Russia scandal but telegraphs what’s coming.

THE DAILY MAIL

The Daily Mail just published a bombastic article highlighting some of the most humiliating revelations from a new insider book about the Donald Trump campaign. It’s really ugly stuff. Trump fired Chris Christie from his transition team because he was forced to touch Christie’s germ-covered cellphone. Trump screamed at paul manafort about whether or not he was a “baby.”

BOMBASTIC ARTICLE

But the Daily Mail doesn’t generally publish anti-Trump stuff. And yet here comes this sensational new anti-Trump article out of nowhere. This article is also precisely the kind of distraction that Donald Trump likes to leak about himself when he knows that a truly damaging revelation is coming. His gambit is that the embarrassing stuff will dominate the news cycle and drown out whatever truly incriminating story he thinks is going to come out that day. It’s worked for him in the past.

ANTI-TRUMP

Reading over this uncharacteristically anti-Trump article in the Daily Mail, I can’t help but conclude that Donald Trump asked the tabloid to put it out as a distraction. That way Tuesday morning’s headlines in America will all be about what a small minded buffoon Trump is, which doesn’t really hurt him because everyone already knows as much. And whatever incriminating Russia bombshell story Trump thinks is about to land, it’ll have to compete for attention with this checkout aisle crap about him and Christie and Manafort. We’ll see.

 

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Posted by: maboulette | July 18, 2017

Questions Grow Over Kushner’s Security Clearances


MW-FJ933_kusner_20170406150525_ZH.jpg

Jared Kushner is moving closer to the eye of the storm surrounding President Trump and Russia.

CALLS FOR DELETING SECURITY CLEARANCE

Calls for Kushner to loser his security clearance have mounted, as congressional investigators probe whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – run by the president’s son-in-law – coordinated efforts with Russian bots spreading fake news about Hillary Clinton.

KUSHNER FIGURE IN MEETING

Kushner is also a figure in Donald Trump Jr.’s controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Clinton. He and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both attended the meeting, as did a Russian-American lobbyist with past ties to Russian intelligence. Kushner reportedly left the meeting after 10 minutes.

PARTISAN ATTACKS

Most of the attacks on Kushner have been partisan, but even some Republicans fed up with the drama surrounding Trump’s family are now calling for Kushner’s exit.

ALL CHILDREN REMOVED

“I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say that I think it would be in the President’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House,” Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), a former chairman of the powerful conservative Republican Study Committee, told local radio Thursday morning. “Not only Donald Trump, but Ivanka and Jared Kushner.”

Kushner, who works on a broad foreign policy portfolio, has now had to amend his security clearance form twice to account for previously-unreported meetings with Russian individuals.

HARD TO BELIEVE

“It’s very hard for me to imagine anyone else being allowed to continue their clearance if they participated in a meeting like the one that just became public,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Hill in an interview.

TROLLS PUSH NEGATIVE STORES ABOUT CLINTON

Schiff is also probing whether the Trump campaign’s analytics operation made any attempt to help Russian social media trolls push negative stories about Clinton to certain valuable segments of voters. He declined to name Kushner specifically, but the first son-in-law headed that arm of the campaign. The data and digital director for the campaign, Brad Pascale, said Friday that he will speak to the panel as part of its investigation.

KUSHNER SECURITY CLEARANCE

Democrats have trained their fire on Kushner’s security clearance.

The discovery of the emails led Kushner to amend his security clearance form, which in turn sparked federal investigators to interview him for a second time.

NANCY PELOSI

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday called for Kushner’s security privileges to be revoked “immediately.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the former head of the Democratic National Committee, put forth two appropriations amendments crafted to revoke his clearance; both failed along party lines.

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both in the past have raised questions with Kushner’s security clearance. They have yet to receive an answer to a letter about the status of Kushner’s clearance and the circumstances surrounding his eligibility, sent to Marcia Lee Kelly, director of the office that handles White House security clearances, and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

RANKING MEMBER

Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that his committee will ask Kushner and Trump Jr. for additional documents, while Grassley has said that he wants to speak with Kushner.

KUSHNER TO RESIGN

Other Democrats took it a step further, calling for Kushner to resign.

IF IT WERE OBAMA

“You don’t think the Republicans would be calling for the resignation of an Obama official who allowed the president and vice president to openly lie about a major national security issue?” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters. “He watched his father-in-law on TV say no one in [the Trump] campaign talked to the Russian government.”

DIGITAL OPERATION

The Kushner-led campaign digital operation has provided another thread for federal and congressional investigators.

LEAD UP TO ELECTION DAY

In the lead-up to Election Day, a loose network of hackers, bloggers and other online figures helped spread false and negative reports about Clinton on Twitter and Facebook to millions of voters living in key states, cities and precincts.

ARMIES OF BOTS

The network used armies of social media “bots,” that run automated functions, to accelerate the spread of reports.

CYBER OPERATION

Investigators are considering whether Russia identified its targets with the help of the Trump campaign’s cyber operation, which had detailed information about voters, according to McClatchy.

CENTRAL TO UNRAVELING

Kushner has long been central to unraveling any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

FOCAL POINT

In May, The Washington Post reported that Kushner was considered a focal point of the federal investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russia, now in the hands of special counsel Bob Mueller.

MET WITH RUSSIANS

He met last December with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a meeting that he did not initially disclose on his security clearance form. Kislyak reportedly relayed to Moscow that Kushner wanted to explore a secret back channel with Russia, according to The Post.

FAILED TO DISCLOSE

He also failed to disclose a separate December meeting with the head of a prominent sanctioned Russian bank.

OVERSIGHT?

Kushner’s lawyers have characterized the omissions as an oversight. Intentionally omitting information on the form, known as a SF-86, is a felony.

“As we have previously stated, Mr. Kushner’s SF-86 was prematurely submitted and, among other errors, did not list any contacts with foreign government officials,” Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelik, said Saturday.

INFORMATION WAS UPDATED

“The next day, Mr. Kushner submitted supplemental information stating that he had had ‘numerous contacts with foreign officials’ about which he would be happy to provide additional information. He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition.

“Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders this week accused Democrats demanding his clearance be revoked of “trying to play political games,” but declined to say whether he still has a clearance.

“We don’t discuss security clearances,” she said.

KUSHNER STIL HAS CLEARANCE

Kushner does still have an interim clearance, according to Yahoo News.

GORELIK LAWYER DROPPING OUT OF THIS CASE

Amid the intensifying scrutiny of the probe, Gorelik, a well-known Washington lawyer, is dropping out of the case and turning all Russia-related matters over to another high-powered attorney on Kushner’s team: Abbe Lowell.

Lowell, a Democrat, is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has represented former presidential candidate John Edwards and GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

A spokesman for Kushner did not respond to a request for comment.

 

 

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Posted by: maboulette | July 18, 2017

Trump Pledged to Cut Red Tape – This Is How It Is Going


red tape

President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations.

SIGNATURE THEME

But the effort — a signature theme in Trump’s populist campaign for the White House — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts.

DECLINE TO DISCLOSE

Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But ProPublica and The New York Times identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

WEAKEN OR KILL

Some appointees are reviewing rules their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit if certain regulations are undone.

DARK MONEY GROUPS

The appointees include lawyers who have represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark money groups, employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules and at least three people who were registered to lobby the agencies they now work for.

EDUCATION DEPT ALONE

At the Education Department alone, two members of the deregulation team were most recently employed by pro-charter advocacy groups or operators, and one appointee was an executive handling regulatory issue at a for-profit college operator.

So far, the process has been scattershot. Some agencies have been soliciting public feedback, while others refuse even to disclose who oversees the review. In many cases, responses to public records requests have been denied, delayed or severely redacted.

INTERIOR DEPT

The Interior Department has not disclosed the correspondence and calendars for its team. But a review of more than 1,300 pages of handwritten sign-in sheets for guests visiting the agency’s headquarters in Washington found that appointees had met regularly with industry representatives.

4 MONTHS

Over a four-month period, from February through May, at least 58 representatives of the oil and gas industry signed their names on the agency’s visitor logs before meeting with appointees.

EPA REJECTED

The EPA also rejected requests to release the appointment calendar of the official leading its team — a former top executive for an industry-funded political group — even as she met privately with industry representatives.

DEFENSE DEPT

And the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security provided the titles for most appointees to their review teams, but not names.

 

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Posted by: maboulette | July 17, 2017

Trump Heads into The Worst Week Of His Life Yet


new trump

Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted anything in weeks. If you go back and read any of his recent Twitter posts in the voice of Kellyanne Conway, you’ll realize she’s been ghostwriting them. Trump can’t even be bothered to rage-tweet anymore, because things have gotten just that bad for him. So let’s see how his increasingly fragile psyche fares as he heads into this week, the worst of his life to date.

HOW BAD THINGS ARE

Where do we even begin with how bad things are for Donald Trump right now? Like something out of a crime family novel, his lifetime of hubris is now in the process of taking down his own son. And, despite supposedly being the most powerful man in the world, there isn’t a thing he can do about it. But he’s got his own problems, because his son may have taken him down as well. And remember all those sudden rapid succession bombshells last week? Yeah, that wasn’t an anomaly.

MONTHS CHIPPING AWAY

Investigators and the media have spent months, some of them years in fact, chipping away with the tiniest of pick axes at the layer of concrete protecting Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. But last week they finally broke through. One discovery is now quickly leading to the next. Things have gone from playing out in slow motion to now playing out in real time, if not quite yet fast forward. Trump seems to know it, too. It’s why he’s been withdrawing. But things are about to get much, much worse for him.

WORST WEEK OF HIS LIFE

Even someone with a healthy mental balance, an understanding of how to deal with real political crisis, good lawyers, and existing goodwill with the public would have a hard time figuring out how to survive the onslaught that Donald Trump is about to face this week as his scandal reaches the stratosphere. Unfortunately for him, he might be the least prepared person on earth for what he’s about to face

 

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forget where he is

It’s been subtle enough that some casual observers may have missed it, but Donald Trump hasn’t been doing any his own tweeting for weeks. Some of the tweets have been written in a manner aimed at sounding like a slightly less manic version of him, but none of it’s been him. The wording and phrasing has pointed to a carefully crafted facsimile written by his staffers, raising further questions about how they’ve been able to keep Trump away from Twitter, and what that says about his declining mental state.

NOT CLEAR

It’s still not clear who among Trump’s staff had been impersonating him on Twitter, but we have an educated guess. From the start he’s had staffers periodically tweeting stately messages and announcements in his name, but we’re not talking about that. This is something new and different. For instance, although it was crafted to sound like him, Trump didn’t write this tweet on July 12th: “The W.H. is functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform & many other things. I have very little time for watching T.V.” Nor did Trump write this tweet this morning: “The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!”

NOT DONALD

That’s simply not how Donald Trump refers to those media outlets, or how he abbreviates or capitalizes things. He gets all those things wrong, but he gets them wrong in a specific way. Even this tweet from this morning, which seems to have been purposely riddled with random miscapitalizations to make it look like something Trump would type, doesn’t come off as authentically him: “HillaryClinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?” In fact we can’t find one tweet since June 27th, the day he hired an attorney for his son, legitimately reads like something Trump wrote himself. Perhaps that was the moment that finally broke him.

GHOST TWEETER

So who’s been ghost-tweeting for Trump these past weeks? We can’t prove it, but based on the phrasing and the underlying psychology behind these tweets, they strongly feel like they were crafted by Kellyanne Conway. It may not be a coincidence that she’s now rather gleefully reemerged as a Trump surrogate on television after a long absence. But where is Donald Trump in all this? And what does it say about his declining mental state that he’s no longer willing or able to Deteriorating Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted in weeks; his …fight his staff for his right to tweet toxic garbage?

 

 

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