iceberg

Have humans damaged the Earth’s ecosystems so severely that we’re well on our way to the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaurs vanished 66 million years ago? And are we running out of time to reverse the negative impacts of our actions?

3 SCIENTISTS

Three scientists who have studied extinctions of thousands of species of vertebrates believe so, though others are skeptical of the doomsday-like findings.

NEW STUDY

new study published Monday paints a grim picture: The populations of nearly 9,000 vertebrate species, including mammals such as cheetahs, lions and giraffes, have significantly declined between 1900 and 2015. Almost 200 species have gone extinct in the past 100 years alone — a rate of two per year. The study says the losses are indicative of the planet’s “ongoing six major extinction events” and has cascading consequences for human life on Earth.

“This is the case of a biological annihilation occurring globally, even if the species these populations belong to are still present somewhere on Earth,” Rodolfo Dirzo, the study’s co-author and a Stanford University biology professor, said in a news release.

The researchers analyzed 27,600 species of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles — about half of all known vertebrate species — and found that 8,851 (about 32 percent) have seen declining populations and shrinking areas of habitat. A more detailed analysis on 177 mammal species found that more than 40 percent have experienced significant drops in population. The findings, the study says, mean that billions of animal populations that once roamed the Earth are now gone.

AUTHORS

The authors describe the shrinking population of species as “a massive erosion of the greatest biological diversity in the history of Earth.”

“Thus, we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most,” the authors wrote. “All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”

A few examples: There were only a little more than 7,000 cheetahs in existence last year, and their population may drop another 53 percent over the next 15 years, according to National GeographicBorneo and Sumatran orangutans have been considered endangered for years mainly because of loss of habitat.

The population of African lions has dropped by more than 40 percent in the last 20 years. West African lions, in particular, are nearing extinction, with only about 400 animals left. Historically, lions roamed southern Europe, the Middle East, northwestern India and most of Africa. Today, there are only scattered populations in sub-Saharan Africa and a few remnants at Gir Forest National Park in India, according to the study.

The driving force is a steady drumbeat of human activities that result in habitat losses, pollution and climate disruption, among others.

“This is the first mass extinction which the cause knows what it’s doing and is harming itself,” another co-author, Stanford University biology professor Paul Ehrlich, said. “When the asteroid hit 66 million years ago, the asteroid wasn’t making a choice. Now the driver is human overpopulation and overconsumption by the rich, and that’s generally accepted.”

For instance, wildlife habitats have been plowed, paved and replaced with buildings, strip malls and agricultural lands, Ehrlich said.

“The massive loss of populations and species reflects our lack of empathy to all the wild species that have been our companions since our origins,” the study’s lead author, Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, said in the news release. “It is a prelude to the disappearance of many more species and the decline of natural systems that make civilization possible.”

Some in the scientific community disagree with the study’s grim findings.

SOME DISAGREE

 Doug Erwin, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, said placing the ongoing extinctions of animal species in the same playing field as the mass extinction events in history, or the Big Five, amounts to “junk science.”

“Many of those making facile comparisons between the current situation and past mass extinctions don’t have a clue about the difference in the nature of the data, much less how truly awful the mass extinctions recorded in the marine fossil record actually were,” he told the Atlantic last month. “It is absolutely critical to recognize that I am NOT claiming that humans haven’t done great damage to marine and terrestrial, nor that many extinctions have not occurred and more will certainly occur in the near future. But I do think that as scientists we have a responsibility to be accurate about such comparisons.”

STUART PIMM

 Stuart Pimm, head of conservation ecology at Duke University in North Carolina, said the study unnecessarily raises alarms by saying the Earth is already in the midst of a cataclysmic event. Pimm believes the sixth mass extinction is just beginning, and not well on its way.

“It’s a little bit dramatic,” Pimm said. “Yes, we are driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than we should. So yes, there is a problem. But on the other hand, telling people that we’re all doomed and going to die isn’t terribly helpful.”

Ehrlich said the point of the research is exactly that — to cause alarm.

“I am an alarmist. My colleagues are alarmists. We’re alarmed, and we’re frightened. And there’s no other way to put it,” he said. “It’s largely a political and economic problem. We have a government that’s doing everything they can to push these things in the wrong direction. We have economists who think they can actually grow forever in a finite planet.”

Others agree with the authors, saying the study’s findings are bleak — and rightfully so.

Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the researchers accurately show that population losses are not just confined to a certain geographic area or within certain species of animals.

“What they show is it’s a mass, global phenomenon,” Suckling said. “I think they made the case very strongly that we are right now in the sixth extinction, and if we continue the trend we’re on, we’re going to be looking at 50 to 75 percent of our species lost over the next hundred years.”

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, agreed with the researchers’ conclusion that the window for humans to act is quickly getting narrow.

“The study is right in raising alarm bells … especially with our change in climate,” Greenwald said. “We really need to protect as much habitat as we can now. Our population continues to expand, our consumption continues to expand. We’re going in the wrong direction, quickly.”

The concept of a sixth mass extinction is not new, and the study is not the first to make the case that Earth is already in the middle of it.

Two years ago, some of the same researchers argued that species are disappearing at a rate unparalleled since the Cretaceous mass extinction of dinosaurs. The 2015 study found that vertebrate species have been disappearing up to about 100 times the normal rate over the last century.

 

On a happier note, scientists point to efforts to save endangered species and their habitats.

“We’ve dramatically increased the area protected by national parks, increased the area of the oceans that’s being protected. We have reduced deforestation rate in the Amazon,” Pimm said. “I’m not trying to say that it’s all good news, but there’s good news out there.”

And there’s a chance to save endangered species — if humans fully commit to it, Suckling said.

“Because once they go on endangered species list, they go from neglect or maybe tacit management to very active, focused efforts to save them. And those work,” Suckling said. “The good news here is that once humans decide to save individual species — and we’re quite good at it — we can actually reverse this negative trend.”

Concerned citizens can do practical things like planting native plans in their yard. They can also contact their representatives in Congress to show their support for habitat protection, Greenwald said, though he cautioned that the current Congress is “the most anti-endangered species in history.”

The Center for Biological Diversity has tallied 34 pending bills that would weaken protections for endangered species, Greenwald said.

 

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trump tired

Some members of the Resistance have convinced themselves that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a magic red button he can press to eject Donald Trump from office any time he wants. Unfortunately, nothing works that way. Only the Republican Congress (impeachment) and the VP (25th Amendment) have those red buttons, and they’re not willing to use them yet. That leaves Mueller to employ more conventional means. But there is a strong signal from his camp that he’s further along than some pessimists might think.

HIRING PROSECUTORS NOT INVESTIGATORS

With all the major hiring that he’s been doing right out of the gate, one might expect Robert Mueller to be hiring investigators, but he’s not. Sure, he already has access to the investigative resources of the FBI and other agencies. But he has a theoretically unlimited budget. If he felt he needed to accelerate the investigative phase by hiring outsiders, he could do it. Instead, he’s hiring prosecutors.

MOTIVATION?

There would be no motivation for prosecutors to come on board yet unless the probe is far enough along for them to be relevant to it. And yet Mueller has hired a boatload of some of the most respected and sought-after prosecutors in the country. That means the investigative phase is quite far along, and they have the evidence they need.

NO MAGIC RED BUTTON

Still no magic red button. Mueller’s job is not to prosecute Donald Trump. So his only reason to hire all these prosecutors is so they can prosecute Trump’s underlings and associates for their crimes in relation to Trump’s scandal. On paper this is because any guilty participants need to be punished. But in reality, you prosecute guilty underlings so they’ll flip on the boss. By the time Mueller’s team is done with all this prosecuting, enough underlings will be pointing the finger at Donald Trump that he’ll no longer be tenable in office

 

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health insurance

GOP senators met Thursday morning to review the new legislation, and McConnell still faces an uphill path to the 50 votes he needs to advance the bill.

GOP SENATORS

The Kentucky Republican can afford to lose just two of the 52 Republican senators; in his constitutional role as president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote, if needed. Already, GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Susan Collins (Maine) have all but definitively declared they won’t support the bill.

CORE DISPUTES

As happened when the House debated and ultimately passed its American Health Care Act in May, the core disputes between the more conservative wing of the GOP conference and “moderate” lawmakers are proving difficult to resolve.

APPEASE SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TEXAS)

To appease Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other conservatives, McConnell included new provisions that would create a two-tiered health insurance market. Insurers would be able to offer plans that exclude people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher rates ― or to market plans without comprehensive benefits ― just if they sell at least one plan with more comprehensive coverage that is available to everybody at a uniform price.

HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY

The health insurance industry warns this system would fail because healthy customers would flock to the deregulated market, leaving sicker people behind in the Affordable Care Act-regulated market and leading to high costs and unaffordable premiums, especially for those who earn too much to qualify for tax credits to defray their costs.

PART OF THE BILL

This part of the bill is in addition to the sweeping changes the underlying measure would make to the health insurance system, including allowing insurers to sell policies with less coverage but higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs than are permitted under the Affordable Care Act.

INDIVIDUAL MANDATE

The bill also would repeal the law’s individual mandate that most Americans obtain health coverage or face a tax penalty and its requirement that large employers offer health benefits to workers.

WAIVE THE LAWS REQUIREMENTS

States would be allowed to waive that law’s requirements for coverage of core benefits ― such as hospitalizations, prescription drugs, maternity care and mental health. This would undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, who could be offered plans that don’t cover medical services and products needed to treat their ailments. People whose health coverage lapses for more than 63 days would be locked out of the insurance market for six months.

OLDER CUSTOMERS 5X MORE

And insurers could charge older customers five times what they charge younger people, up from three times under the Affordable Care Act.

BETTER CARE RECONCILIATION ACT

Another set of provisions in the Better Care Reconciliation Act would permit small businesses to band together to buy health benefits for their workers through “association health plans” sponsored by trade organizations. This may allow these companies to save money by offering skimpier plans, but they also risk further unbalancing the markefor people who buy their own insurance because healthier people would be absorbed into association health plans.

GOP SENATORS

Republican senators in the “moderate” camp, including Collins, Dean Heller (Nev.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) appear to have gotten little in the rewrite that might win their votes, particularly since they identified the Better Care Reconciliation Act’s enormous Medicaid cuts as their chief concern ― and the new bill retains them. That’s in spite of a new provision that would help Alaska’s exceptionally high-cost health insurance market.

OTHER CHANGES

In addition to adopting a form of the insurance deregulation provisions favored by Cruz, the new bill includes other changes, according to the bill text and summary. They include:

  • States would have access to $182 billion over 10 years to shore up their insurance markets through mechanisms that would compensate insurance companies that cover the sickest patients.
  • Consumers would be able to use untaxed money from health savings accounts to pay their monthly insurance premiums.
  • High-deductible “catastrophic” health insurance plans currently available mainly to people younger than 30 would be open to all consumers, and people could apply tax credits to their premiums.
  • $45 billion in funding would be available for states to address the opioid addiction crisis, up from $2 billion in the original bill.

Here is what I do not understand – the GOP had 7 years to write a replacement bill to Obamacare, and they waited until the last minute to re-write the House’s bill.  7 YEARS – they could have written a great bill but 7 YEARS is not enough time? So now they want to throw older adults, children and single parents under the bus.  I don’t understand it at all.  7 years is long time – what have they been doing when a major talking point during most of the elections in these 7 years was – REPEAL AND REPLACE, REPEAL AND REPLACE – so why haven’t they written a decent replacement plan in those long 7 years?  Hey, and we elected them because we believed that they would repeal and replace – but they have NOTHING to REPLACE OBAMACARE with.  This is the worse form of leadership I have ever seen and I think in the next election for the House and the Senate should be REPEAL AND REPLACE every one of the GOP members.

And where is the leadership from the White House – President Trump also ran on REPEAL AND REPLACE!

 

 

Posted by: maboulette | July 13, 2017

Donald Trump’s AWFUL Education Secretary MUST BE STOPPED.


Devos

Since taking office, she’s been a total disaster for our students:

— She’s blocked laws designed to help poor and vulnerable students.
— She appointed the CEO of a private loan company to oversee student aid.
— And proposed MASSIVE cuts to public education.

We’re sick and tired of Trump’s cronies rigging the system against the rest of us, so we need to know what our members think.

Betsy DeVos has NEVER worked in public education. She has ZERO qualifications, and she has NO interest in helping American children.
Her only qualification? Her checkbook.

She’s spent MILLIONS to elect Republicans on the state and local level.

If we’re going to fix our Democracy, it’s critical that we stop pay-to-play politicians like DeVos.

Sign this petition!

http://go.fightforreform.org/DeVos-Resign

Posted by: maboulette | July 13, 2017

State Department Spending?


trump family

The State Department spent more than $15,000 to book 19 rooms at the new Trump hotel in Vancouver when members of President Trump’s family headlined the grand opening of the tower in late February.

HOTEL BOOKINGS

The hotel bookings — which were released to The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request — reflect the first evidence of State Department expenditures at a Trump-branded property since President Trump took office in January.

US CONSULATE GENERAL

The department redacted many of the details on the invoice from the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver and declined to provide additional information about the nature of the State Department’s presence at the hotel. Although the Secret Service is responsible for protecting the president’s family, the State Department provides assistance with security and logistics for international trips.

PRESIDENT’S CHILDREN

The president’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, their spouses, and the president’s daughter, Tiffany, were flanked by a heavy security presence on Feb. 28 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a VIP party hosted by developer Joo Kim Tiah, the son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest businessmen.

FREE TIME

Since his inauguration, Trump has spent much of his free time at his private business properties, ranging from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida to his golf courses in Virginia and New Jersey. Meanwhile, Trump’s sons — Donald Jr. and Eric — have traveled to Dubai, Vancouver, Uruguay and Ireland to promote the family’s real estate empire.

BUSINESS TRIPS BY FAMILY

Such business trips by Trump’s children have put U.S. government agencies in a necessary — albeit potentially awkward — arrangement of engaging in taxpayer-funded transactions with the president’s private company while at the same time protecting the president’s immediate family. The president has refused critics’ demands to divest his assets and has instead placed his business empire into a trust controlled by sons Don Jr. and Eric.

OUTGOING HEAD OF OGE

Last week, the outgoing head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., told CBS News that he believes there is “an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency.”

The Trump Organization does not own the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver but instead has a management and licensing deal. Trump’s most recent financial disclosure reflects that he earned more than $5 million in royalties from the Vancouver project during the last reporting period, which covers the year 2016 through April 2017.

A State Department official did not answer questions about who stayed at the Trump hotel and the reasons for their stay.

“Embassy and consulate personnel work with the Secret Service to provide assistance on security matters as necessary for conditions in the particular host country,” the official told The Post. “Our policy is not to discuss the details of security matters.”

A spokeswoman from the Trump Organization declined to answer questions about how the Trump family paid for their rooms and what type of assistance the State Department provided the family on their business trip.

Secret Service spokesman Joseph Casey told the Post it is common to “utilize our partners at the State Department to assist us in facilitating our security plan” for international trips.

In March, The Post filed a separate Freedom of Information Act request with the Secret Service seeking similar records of expenses from the Vancouver trip. The agency has not yet released the records, which would likely reflect a bill for additional rooms separate from those reserved by State Department staff.

 

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summer

Arguing in part that a U.S. president cannot be sued in state court while serving in office, lawyers for President Trump in a court filing late Friday called for the dismissal of a complaint from a former contestant on the “Apprentice” television show who claims the president sexually harassed her a decade ago.

RESTAURANT OWNER

Summer Zervos, a California restaurant owner who appeared on the reality show in 2006, filed suit against Trump in January in New York, alleging Trump defamed her during the presidential campaign when he said her sexual harassment complaints were false.

AGGRESSIVELY KISSING AND GRABBING

Zervos had accused Trump of aggressively kissing and grabbing her when she went to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization a year after she participated in the reality show that he hosted.

53-PAGE MEMO

In a 53-page memo, Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz argued Zervos’ allegations were false from the start, intended to hurt Trump’s presidential campaign, and asserted her lawsuit now is merely an attempt to force Trump to submit to intrusive evidentiary discovery that could hurt his presidency. Zervos’ attorney, Gloria Allred, has said she would seek to take Trump’s testimony under oath as part of the lawsuit and could look for other evidence, including possible “Apprentice” outtakes showing his behavior on the show’s set.

PRESIDENT CANT BE SUED

Kasowitz, who is also representing Trump in ongoing probes of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, also wrote that the president can only be sued through the federal court system while in office and any state action should be dismissed or postponed until after he leaves office.

CAN BE SUED FOR PRIVATE CONDUCT WHILE IN OFFICE

The Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the president can be sued for his private conduct while in office. That decision allowed a sexual harassment suit filed by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones to proceed against President Bill Clinton, a legal matter that ultimately resulted in impeachment proceedings against Clinton after he lied about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in a deposition taken as part of the case.

SUITS FILED IN FEDERAL COURT

But Kasowitz argued the Supreme Court’s opinion was narrowly limited to lawsuits filed in federal court. Zervos filed her case in New York State Supreme Court. The legal argument could have far-reaching consequences both for Trump, who has been frequently sued in state courts, and for future presidents, essentially declaring the president immune from many civil lawsuits.

ORIGINAL ALLEGATIONS NOT TRUE

Kasowitz also argued that Zervos’ complaint should be dismissed because her original allegations against Trump were not true and, in addition, because Trump’s campaign-trail statements were protected by the First Amendment. A certain level of hyperbole is to be expected in the heat of a political campaign, he wrote, and such statements are legally protected speech.

“TELLING TOTALLY FALSE STORIES.”

During the campaign, Trump said the women who accused against him of inappropriately touching them were putting forward “made-up stories and lies” and “telling totally false stories.” Kasowitz argued those statements and others could not be considered defamatory but instead were “nothing more than heated campaign rhetoric designed to persuade the public audience that Mr. Trump should be elected president irrespective of what the media and his opponents had claimed over his 18-month campaign.”

11 ACCUSERS

Eleven women came forward to accuse Trump of touching, groping or kissing them without their permission in the final weeks of the campaign, after video emerged of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women on an “Access Hollywood” appearance in 2005.

 

 

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artifacts

Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and craft stores, has agreed to pay a $3 million federal fine, and give up thousands of ancient religious artifacts it smuggled into the U.S. The development comes after a six-year investigation.

ILLEGALLY IMPORTED

Hobby Lobby illegally imported more than 5,500 ancient religious artifacts from Iraq. The company’s president owns one of the largest collections of artifacts in the world.

PAID 1.6 MILLION IN 2010

The company paid $1.6 million for the items in 2010 in a deal that prosecutors say was “fraught with red flags.”

NAMED WRONG

These artifacts include valuable tablets covered in cuneiform — an ancient system of writing — were falsely labeled as “samples” and “clay tiles.” Countries of origin were often falsified.

STATEMENT

In a statement, Hobby Lobby said it “was new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not appreciate the complexities of the acquisition process. This resulted in some regrettable mistakes.”

PROFESSOR AT SHAWNEE STATE UNIVERSITY

Archaeologist Amr Al-Azm, a professor at Shawnee State University, says Hobby Lobby got away with a slap on the wrist.

“It was a civil case, which is quite shocking considering the amount of material that was basically looted,” Al-Azm said. “The fact that it was very clear they knew what they were doing.”

Al-Azm says there’s an even greater concern.

“When you’re buying looted antiquities, particularly from a conflict zone like Iraq or Syria,” he explained, “you are most likely aiding and abetting or allowing funds to reach terrorist organizations like ISIS, like al-Qaeda.”

PROSECUTORS

Prosecutors say that before Hobby Lobby’s owners purchased the Iraqi artifacts, they consulted with an expert who warned that the items might have been looted from ancient archeological sites. The warning was, apparently, rejected.

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS

Hobby Lobby’s owners are evangelical Christians and this is not the first time they’ve made religious headlines. In 2012 the company sued the Obama Administration, arguing that its religious rights were violated by the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that businesses provide employees with certain types of birth control. The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor.

PLANS FOR MUSEUM OF THE BIBLE

And Hobby Lobby president Steve Green plans to open a massive “Museum of the Bible” this fall, just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

 

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Posted by: maboulette | July 12, 2017

Way Too Much Smoke for No Fire


white house on fire

The White House has been thrust into chaos after days of ever-worsening revelations about a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a lawyer characterized as representing the Russian government, as the president fumes against his enemies and senior aides circle each other with suspicion, according to top White House officials and outside advisers.
TRUMP SR
President Trump — who has been hidden from public view since returning last weekend from a divisive international summit — is enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency and is exasperated that his oldest son and namesake has become engulfed by it, said people who have spoken with him this week.
DISCLOSURE
The disclosure that Trump Jr. met with a Russian attorney, believing he would receive incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s effort to boost his father’s candidacy, has set back the administration’s faltering agenda and rattled the senior leadership team.
SUPPORTERS OF JR
Even supporters of Trump Jr. who believe he faces no legal repercussions privately acknowledged Tuesday that the story is a public relations disaster — for him as well as for the White House. One outside ally called it a “Category 5 hurricane,” while an outside adviser said a CNN graphic charting connections between the Trump team and Russians resembled the plot of the fictional Netflix series “House of Cards.”

INFIGHTING INSIDE
Inside a White House in which infighting often seems like a core cultural value, three straight days of revelations in the New York Times about Trump Jr. have inspired a new round of accusations and recriminations, with advisers privately speculating about who inside the Trump orbit may be leaking damaging information about the president’s son.
WH PORTRAIT
This portrait of the Trump White House under siege is based on interviews Tuesday with more than a dozen West Wing officials, outside advisers and friends and associates of the president and his family, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
TRUMP’S INNER CIRCLE
The makeup of Trump’s inner circle is the subject of internal debate, as ever. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser; Jared Kushner, her husband and another senior adviser; and first lady Melania Trump have been privately pressing the president to shake up his team — most specifically by replacing Reince Priebus as the White House chief of staff, according to two senior White House officials and one ally close to the White House.
3 FAMILY MEMBERS
The three family members are especially concerned about the steady stream of unauthorized leaks to journalists that have plagued the administration over the nearly six months that President Trump has been in office, from sensitive national security information to embarrassing details about the inner-workings of the White House, the officials said.
STEPHANIE GRISHAM
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said: “Of course the first lady is concerned about leaks from her husband’s administration, as all Americans should be. And while she does offer advice and perspectives on many things, Mrs. Trump does not weigh in on West Wing staff.”
LINDSAY WALTERS
Lindsay Walters, a deputy White House press secretary, disputed reports about Priebus’s standing. “These sources have been consistently wrong about Reince and they’re still wrong today,” she said.
TRUMP PRAISES PRIEBUS
Trump recently publicly praised Priebus’s work ethic, and the chief of staff’s allies note that Priebus has done as good a job as can be expected under the unique circumstances of this administration. Defenders of Priebus have long said they expect him to make it to a year in the position, and Trump is said to be hesitant to fire him or any other senior staffer amid the escalating Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
JUNIOR’S MIND-SET
The mind-set of Trump Jr. over the past few days has evolved from distress to anger to defiance, according to people close to him. He hired a criminal defense attorney, but maintains that he is innocent of any wrongdoing. After his tweets commenting on the matter drew scrutiny, he agreed to his first media interview — with his friend, Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, Tuesday night on his show.
NO PUBLIC EVENTS
Trump has had no public events since returning Saturday night from Germany, but has been closely monitoring developments with his eldest son in the news.
EXCUSE FOR DEM ON LOSING THE ELECTION
Trump continues to view the Russia controversy as an excuse used by Democrats for losing an election they thought they would win — and an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of his victory, aides said. They said that the president’s frustration is based on the media coverage of his son’s actions, as opposed to the actions themselves.
CONCENTRIC CIRCLES
“He just looks at this as the continuum of taking a group of unrelated facts and putting them together in concentric circles and saying, ‘Aha — look what happened!’ ” said Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a longtime friend of the president who was chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “With Don Jr., whatever set of facts there are may not lead to the conclusion that the establishment media is making.”
SENIOR AND ADVISERS
Trump and his advisers are deeply frustrated that the disclosure by Trump Jr. has overshadowed the positive coverage they expected to receive from the president’s trip abroad, as well as other issues they hoped to spotlight this week, such as the Senate health-care bill and trade.
SCRAMBLING TO TRUMP JR’ DEFENSE
A handful of Republican operatives close to the White House are scrambling to Trump Jr.’s defense and have begun what could be an extensive campaign to try to discredit some of the journalists who have been reporting on the matter.
But one outside adviser said a campaign against the press when it comes to Trump Jr.’s meeting could be futile: “The meeting happened. It’s tough to go to war with the facts.”
WEST WING
In the West Wing, meanwhile, fear of the Mueller probe effectively paralyzed senior staffers as they struggled to respond.
NO ROBUST DEFENSE
No official has yet delivered a robust defense of Trump Jr., although Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal deputy press secretary, told reporters Monday, “I would certainly say Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election.”
TUESDAY PRESS BRIEFING
At Tuesday’s press briefing, Sanders read a brief statement from the president — “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency” — but declined to speak further on the issue, referring all questions to Trump Jr.’s lawyer.
WH INTERNAL REVIEW
Some top officials, as well as outside advisers, had earlier suggested that the White House conduct its own internal review to identify any potential problem areas related to Russia so that it can release the information on its own rather than be caught unaware by news reports. But that notion went nowhere, in part because officials were afraid to discuss any potential Russia interactions that could make them targets of Mueller’s probe.
ERIC TRUMP
Eric Trump, another son of the president, defended his older brother Tuesday night by retweeting a message from British politician Nigel Farage, who said Trump Jr. was under attack because he is “the best public supporter” of the president. Eric Trump tweeted: “This is the EXACT reason they viciously attack our family! They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other.”
CRITICS OF TRUMP JR
Critics of Trump Jr. counter that he should have known better than to accept a meeting with someone who was explicitly described in an email as a “Russian government attorney.”
IT WAS NOT NAIVETE
“It wasn’t naivete,” said Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama. “It was, ‘Oh, they have some dirt on our opponent and I’m eager to receive it.’ Nobody thought to think, ‘Well, how did they obtain that? Is this coming from the Russian government, Russian intelligence?’ Those are the kinds of obvious questions that should have been asked, in my opinion.”
CAPITOL HILL
On Capitol Hill — where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that he is delaying his chamber’s August recess by two weeks — Republican senators were becoming increasingly frustrated with the White House, which they blame for Congress’s inability to pass any major legislation.
NUMBERS GROWING
A growing number of senators believe that the widening Russia probe, as well as the Trump-fueled tumult that seems to dominate nearly every news cycle, have stalled their legislative agenda, leaving them nothing to offer their constituents by way of achievements when they head home over the break.

 

Related content
• ‘Category 5 hurricane’: White House under siege by Trump …
• White House Plunges Into Chaos After Trump Jr.’s Russia …
• A White House Under Siege – Political Wire

 


Junior and Senior

The astonishing email just released by Donald Trump Jr., setting up the meeting last year with a Russian lawyer, is distressing for the White House. Above all, it highlights that the Trump family knew of a secret Russian campaign to inhibit in the American election — and embraced it.

EMAIL EXCHANGE

You can read the whole email exchange, but here is the key paragraph: “The Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

UNDERMINES TRUMP & WH                        

This passage undermines the Trump and White House position in three crucial ways — not attributed to vague “sources” but in black and white documentary form. Here is what the email does:

  1. It shows that the Russian government was behind the effort. This is the Kremlin, not random Russians.
  2. The Russian government is offering “sensitive” information and “official documents” that would incriminate Hillary Clinton. The clear implication is that this material is stolen by spies, probably hacked, for how else would the Russian government have it?
  3. The offer is part of a pattern of the Russian “government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

3 POINTS TOGETHER

Put these three points together, and it’s clear from the email that the Russian government has picked sides and is trying to secretly affect the outcome of the American presidential race by providing stolen information about a former secretary of state. For months, the Trumps have been publicly doubting that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election, when Donald Trump Jr. had email evidence of this effort in June 2016!

FBI

The moment he got this email, Donald Trump Jr. should have called the F.B.I. That’s what the Al Gore campaign did in 2000 when it received a Bush campaign briefing booklet. It’s one thing to do opposition research; everybody does that. It’s another thing to use stolen information secretly provided by a rival nation where journalists and dissidents end up dead.

Instead of calling the F.B.I., Donald Trump Jr.  responded “I love it.”

KUSHNER AND PAUL MANAFORT

He then summoned Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort to join the meeting. In other words, informed of a covert Russian effort to use espionage to interfere with the U.S. election, he embraced it.

EVIDENCE

There is already sufficient evidence that Trump’s campaign colluded to steal the 2016 election. And now, up to seven Trump associates have been linked to Russia.

HOWARD DEAN
So, Howard Dean is right — the Trump Administration is operating like a group of criminals!!  We can’t let them continue to endanger our nation.

DISGRACEFUL OR TREASON

I don’t know whether this is criminal. I do know that it’s disgraceful.

This is also arguably “soft collusion,” acceptance of a foreign power’s interference in an election for one’s own benefit. Whether there was a quid pro quo and “hard collusion,” we’ll have to see. We do have the outlines of a quid pro quo, in which each side was signaling what it wanted: The Trump campaign wanted dirt on the Clintons, and Russia wanted an easing of sanctions if Trump was elected.

AFTER MEETING

After this meeting, the Trumps or the White House denied at least 8 times that such a meeting had taken place. That is dishonesty on top of collusion.

Nobody should be heartened by this. It’s a sad day for the country.

MY OPINION

Enough is enough.

Donald Trump, Jr. met with allies of Vladimir Putin last year to get information to use against Hillary Clinton that he was told was coming from the Russian government.

NOT FAKE NEWS


This isn’t “fake news” — it’s a fact, proven by screenshots of emails that Don Jr. tweeted himself.

MORE INFO EVERYDAY

Every day more information comes out about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia during the 2016 election. And time after time, Donald Trump tries to act like there’s nothing to see here.

CANNOT RUN COUNTRY ON LIES

But our country cannot be run on lies. It cannot be run by people who welcomed the opportunity to work with a foreign country to meddle in our elections, or even by those who stood idly by while a foreign government threatened our democracy.

ITS TIME TO COME CLEAN


It’s time for Donald Trump, his family, his campaign, and all of his cronies to come clean about their collusion with Russia.

 

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Posted by: maboulette | July 11, 2017

Office of Government Ethics Director Resigns


running away from ethics

The federal government’s head ethics watchdog is resigning after months of tension with the Trump administration and White House allegations of a political witch-hunt by this Agency.

WALTER SHAUB

Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, informed President Trump of his resignation in a letter on Thursday.  Officially he will step down on the 19th of July and will join the Campaign Legal Center which is a non-profit ethics group. 

THE WASHINGTON POST

Shaub told The Washington Post that he “was not leaving under pressure, adding that no one is the White House or the administration pushed him to leave.  But the ethics chief said he felt that he had reached the limit of what he could achieve in this administration, within the current ethics framework.”  But he added: “In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program.”

ALLEGATIONS BY WHITE HOUSE

His resignation comes in the wake of allegations by the White House that Shaub was “distorting facts and attempting to tarnish the White House for purposes of a partisan agenda” by pursuing ethics complaints against White House officials, including the West Wing lawyer in charge of ensuring ethics compliance.  Shaub had also clashed with Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who questioned the scope of OGE’s authority over ethics rules implement by Trump in January.

ADMINISTRATION CIRCUMVENTED

OGE has been tasked with implementing ethics restrictions that the administration has circumvented at a far higher rate than that of Trump’s predecessor.

Thought for the day – its got to be really bad when your Ethic Administration resigns.

 

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