Today’s Nooz

Trump Maladministration

Item One: Marina Butina “pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate the conservative movement in the United States as an agent for the Kremlin from 2015 until her arrest in July 2017.”

Butina admitted to working with an American political operative and under the direction of a former Russian senator and deputy governor of Russia’s central bank to forge bonds with officials at the National Rifle Association, conservative leaders, and 2016 U.S. presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, whose rise to the Oval Office she presciently predicted to her Russian contact.

“Guilty,” Butina said with a light accent in entering her plea with U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan at a hearing Thursday morning in federal court in Washington.

As part of her plea, Butina admitted seeking to establish and use “unofficial lines of communication with Americans having influence over U.S. politics” for the benefit of the Russian government, through a person fitting the description of sanctioned Russian central banker Alexander Torshin, prosecutor Erik Kenerson said.

Item Two: The Daily Beast reports that Robert Mueller is looking at connections between Trump and the Middle East.  “In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast.”

I think there’s a large probability that we’re going to learn Trump’s foreign policy is based entirely on being obsequitous to people (Russians, Saudis) to whom he personally owes money and favors, and being an asshole to everyone else.

Item Three: Speaking of asshole, Trump cancels White House holiday party for the press.

Item Four: Young people are bailing out of conservative evangelicalism. Evangelicalism may cease to be a political factor by 2024.

Item Five: How the National Enquirer broke up with President Trump.

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Trump Is Betting His Administration on the Stupid Wall

Trump Maladministration

The more I think about the smackdown on the oval office yesterday, the more I believe there’s no way Trump can get any kind of win out of this.

He’s not going to get the $5 billion for the wall. Pelosi says he doesn’t even have the votes on the House now, never mind next year, and she would know. On the other hand, Juliegrace Brufke reports for The Hill that House Republicans are considering putting the $5 billion up for a vote. The idea is that if it passes in the House it would somehow “put pressure” on Senate Democrats to vote for it. But I don’t see where the “pressure” would come from. Nobody is up for election anytime soon, and it would be hugely unpopular with the Democratic base.

And I would be surprised if it passed in the House. Last year when Trump was in a better position to make demands, House Republicans danced around an all-out funding of the wall. Many of them were just plain averse to voting for any kind of spending increase for any reason. See also Jonathan Bernstein from December 4:

In fact, what’s much more likely is that most House and Senate Republicans have no interest in taking on this battle at all right now. After all, voters just rejected their party after an election in which the president’s closing argument centered on the border. And Trump’s clout with Congress is at an all-time low. Even if the leadership wanted the confrontation, Trump wouldn’t be able to help assemble a winning coalition.

If they didn’t want to fund the wall then, why would House Republicans fund it now? Especially after most of the dust has cleared from the midterms, it’s pretty certain that Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric had a lot to do with the GOP’s historic loss in the House. See Greg Sargent on that point.  Although some Republicans are still in denial, at least some of them realize that hating on immigrants is not the banner they want to march under in 2020.

However, they might pass a House bill to give Trump some cover, knowing that it needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate and won’t get them. That still leaves us with a December 21 deadline for stopping a government shutdown.

What if Congress passes some kind of bill that keeps government open but doesn’t fund the wall? Trump can either sign it — losing face as he does so — or veto it. Yesterday he took ownership of the subsequent shutdown, and that will be thrown in his face very day the shutdown continues. Back to Bernstein, which again was written a few days ago —

If Republicans do choose to shut down the government on Dec. 21, Democrats will only have to wait 13 days until the new Congress convenes and they move into the House majority.  Even if public opinion turns against the Democrats, which seems highly unlikely given that the wall is unpopular, the party surely could remain unified enough to drag things out that long and reap the increased leverage they would have beginning on Jan. 3. Especially since Democrats would be in the position of supporting any additional temporary measure to keep the government open while negotiations continued.

In other words, if they want to try to use a shutdown to force Democrats to go along with funding Trump’s wall, every day they wait makes their position a little weaker. I have no idea whether Trump realizes that or not, but two other GOP leaders most certainly do: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan.

I don’t see any way that Trump won’t come out of this even more damaged than he is already.

Ezra Klein writes that Trump doesn’t really want the wall, or else he would have offered something for it.

But Trump isn’t offering a deal, and he isn’t constructing the kind of process where anyone might offer him a deal. Instead, he’s looking for a photo op. He’s looking for a clip of himself he can see played, and praised, on Fox & Friends.

Some on the Right actually thought Trump “won” whatever that was in the Oval Office yesterday. The Gateway Pundit crew was pumped about it, I understand. But with people this stupid, all Trump would have to do is sign an appropriations bill and tell them it funds the wall, even if it doesn’t, and they’ll be perfectly fine with that. And that’s what I suspect he will do. But you never know.

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Trump Is Up Against the Wall

Trump Maladministration

You must watch this.

May I add that I love Pence sitting there looking like he wishes he were anywhere else.

This live television, um, meeting was a train wreck. I don’t know whose idea it was to air it live; I suspect the White House. Pelosi kept saying that they needed to be negotiating privately and not on live television. And I suspect much robust fact checking is going on right now and will be available in an hour or two.

This is about the infamous Wall. Trump kept saying that a “tremendous” amount of the wall has already been built, one of his frequent lies that caused Glenn Kessler at WaPo to create a new rating — the Bottomless Pinnochio. He waved a couple of pieces of paper around and claimed they said that the wall, where it exists, is totally effective. I’m sure that’s being fact checked as well.

Basically, he simultaneously claimed his wall has already been proved to be a “tremendous” success and that he has accomplished border security, but that nasty bad terrorists are still pouring in so he needs a bunch of billion dollars to build a wall.

The discussion went nowhere because Trump conflates “border security” with “wall.” Only a wall will do. Chuck and Nancy both said that there could be a border security bill passsed right now with plenty of votes in the House and Senate; there was no need to shut down the government over it. But he wasn’t going to get the whatever billion he’s asking for to build the wall that he says is already tremendously built.

Trump said he’d be proud to shut down the government to get his wall.

In a testy Oval Office exchange with the two top congressional Democrats, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, President Trump made clear he would be “proud” to shut down the government in less than two weeks if he doesn’t get funding for his border wall.

“I’ll be the one to shut it down. I will take the mantle. And I will shut it down for border security,” Trump told House and Senate Democratic leaders as Vice President Pence sat by stoically.

Trump also floated a plan to have the military build the wall, an idea even Republicans are squeamish about.

This just up at the New York Times, regarding using the military to build the wall (emphasis added:

It was not clear what Mr. Trump was referring to. American troops he dispatched to the border on the eve of midterm congressional elections as part of what the president called an effort to head off a migrant “invasion” have put up concertina wire along existing fences and barriers, but the administration has yet to spend much of the $1.3 billion Congress approved for border security last year. Under restrictions put in place by Congress, none of that money could be used to construct a new, concrete wall of the sort the president has said is vital.

The president does not have the legal authority to spend money appropriated for one purpose on another task, such as wall-building.

There’s going to be some interesting fallout over this. Meanwhile, it’s been announced that John Kelly will stay on as chief of staff until well into January because they don’t have another candidate for the job. So much winning.

Update: Here’s another bit debunked:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday cited the recent apprehension of ten suspected terrorists to bolster his case for building a wall along the southern border, implying that a porous border with Mexico is leaving the country vulnerable to national security threats.

But the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees security and law enforcement at U.S. borders and ports of entry, was unable to provide data to directly substantiate that claim.

 

 

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Wackjobs In the News

Trump Maladministration

Here are a couple of news stories about conspiracy theories to read together.

David Atkins writes that the Q-Anon conspiracy theory is still going strong and destroying families:

When Reddit banned the subreddits dedicated to the conspiracy theory, much of the online activity shifted to other forums such as Voat, a website that imitates Reddit’s structure and has become a festering hotbed of racism, anti-semitism, and sexism after earning a reputation as a refuge for all those with far-right views too repellent even for Reddit.

Even a quick look at the Q-Anon community on Voat is enough to paint a portrait of families torn apart, relationships destroyed and people spiraling into mental illness.

This is followed by selections from a Q-Anon thread in which proselytizing of the Q-Anon cause is referred to as “red-pilling.” People describe trying to “red pill” their children, their parents, their spouses. Most of the time it doesn’t appear to be going well. Q-Anon believers also tend to be anti-vaxxers who think that flu shots can kill you, and in fact reducing the population is their real purpose.

At Rolling Stone, Andy Kroll writes about the aftermath of Pizzagate. It’s a wonder no one has been killed in that one.

Two years ago this month, Pizzagate reached its grim apex when a 28-year-old man stormed into Comet Ping Pong with a revolver and an AR-15 on a mission to save the “children.” Edgar Maddison Welch had binge-watched YouTube videos about Pizzagate and tried to recruit friends for his rescue mission. “Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many,” he texted one friend a few days before he got in his Prius and drove from his home in North Carolina to Washington. Customers and employees fled the restaurant as Welch fired several rounds into a locked closet full of computer gear, searching for the infamous child sex dungeon in Comet’s basement, which he never found — not least because the pizzeria doesn’t even have a basement. No one was hurt, and Welch surrendered to the police, hands on his head, in broad daylight in the street outside of Comet. He was later sentenced to four years in federal prison.

Even after the arrest, Pizzagate lived on. The day after Welch stalked into Comet, Michael Flynn, Jr., the son of Trump’s first national security adviser, tweeted: “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.” An Economist/YouGov poll in late December 2016 found that 46 percent of Trump voters and 17 percent of Clinton voters thought Pizzagate was real. A few months later, a small rally of Pizzagate believers took place outside the White House. Protesters have stood outside Comet carrying blown-up photos of Alefantis’ [Comet Ping Pong owner] god-daughter taken from his social media accounts. Strangers online have threatened to torture, rape and kill him.

I’ve read a lot of articles in popular magazines about why people cling to conspiracy theories, and I don’t think any explain it. Note that I’m not talking about the guy who thinks that there was a lone gunman on the grassy knoll because all his friends say so, but who has never really thought about it much. We all believe at least some things that aren’t true without it doing any harm. I’m talking about the hard-core fanatics who are obsessed with a particular theory and can’t let go of it even in the face of big-time debunking.

For example, this was in Psychology Today:

FFor one thing, conspiracy theories help us cope with distressing events and make sense out of them. Conspiracies assure us that bad things don’t just happen randomly. Conspiracies tell us that someone out there is accountable, however unwittingly or secretly or incomprehensibly, so it’s possible to stop these people and punish them and in due course let everyone else re-establish control over their own lives. Conspiracies also remind us that we shouldn’t blame ourselves for our predicaments; it’s not our fault, it’s them! In these ways, believing in conspiracies serves many of the same self-protective functions as scapegoating.

Okay, but that explaination doesn’t satisfactorily account for this:

It [Pizzagate] appears to have begun with a 2008 email included in the WikiLeaks dump in which Alefantis asked Podesta if he would give a speech at an Obama fundraiser at Comet. From there, the trolls began mining every detail they could find about Alefantis and Comet, quickly concocting a parallel theory that said Alefantis, Podesta and Clinton ran a child sex-trafficking ring. Self-styled investigators claimed that symbols on Comet’s iconic sign (which had previously been used by a D.C. liquor store that had since closed) were linked to satanic rituals. They said a photo of an empty walk-in refrigerator was evidence of a secret kill room.

The above paragraph is not describing a reasonably common if irrational cognitive defense mechanism against the bad, scary world. That shit above is just plain crazy.

Crawling into some academic sites that let you read abstracts but keep full articles behind a paywall, I take it some recent research has linked “schizotypy” with conspiracy theorizing. Here’s a blog post written by some guy who had access to the full articles.

Schizotypy is associated with the belief in conspiracy theories, according to new research published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

“My main research interest is in schizotypy. Schizotypy is a personality organisation that can be seen as risk factor for schizophrenia-spectrum disorders,” explained study author David Barron of  Perdana University. “However, with the concept of schizophrenia breaking down, psychologists, such as myself, are increasingly investigating schizotypy.”

“Schizotypic traits have a similar pattern to that of schizophrenia; that is, deficits in cognition, socio-emotional function, and behaviour. While these tend not meet the clinical threshold, and at some level represent a healthy personality make-up, they can be rather extreme and become a severe problem.” …

… The researchers found that there was a direct link between facets of schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories. Those who scored high on measures of “Odd Beliefs and Magical Thinking” and “Ideas of Reference” were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, such as the theory that U.S. agencies intentionally created the AIDS epidemic.

Magical Thinking refers to seeing causal relationships between events where none exists, while Ideas of Reference refers to interpreting innocuous events as highly personally significant.

Of course, it isn’t just that someone struggles with logic. For someone to be an obsessed and unshakable QAnon or Pizzagate or anti-vaxx or 911 Truth believer, one would have to harbor a huge, aching, deep-seated psychological need to believe such things. It would be like walking around with a hole in your psyche the size of the Grand Canyon that can only be filled with Crazy. And, IMO, that ought to meet some kind of clinical threshold, seems to me.

Social media, I fear, enables positive feedback loops that reinforce such wackjobbery and sucks susceptible people into the Crazy, deeper and deeper. And I have no idea what to do about that.

Elsewhere: The stock market people are nervous.

Stocks on Wall Street clawed their way back from losses Monday, in another volatile session that highlighted investors’ unease about the global economy and corporate profits.

The S&P 500 ended 0.18 percent higher, after having dropped more than 1.5 percent. Markets in Europe and Asia ended their trading sessions lower.

Sometimes I think there must be very wealthy people who throw money at the S&P 500 to prop it up when it looks like it’s about to spiral down a hole. But maybe I’m imaginging things.

Accused Russian spy Maria Butina appears to have reached a deal with federal prosecutors to dish on the National Rifle Association, but that isn’t certain yet.

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A Conspiracy So Immense

Trump Maladministration

My brain is tired. Between writing the book and trying to keep up with the latest Mueller investigation news, my brain is telling me it wants to spend about three days binge-watching episodes of “Gunsmoke.” I will slog on as best I can. However, I do want to register a complaint that the mess surrounding Trump is making Watergate look simple.

One thing I believe I understand is that the investigation has Trump dead to rights on campaign finance violations. This is from Lawfare:

In short, the Department of Justice, speaking through the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is alleging that the president of the United States coordinated and directed a surrogate to commit a campaign finance violation punishable with time in prison. While the filing does not specify that the president “knowingly and willfully” violated the law, as is required by the statute, this is the first time that the government has alleged in its own voice that President Trump is personally involved in what it considers to be federal offenses.

And it does not hold back in describing the magnitude of those offenses. The memo states that Cohen’s actions, “struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency. While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows.” His sentence “should reflect the seriousness of Cohen’s brazen violations of the election laws and attempt to counter the public cynicism that may arise when individuals like Cohen act as if the political process belongs to the rich and powerful.”

Even David French at National Review admits that it’s unlikely prosecutors would have made such strong statements about the POTUS without corrorating evidence that supports Cohen’s testimony.

We also have more hints at connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, although nothing new that clearly incriminates Trump. Marcy Wheeler explains what Manafort lied about, which is interesting. But there are so many connections between Trump’s associates and Russians, both the Russian government and the Russian mob. And that’s where my brain freezes.

 

 

 

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On the Brink

Trump Maladministration

I think financial journalists and fashion writers are the same people. The S&P 500 appear to be tottering on the brink of an abyss, and the financial press is full of stories about “Five Surprising Stocks to Buy Now!” written with the same breathless optimism as articles promoting fashion — “Five Makeup Essentials to Make You Look Ten Years Younger!” “Dress Like a Star With Glitter, Bedsheets and Safety Pins!” Whatever.

The more serious stock market people are alarmed that they are getting mixed messages from the White House. Larry Kudlow says one thing; Peter Navarro, who seems to have ten different jobs, says another.

Kudlow told CNBC on Friday that the trade talks with China are “extremely promising.”

Kudlow, director of Trump’s National Economic Council, said that Trump has indicated he might be willing to extend the 90-day negotiating window if there’s “good, solid movement and good action.”

Navarro, the trade hawk of the White House, struck a different tone on CNN. Asked whether the administration would walk away if issues with China are not resolved within 90 days, Navarro suggested Trump would “simply raise” existing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

If China fails to change its ways on trade, “we have a president that’s going to stand up to that for once,” Navarro said.

Navarro also championed the nearly $12 billion that the United States has raised from tariffs, even though that money is being mostly paid by American consumers and businesses.

Of course, the real problem is that there’s nobody at the helm. Well, there’s Trump, but he has no idea what he’s doing. Paul Krugman writes,

Unfortunately, he really, really doesn’t know what he’s doing. On trade, he’s a rebel without a clue.

Even as he declared himself Tariff Man, Trump revealed that he doesn’t understand how tariffs work. No, they aren’t taxes on foreigners, they’re taxes on our own consumers.

When trying to make deals, he seems to care only about whether he can claim a “win,” not about substance. He has been touting the “U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement” as a repudiation of NAFTA, when it’s actually just a fairly minor modification. (Nancy Pelosi calls it “the trade agreement formerly known as Prince.”)

Most important, his inability to do international diplomacy, which we’ve seen on many fronts, carries over to trade talks. Remember, he claimed to have “solved” the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Kim Jong-un is still expanding his ballistic missile capacity. Well, last weekend he claimed to have reached a major trade understanding with China; but as J.P. Morgan soon reported in a note to its clients, his claims “seem if not completely fabricated then grossly exaggerated.”

Markets plunged earlier this week as investors realized that they’d been had.

Of course, allowing oneself to be “had” by the likes of Trump suggests one wasn’t too smart to begin with. Michelle Obama said recently that the Masters of the Universe types really aren’t all that smart, and I believe her.

Elsewhere: Rex Tillerson made some candid remarks about his time in the Trump Administration recently. Naturally The Creature had to weigh in.

The above is a genuine tweet by the allegedly adult POTUS. I pulled it off his Twitter page personally.

Forbes has an in-depth look at How Donald Trump Shifted $1.1M Of Campaign-Donor Money Into His Business.

The appointee to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is a former Fox News reader who not that long ago cited D-Day as a high point in U.S.-German relations.

Update: Neil Irwin of the New York Times notes stock market volatility and wonders why it took so long for the money people to get nervous.

First, why is this happening when the economy is so strong? TheNovember jobs numbers released Friday showed the unemployment rate remains at a rock-bottom 3.7 percent amid healthy job creation, just the latest piece of economic data to come in relatively strong.

Second, what took so long? Why are markets just now recognizing the risks the economy faces in 2019, which have been obvious for months to anyone paying attention?

My answer is that most of these people don’t want to face the obvious. They want to believe everything will be fine.

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So Much Stupid

Trump Maladministration

After the Flynn sentencing memo, it appears that there is no question Mueller has evidence that the Trump campaign was in illegal contact with Russia. See Mueller says Michael Flynn gave ‘first-hand’ details of Trump transition team contacts with Russians. In his court filing, Mueller said that Flynn’s “substantial assistance” earned him a light criminal sentence, which could include no jail time.

And what does Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, take from this? According to York, the light sentence recommendation is proof that Flynn really wasn’t guilty of all that much. The whole Mueller investigation is “fishy,” says York.

Byron York, who is too stupid to find shit in an outhouse.

But it gets better. The Fox News crew has decided that the court filing reveals Mueller’s got nothin’ on Trump because it doesn’t contain the word collusion. One wonders how these people manage to function without a team of body servants to be sure they are dressed and don’t walk into walls. Gregg Jarrett of Fox News went so far as to declare that Mueller “strikes out trying to nail Trump.”

Gregg Jarrett, who is too stupid to find his own ass, never mind the outhouse.

Back to the court filing — Greg Sargent writes,

The big takeaway from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s new sentencing memo for Michael Flynn is that it underscores how little we know about what Mueller has learned. It says President Trump’s former national security adviser has provided “substantial assistance” to Mueller, notes that he sat for 19 interviews and says he’s cooperating not just with the Russia probe but also with a separate criminal investigation that is not named.

But, by tantalizingly hinting at just how much help Flynn may have provided — and by sketching out the barest outline of the areas in which he offered this help — the memo also underscores the likelihood that Trump obstructed justice when he leaned on then-FBI Director James B. Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn.

Andrew Prokop writes at Vox that there are four big takeaways — One, Mueller is happy with Flynn’s cooperation. Two, Flynn is cooperating in three separate investigations, and we don’t yet know what those are.

Third, the cooperation Flynn provided to Mueller’s probe specifically appears to break down into two main areas. One focused on contacts between the Trump transition team and Russia, but we don’t know what the other one is yet.

Finally, the many redactions indicate that there’s still a whole lot going on behind the scenes that Mueller doesn’t yet want the public to know about.

In other words, the righties are crowing because they assume that anything Mueller doesn’t explicitly spell out in the court filing doesn’t exist. Did I mention the sentencing memo was heavily redacted?

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare provide more details on the takeaways.

It seems that Flynn is cooperating in at least three ongoing investigations: a criminal investigation about which all details are redacted; Mueller’s investigation into “any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump”; and at least one additional investigation about which all information is redacted.

As BuzzFeed News’s Chris Geidner noted, it appears likely from the length of the redaction bar that the first criminal investigation is not a matter being conducted by the special counsel’s office—though, of course, it’s impossible to know for certain.

We don’t know that any of this will lead to a direct connection between Trump and the Russians, but the obstruction case just got a lot stronger.  Back to Greg Sargent:

Mueller’s memo contains a section claiming Flynn provided “firsthand information” about “interactions” between the Trump “transition team and Russian government officials.” It’s not clear who this refers to other than Flynn, but the memo does say Flynn provided information on his own contacts with Russia, noting, significantly, that Flynn represented the “transition team” at the time. The memo then claims Flynn provided “useful information.” But much of it is redacted, suggesting Flynn has told Mueller a lot about this chain of events.

It seems like ancient history now, but Comey’s claim that Trump pressured him over Flynn is worth revisiting in light of these new revelations.

Before firing Comey, Trump leaned on Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn, you’ll remember.

Trump asked everyone but Comey to leave, and then repeatedly told Comey that Flynn “hadn’t done anything wrong” in his phone call to the Russian ambassador. …

… We have now learned that Flynn provided Mueller a great deal of information about this call and about the events surrounding it. This increases the likelihood that Trump leaned on Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn not because he thought Flynn was a “good guy” but because Trump knew Flynn had a lot to disclose on these matters. Which in turn provides a motive for Trump to try to derail the investigation into him, perhaps with “corrupt intent.”

This is speculation, but at least it’s informed and intelligent speculation.

“This memo suggests Flynn has provided a great deal of information about Russian contacts with members of Trump’s team,” Randall D. Eliason, who teaches white-collar crime at George Washington University Law School, told me. “The more Flynn knew about those contacts, the more motive the president would have had to try to keep that information under wraps by getting the Flynn investigation shut down.”

See also Why the Flynn Sentencing Memo Could Be Bad News for Jared Kushner.

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So Much Winning

Trump Maladministration

Item One: U.S. stocks are battered in one of their worst days of 2018 as U.S.-China trade deal appears to sputter

The economic agreement President Trump said he reached with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Saturday showed signs of unraveling Tuesday, with the White House threatening new penalties against Beijing and multiple officials seeking to downplay expectations for an eventual deal.

Investors, who had applauded the deal on Monday, turned sharply negative Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 799 points, or 3.1 percent, to close at 25,027. The Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index fell 3.2 percent, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gave up 3.8 percent.

Trump, in a series of Twitter posts, threatened to slap a range of import penalties on Chinese products if they did not make major changes in their economic relationship with the United States.

Also, Stock market plunges as Wall Street gives Trump’s China deal another look

Wall Street is sending a clear signal that, upon closer inspection, Trump’s trade war détente with China isn’t looking so hot — especially after a string of tweets from the president this morning indicated he has no problem going back to a trade war if a broader agreement isn’t reached in the next three months.

In one tweet, Trump referred to himself as a “Tariff Man.” The Wall Street Journal reports that after those tweets, the Dow fell by 200 points.

All together now: “So much winning!”

Item Two: GOP senators come out and say it: The Trump administration is covering up Khashoggi’s killing

Republican senators emerged from a briefing Tuesday about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and essentially accused the Trump administration of misleading the country about it — and even covering it up for Saudi Arabia.

In remarks after a briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) suggested there is no plausible way that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman didn’t order the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, and said that the evidence is overwhelming. …

… “If they were in a Democratic administration,” Graham said of Pompeo and Mattis, “I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia.”

But of course, since they are in a Republican administration they won’t be punished for giving misleading statements to the Senate last week. I’m betting money that when Trump’s financials are finally made public, we’ll learn he either owes money to the Saudis or has done considerable business with them in the not-too-distant past.

All together now: “So much winning!”

Item Three: Trump’s latest tweets cross clear lines, experts say: Obstruction of justice and witness tampering

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that the most striking thing about Monday was that there were two statements in proximity.

“It comes very close to the statutory definition of witness tampering,” he said. “It’s a mirror image of the first tweet, only he’s praising a witness for not cooperating with the implication of reward,” he said, adding that Trump has pardon power over Stone.

“We’re so used to President Trump transgressing norms in his public declarations,” Eisen said, “but he may have crossed the legal line.”

Here are the tweets in question:

All together now: “So much winning!”

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Stuff to Read

Trump Maladministration

David Leonhardt, “American Capitalism Isn’t Working.”

Things began to change in the 1970s. Facing more global competition and higher energy prices, and with Great Depression memories fading, executives became more aggressive. They decided that their sole mission was maximizing shareholder value. They fought for deregulation, reduced taxes, union-free workplaces, lower wages and much, much higher pay for themselves. They justified it all with promises of a wonderful new economic boom. That boom never arrived.

Even when economic growth has been decent, as it is now, most of the bounty has flowed to the top. Median weekly earnings have grown a miserly 0.1 percent a year since 1979. The typical American family today has a lower net worth than the typical family did 20 years ago. Life expectancy, shockingly, has fallen this decade.

Sam Stein, Lachlan Markay, “How No Labels Went From Preaching Unity to Practicing the Dark Arts.” Those third-way, centrist organizations that try to pull the Democrats to the “center” are just stalking horses for the Right.

Greg Sargent, “After the latest Mueller news, these corrupt Trump moves look much worse.”

What we now know is this. During much of that period, the Trump Organization was secretly pursuing a business deal in Russia that required Kremlin approval — even though the most senior members of Trump’s own campaign, and possibly Trump himself, knew at the time that Russia was waging an attack designed to sabotage our democracy on Trump’s behalf, which they eagerly sought to help Russia carry out.

Garrett Graff, “Mueller’s breadcrumbs suggest he has the goods.”

Josh Marshall, “President [GHW] Bush and the Road to Trumpism.”

Bush was an institutionalist, someone fundamentally more interested in governance than politics. He was also very much a patrician, something which is central to many of the current tributes. But you can see at the heights of his political career how that fundamental institutionalism and focus on governance was repeatedly set aside at critical moments for political advantage, political necessity. In that way, while he was not fundamentally a part of it, Bush very much, perhaps in spite of himself, laid the groundwork for the performative politics of rightwing extremism and the valorization of hostility to all compromise which was ushered in with Newt Gingrich, became the center of gravity of GOP politics in the Obama era and came to full bloom under President Trump.

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What He Plays on TeeVee

Trump Maladministration

Charles Pierce:

It always was about the money. The president* always defined himself by it. It was the comforting myth of his public existence, the fairytale he told himself so he could sleep at night through all the failure and bankruptcy and the whoring after cash, dirty or laundered, all over the world. Take away the money—or, more accurately, the perception of the money—and there simply is nothing left of the man. Take away the money, and he can’t see himself in the mirror. So he would do anything, including imperil his presidency and, therefore, the country, to save himself from the horrible realization that the money was all there was to him and there wasn’t any money anymore.

It’s obvious from the public record, never mind what might be in his tax returns, that Trump was never a successful businessman. He’s been propped up all his life, first by his father, and then by banks who decided they’d lose more if they him crash than if they kept him propped up. It appears his properties have been used for money laundering by Russians. And then there’s the fact that in 2006 he was suddenly flush with cash, and there’s no accounting for where he got it. His “success” was entirely in his ability to market himself as a success. And when he got the stint on reality television, he literally became an actor playing a successful businessman on the teevee. His supporters still buy the image and don’t see the man.

Greg Sargent spells it out: Trumpism is rotten to its core. And the stench of corruption and failure is everywhere.

new Post piece offers an arresting summary of Trump’s current travails. Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has now revealed that Trump’s company pursued a Trump Tower in Moscow through June 2016 — while GOP primary voters were choosing their nominee for president — which Trump concealed.

Meanwhile, the special counsel is scrutinizing phone calls between Trump and longtime adviser Roger Stone to determine whether Stone communicated advance knowledge he allegedly possessed of a WikiLeaks operation carrying out Russia’s sabotage of our election on Trump’s behalf.

The Post weaves these strands together this way: “Investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.”

The precise nature of all these contacts probably won’t, by itself, bring down Trump. But they provide a new glimpse into just how corrupted his ascension to the presidency really was. He repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and called for better relations with Russia — positions presented as good-faith proposals in the national interest — while pursuing a lucrative deal that required Kremlin approval.

Trump doesn’t even seem to fully grasp what he did wrong. His rage tweets continue to slam the Mueller probe as “illegal” and a “witch hunt” that has hurt “innocent people.” Like Paul Manafort? And he continues to openly dangle the possibility of a pardon for Manafort. That’s obstruction on its face.

And instead of denying that he was pursuing a business deal with Vladimir Putin while running for president, he tweeted,

The Trump organization planned to sweeten the deal by offering Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the Moscow Trump Tower.  See also Trump Jr.’s 2017 Testimony Conflicts With Cohen’s Account Of Russian Talks.

Paul Waldman:

The president lies about just about everything, but in particular he has lied on matters related to Russia. The latest exposure of his dishonestly comes out of the plea agreement from his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who supplied evidence that the Trump Organization was actively pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while Trump was running for president. Trump asserted yesterday in response to Cohen’s plea, “I mean, we were very open with it. We were thinking about building a building [in Russia].” In fact, throughout the campaign he claimed again and again that he had no business interests in Russia, saying things like “I don’t know Putin, have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia.”

To take just one other example, when it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner held a meeting in 2016 with a group of Russians they believed would supply them with damaging information on Hillary Clinton, President Trump personally dictated a misleading statement intended to deceive the public about what the meeting was actually about. Trump’s representatives, including lawyer Jay Sekulow and spokesperson Sarah Sanders, then issued denials that Trump wrote the statement. They later admitted that these denials were false and Trump had in fact dictated it.

And of course Trump knew about the 2016 meeting before it happened.

At 6:14 p.m. on June 7, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. clicked the send button on an email to confirm a meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” who would give him “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”

Three hours later, his father, Donald J. Trump, claimed victory in the final primary races propelling him to the Republican presidential nomination and a general election contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his victory speech, Mr. Trump promised to deliver a major address detailing Mrs. Clinton’s “corrupt dealings” to give “favorable treatment” to foreign governments, including “the Russians.”

We see, over and over again, that Trump is a very limited man with little capacity for much of anything except being an ass. And it’s all closing in on him now.

BTW, wonder why the Moscow deal fell through? Philip Bump writes,

The plea deal indicates that the last known discussion about the deal was “on or about June 14,” 2016, when Cohen told Sater that he was canceling plans to travel to Russia.

Why is that date significant? It happens to be the day The Washington Post broke a big story that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee.

Oops.

 

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