Big Development

Trump Maladministration

It appears Michael Cohen was operating a shell company that was receiving major payments from a Russian oligarch and various Fortune 500 companies looking for access to President Trump. More details to come, I’m sure.

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What I Think of the Current News Cycle

Trump Maladministration

The Creature just screwed the planet by announcing he is dumping the Iran deal, and Eric Schneiderman resigned as AG of New York after sexual assault allegations.

There is no way the first item won’t made the world worse instead of better. The second may or may not be a problem, depending on who gets put into Schneiderman’s place. May I suggest … a woman? Someone who is up to speed on Michael Cohen and the Kushner Company?

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Right-Wing Hypocrisy, It Burns

Trump Maladministration

So after more than a year of irrational whining about how dirty and illegal it was for Democrats supporting Hillary Clinton to pay for opposition research on Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 elections — even though everybody does oppo research on election opponents and there’s nothing illegal about it, and even though Clinton didn’t seem to use anything in the Steele dossier, that I can think of, anyway  — now we’re learning that Trump (allegedly) paid for oppo research on our most recent actual President, Barack Obama, and officials supporting the Iran deal. Not election opponents, note; civil servants doing their jobs.

The idea was that if these public officials doing their jobs as public officials could be personally smeared, and their careers ruined, it would give Trump an excuse to dump the Iran deal. Never mind making a rational argument why dumping the Iran deal would be good for America, because there is no such argument that can be made. Trump wants to do it because he wants to do it — if President Obama had cured cancer, Trump would be trying to bring cancer back — and dirt on the officials who did the deal would cover his ass, he thinks.

The difference between oppo research on an election opponent and oppo research to be used to pull a con on the American people to make stupid policy changes is lost on the Right, of course. Drawing that line requires a level of critical thinking their lizard brains are incapable of. But Juan Cole calls it

There is only one word for a sitting US administration that deploys a foreign intelligence firm linked to that of a foreign government with a vested interest in shaping US intelligence to bamboozle Congress and the US public by smearing dedicated (and as it turns out upright) public servants. That word is treason.

Unfortunately, it isn’t treason in the narrow criminal sense. But by now no one with half a brain doesn’t understand that Trump would abolish the Constitution and representative democracy itself if he could.

All that said, there are still a lot of “allegedlies” surrounding this story, because everyone allegedly involved in it is denying it. Josh Marshall explains,

We have a pretty stunning development about aides to Donald Trump apparently (though they deny it) hiring the same Israeli dirty ops/private intel firm that Harvey Weinstein used to cover up his history to mount an operation against public supporters of the Iran deal.

We start with this story in The Guardian. It’s very hedged and key details are not included. But the gist is that aides to Donald Trump hired an Israeli security firm to dig up dirt on two prominent supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. They are Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, both Obama administration national security hands who were involved in the negotiation. They both continue to be prominent supporters of it into the Trump era. Last night I said that it sounded like Black Cube, the firm that surveilled and ran black ops operations against Harvey Weinstein’s accusers on his behalf.

Then overnight Kahl came forward with a story from around the time the firm was reportedly hired in which someone approached his wife about investing in their children’s charter school. You can read the thread here. There was a backstory and details. But it sounded to the Kahls like an intelligence operation – not altogether uncommon for people in that line of work to see. So they eventually cut off communication.

Then a short time ago, Laura Rozen confirmed with Kahl that the purported firm which reached out to the Kahls was ‘Reuben Capital Partners’. That’s the same name used by Black Cube in the Weinstein operations, first reported in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow last year.

Apparently Black Cube didn’t find any sufficiently dirty dirt, since the targeted parties were not publicly smeared. I’m surprised The Trumpettes bothered with oppo research, though. It’s so much more efficient to just make shit up, which is what the Right usually does.

Anyway — here’s the original UK Independent/Guardian article. See also Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, Chas Danner and Margaret Hartmann at New York and Steve M.

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Trump’s Mystery Money

Trump Maladministration

Yesterday the Washington Post published a long examination of Trump’s real estate business, pointing out that suddenly in 2006 he switched from being the “king of debt” to paying cash.

The question is, where did that cash come from? It’s a secret.

Trump’s vast outlay of cash, tracked through public records and totaled publicly here for the first time, provides a new window into the president’s private company, which discloses few details about its finances.

It shows that Trump had access to far more cash than previously known, despite his string of commercial bankruptcies and the Great Recession’s hammering of the real estate industry.

Why did the “King of Debt,” as he has called himself in interviews, turn away from that strategy, defying the real estate wisdom that it’s unwise to risk so much of one’s own money in a few projects?

And how did Trump — who had money tied up in golf courses and buildings — raise enough liquid assets to go on this cash buying spree?

It’s well known that Trump was way over-leveraged at one point, deeply in debt and no longer able to get credit from U.S. banks. But suddenly in 2006 he was flush with cash, and the origins of that cash cannot be accounted for by the sale of properties or other assets. It was just, suddenly, there. And it continued to be there through the 2008 financial crisis when money was just not anywhere for awhile.

The WaPo article does not speculate where the money came from. Others, however, have.

Josh Marshall points out (premium content):

Note that year, 2006. That’s the same year when Michael Cohen came to work for the Trump Organization and, as I’ve noted many times, Cohen was brought into the Trump Organization as a conduit for money from Russia and Ukraine. To be clear, I’m not saying all this cash came from or through Michael Cohen. But there’s good reason to think these two things are related, that the shift toward cash purchases coincided with Trump’s increasingly heavy reliance on post-Soviet cash and that Cohen was a important part of that transition.

Josh also remembered an interview in which James Dodson described a 2014 outing at the Trump golf course in Charlotte.

“Trump was strutting up and down, talking to his new members about how they were part of the greatest club in North Carolina,” Dodson says. “And when I first met him, I asked him how he was — you know, this is the journalist in me — I said, ‘What are you using to pay for these courses?’ And he just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million.”

$100 million.

“So when I got in the cart with Eric,” Dodson says, “as we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’ Now that was [a little more than] three years ago, so it was pretty interesting.”

Eric Trump has since denied he said that, of course. But there’s also this, from a WaPo article published in 2016:

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Yesterday the New York Times published a long examination of Cohen’s businesses that pretty much spells out that Cohen is in the pocket of somebody in Russia and the Ukraine, and the Russian mob also, without actually saying so. Here is just a bit:

He has spent much of his personal and professional life with immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. His father-in-law, who helped establish him in the taxi business, was born in Ukraine, as was one of Mr. Cohen’s partners in that industry. Another partner was Russian. And Mr. Cohen used his connections in the region when scouting business opportunities for Mr. Trump in former Soviet republics.

More recently, Mr. Cohen and his father-in-law lent more than $25 million to a Ukrainian businessman who has a checkered financial record and a history of defaulting on loans. And Mr. Cohen long held a small stake in his uncle’s catering hall, which was frequented by Russian and Italian mobsters.

In addition to his legal and taxi businesses, Mr. Cohen has had a seemingly charmed touch as a real estate investor. On one day in 2014, he sold four buildings in Manhattan for $32 million, entirely in cash. That was nearly three times what he paid for them no more than three years earlier.

“This is the type of person you’d see most bankers steer clear of,” said Ben Berzin, a retired executive vice president and senior credit officer at PNC Bank who clashed with Mr. Trump in the early 1990s over loans to the future president’s troubled Atlantic City casinos. The speed with which Mr. Cohen successfully flipped real estate stands out, Mr. Berzin said. “You have to ask what’s going on.”

Yes, you have to ask.

Another bit of recent news is that a buddy of Trump’s named Tom Barrack was interviewed by Mueller’s team awhile back. Barrack  Barrack was instrumental in bringing Paul Manafort and Rick Gates into the Trump campaign. Both Manafort and Gates are better known for their ties to Russia than for their political accomplishments.

No collusion, my ass.

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Happy Derby Day / Cinco de Mayo

Trump Maladministration

Here’s something cheerful that Paul Waldman wrote a couple of days ago. At least some Democrats have stopped talking about “reaching across the aisles” and “working with Republicans” and “moving to the center” and what not and are focusing on appealing to the base. In other words, they are going on offense instead of perpetually playing defense. For example, Rep. Swalwell of California wrote an op-ed in USA Today proposing some pretty tough bans on some semiautomatic weapons. Not all, which is what I advocate, but some.

Instead, we should ban possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, we should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law, and we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons. The ban would not apply to law enforcement agencies or shooting clubs.

Waldman comments,

This is just one congressman, but for decades you couldn’t find an elected Democrat who would even suggest such a thing. The prevailing strategy has been to reassure gun owners that they aren’t interested in confiscating anyone’s guns; they just want some sensible measures to increase safety.

Swalwell has apparently reached the point at which he says screw the gun nuts; they won’t compromise. This is what we want, so let’s ask for it. Waldman continues,

The NRA and Republicans in Congress are even opposed to universal background checks, which are supported by over 90 percent of the public. They take that position because they’ve made a calculation that there isn’t much point in trying to look reasonable or win over those who might disagree with them. Instead, the way you get what you want is to follow this formula:

  1. Take maximal positions that excite your base
  2. Win elections
  3. Pass bills you like and kill bills you don’t like

Yes. Exactly.

This isn’t just about guns. Democrats are now starting to propose extremely progressive ideas on all kinds of other issues, like Medicare for all (or most, at least) and even a federal job guarantee. They know these ideas will find no support among Republicans, but they no longer care. They remember well how Barack Obama crafted a health care plan with roots in the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s reform in Massachusetts, then spent months trying to convince Republicans in Congress to come to a compromise with him, only to be strung along and ultimately get zero Republican votes in either house.

Finally. A clue emerges.

I also think that, ironically, this approach is likely to appeal to more swing voters, not fewer. Democrats have no idea how much they don’t stand for anything any more. See, for example, “They Voted for Obama, Then Went for Trump. Can Democrats Win Them Back?” in the New York Times.  It’s estimated that 9 percent of voters who went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 ended up voting for Trump in 2016. Among white voters who had never been to college, it was 22 percent. What do these interviews with Obama-to-Trump voters tell us?

One, they aren’t politics nerds. They aren’t focused on the midterms yet. One assumes they are not big newspaper readers.

Two, a lot of these people were lifelong Democratic voters, but the “D” after her name wasn’t enough reason for them to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Several of them had misgivings about Trump, but they had more misgivings about Clinton. Put another way, they didn’t really like either candidate but disliked Trump less.

I think this lady needs to be listened to:

Several voters said they chose Mr. Trump for the same reason they chose Mr. Obama: a deep craving for change and disgust with both political parties.

Charlotte Griffin, the mayor of Bear Grass, a town of about 80 people in eastern North Carolina, said her vote for Mr. Trump was more an act of desperation than a positive political choice. She had grown furious with the national political class — and what she saw as its wealth, ignorance of ordinary people’s lives and inability to get anything done. It was the first time she’d chosen a Republican in 50 years of voting. Her county, Martin County, flipped to Mr. Trump after choosing Mr. Obama twice.

“Did I really like Trump? No. I still don’t,” said Ms. Griffin in Bear Grass in January. “But at least I thought we might move. We were in a stalemate. We were at dead center zero. We were just sitting there spinning our wheels.”

This is a point I keep making that keeps falling on deaf ears:

Counties like Ms. Griffin’s that flipped from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump have lost ground to the rest of the nation, even more so than the counties that have been solidly Republican. Forty years ago, workers in the flip counties earned 85 cents for every dollar earned by workers in the Democratic strongholds. By 2016, the ratio had fallen to 77 cents.

 Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t publish a new “study” saying that the only difference between Trump voters and not-Trump voters is racism. Nobody, including me, is saying that racism isn’t a factor, especially in regard to the immigration issue. But when you look at the sliver of voters whose votes made the difference between Obama winning and Clinton losing, the primary issue is the economy, stupid. The economy may be okay overall, but it just isn’t working for a lot of folks the way it used to. And neither party has been addressing that.

Democrats also ought to be listening to this guy:

Brad Zeigler, 68, a retired police chief in Warren County, Ill., said he has not liked anything Mr. Trump has done.

“I thought maybe he’ll listen to his advisers and they’ll contain him,” said Mr. Zeigler, who, like his county, voted for Mr. Obama twice before choosing Mr. Trump. “But that hasn’t happened.”

He said he is furious at himself for having voted for Mr. Trump and is open to voting for Democrats this fall, even though the party no longer really speaks to him.

“I’m concerned about our environment,” he said. “I’m concerned about people’s rights. I sound like a far-left person and I’m not!”

Instead, Mr. Zeigler said he feels politically homeless.

“The Republicans are about money and big business and the Democrats have lost their way. They are not taking care of that core group they know is out there.”

Democrats lost their way in large part because they adopted the strategy of being conciliatory to the Right and appealing to the center, which left a huge portion of the electorate with no voice at all, anywhere. It’s gotten so bad that a guy has to apologize for being concerned about rights and the environment — I’m not far left!

Just do the right thing, Democrats. Be true to your own values. Take the stands on issues you actually believe in, not what you think you have to settle for because of the Right. People will follow.

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It’s Giuliani Time!

Trump Maladministration

I started to call this post the “rich man’s burden.” Perfectly innocent rich men, you see, are just perpetually having to pay large amounts of money to  women of ill repute. It goes with the territory. Anna North wrote at Vox,

If anyone in America still needed an explanation of how rich people use their money to silence others, President Donald Trump has you covered.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, he laid out the process by which “celebrities and people of wealth” like himself use nondisclosure agreements to keep people from talking about them in public. Trump specifically explained that he reimbursed his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for paying porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence.

I believe Trump is still claiming he didn’t have sex with that woman (he changes his story so much it’s hard to keep track), which makes me wonder why more women don’t get on this gravy train. All you have to do to get $130,000 is threaten to tell the world that you’ve had sex with Mr. Bigbucks! Easiest scam in the world! It must happen all the time!

Of course, the flip side to NDAs is that they perpetuate a system by which the very wealthy can get away with anything by buying their victims’ silence. I think NDAs should be done away with, except perhaps in regard to legitimate proprietary business information.

Conor Friedersdorf compiled a list of Trump’s changing stories about the $130,000 payment.

And that brings us to Wednesday night. Now, Rudy Giuliani says that Trump repaid the $130,000 to Michael Cohen. The lawyer didn’t use his own money after all. The new story produced a remarkable followup segment on Fox News, in which Laura Ingraham grudgingly implied that Trump and his allies have proven themselves to be liars by blatantly contradicting themselves—then quickly softened that heretical conclusion by reframing it as though the important thing is what the left will say, not the actual truth of the matter.

At about the 1:26 mark, Ingraham speculates, “Well did Trump pay it after April 6?” It would be odd to wait that long to reimburse one’s lawyer for a six-figure expense, but that would allow Trump to claim he wasn’t lying on Air Force One. What Ingraham could not have known then is that after the Hannity interview, Giuliani gave an interview to Robert Costa of The Washington Post.

What Guiliani told Costa is that the reimbursement was over a period of time, in monthly payments of  “$35,000. Which means the reimbursement began long before April. (Trump’s tweets today suggested that the $35,000 a month was merely a legal retainer, which must have been a sweet deal for Cohen, considering he does very little legal work.)

It probably didn’t occur to Giuliani that he was throwing the Fox News crew under the bus along with Trump. But no statement coming out of the White House can ever be trusted. Something that’s a “disgusting” rumor and “fake news” one day turns out to be true the next day. This happens a lot.

The problem, as I understand it, is that Giuliani seemed to believe that if Trump paid the $130,000 out of his own pocket, he’s off the hook for campaign finance violations. However, all kinds of commentary today says that if the $130,000 was paid in connection to the campaign in any way, and not reported, it’s still a campaign finance violation.

On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that Cohen “received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign … used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair.”

“Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction,” the president insisted.

But Giuliani quickly contradicted that explanation in an interview with Fox and Friends Thursday morning, indicating that the payment to Daniels was meant to prevent damaging information from emerging in the latter days of the 2016 campaign. “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “Cohen didn’t even ask. He made it go away. He did his job.”

That statement, legal experts said, appears to confirm that the payment was a campaign expenditure. “This is good circumstantial evidence this was campaign-related,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Giuliani did Trump no favors.”

Jonathan Turley asks, “Is Rudy Giuliani working FOR Donald Trump or AGAINST him?” See also Josh Marshall, “Rudes in Twillight.”

My best guess is that Guiliani and Trump and other members of the legal team had discussed this story (true or not) as a way to escape a claimed FEC violation. They did so with what appears to have been a fairly limited understanding of campaign finance law. But they thought it was a good idea. Giuliani then meandered his way into floating it during his interview with Sean Hannity. Note how he immediately fixes on the point that this solves the campaign finance problem (even though it appears not to). He’s adamant and cocky about it. He is then caught off guard when Hannity – himself caught off guard and scrambling in response to the initial claim – reminds him that the story is that Trump never knew anything about the Daniels deal at all and did not know where the money was from.

Later in the interview and now this morning he has groped his way to a new hybrid story which is that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment without ever knowing that the payment had been made, who it had been made to or how much it was for. With sufficient grease and spit and oblong pieces of cardboard, Rudy is halfway able to make this make sense. But by any real measure, it makes no sense. …

… What you have are a half dozen brainstorms cooked up by a group of old men in a room used to bending reality to their purposes when something goes wrong. That’s much more difficult on a national stage in front of intense scrutiny. That’s what happened last night. Rudy Giuliani is far, far past his prime, used to the accommodating hothouse world of Fox News cronies and cash and carry deal-making in his law firm gigs. This was as sloppy as it looked and did his client no favors.

In other news: NBC reports that the feds had tapped Michael Cohen’s phones. We don’t know when the tap started, but it was before the raids on his home(s) and office(s). At least one call between Cohen and the White House was intercepted.


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Today’s Tweetstorm: Trump vs. the Constitution

Trump Maladministration

Today, the Creature threatened the Justice Department. This morning’s tweets in chronological order:

Article II of the Constitution does not say anything about unfettered power to fire anyone.

Alex Ward at Vox explains,

Here’s what he’s referring to: Trump’s GOP congressional allies are upset the DOJ won’t hand over unredacted documents related to ongoing investigations. Basically, law enforcement officials say it’s inappropriate to hand over those materials to Congress while investigations are still in progress. But conservatives in Congress allege the DOJ is a corrupt institution that bungled multiple investigations — not least the one about possible Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 presidential election — and, therefore, requires stringent oversight.

That, in part, is why Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) requested the memo Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote where he outlined what special counsel Robert Mueller could investigate. But on Monday, the Justice Department told the Congress members it would not send along that memo.

Trump may have heard of the denied request and threatened to involve himself in the standoff — which could jeopardize the DOJ’s independence to do its job.

But you know does have the power to declassify anything he wants to declassify? The President of the United States. So he’s whining about not being allowed something that he could get if he just asked. Apparently no one has explained this to him. Perhaps even his handlers lawyers don’t want him to know.

In other Creature news, the New York Times reports that Ukraine is refusing to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.

The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.

The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.

As Jonathan Chait explains, supporters of the Creature have been pointing to Trump’s sale of weapons to Ukraine as a sign he was willing to crack down on Russia. Today’s news puts a darker spin on it — he’s bribing Ukraine to withhold evidence from Mueller. Chait wrote,

Ukrainian officials are not even hiding the fact that they’re doing so because of the missile sale. “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” one Ukrainian lawmaker says. “We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.”

Also, it’s looking more and more like the list of questions leaked by Trump’s lawyers didn’t even come from Bob Mueller. It’s very possible that they were drawn up entirely by Trump’s lawyers to prepare him for what questions Mueller might ask. Leaking them and blaming Mueller might have been Trump’s idea.

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What’s Happening Now

Trump Maladministration

It’s May Day. There was a time that people used to look at who was standing on the balcony in Moscow to see who was in or out with the Communist Party in the USSR.


There’s a bad joke in the image, if you can find it. Anyway, now people check out the front page of the National Enquirer to see who is in or out with Trump. Apparently the print edition is running a front-page story dissing Michael Cohen. This has also led to speculation that Cohen has already flipped.

Last night the New York Times published a list of questions Robert Mueller asked the Trump team. The questions mostly relate to possible obstruction and Trump’s business ties with Russia. So this morning the Creature tweeted,

One, the leak appears to have come from the White House, not Bob Mueller.  (Update: Apparently there are grammatical errors in the questions, indicating a White House origin.) Two, although the word “collusion” may not have appeared in list, questions about cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia certainly did. For example:  “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” But no collusion, of course. See also Greg Sargent.

Benjamin Netanyahu claims that Israel has learned Iran is cheating on the nuclear deal, and he illustrated this with a powerpoint presentation that even the staid Business Insider calls “bizarre.”  I wouldn’t trust Netanyahu as far as I could throw him, but I fear this will give Trump all the excuse he needs to cancel the deal. Iran has already said that if the U.S. pulls out (thanks, Michelle Wolf) Iran will also.

Finally, for now — the tax cut bill was supposed to be “rocket fuel” for the economy. The New York Times reports that so far, the rocket fuel has fizzled.

See also Paul Krugman.

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National News Media: We Need Rottweilers, Not Lapdogs

Trump Maladministration

This morning I caught a bit of Megyn Kelly on the teevee, and while I was stumbling frantically to find the remote and change the channel, I realized she was complaining about how that awful Michelle Wolf had disrespected journalists.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s the problem.

Media elite who complain about Michelle Wolf are like people sitting in a burning house and complaining that the smoke is staining the wallpaper.

While the much-maligned nerd prom was going on, the POTUS was not there. He was giving a rally in Michigan in which he told his adoring, gun-worshiping followers that Democrats don’t care about the military, crime, or secure borders. He threw red meat at the frenzied crowd in the form of demonizing senators Debbie Stabenow and Jon Tester plus the usual Emmanuel Goldsteins — Hillary Clinton, James Comey and everyone in the news media. I don’t have a transcript, but according to CNN, Trump actually told the crowd that the news media “hates your guts.”

And media elite are pissed at Wolf? They are defending Aunt Lydia … I mean, Sarah Sanders? What is wrong with them?

Here are a couple of articles to read together. One is by Frank Rich at New York. Rich is blasting the New York elite who enabled Donald Trump via a retrospective on Roy Cohn. Rich’s basic point is that the elite and connected of New York, both Democrat and Republican, are more connected (and indebted) to each other than to the rest of the country. They indulged and protected Roy Cohn in his day, and they indulged and protected Trump.

The Booman makes a similar point about the Washington media. It begins:

Your required reading this morning is a column Sally Quinn wrote hack in November 1998 about how the Washington elite was coping with the unfolding l’affaire Lewinsky. You should read it this morning even if you’ve read it many times before. Once you do, its relevancy will be apparent to you.

Quinn’s point was that Washington insiders, both Democrat and Republican, are a community that cares more about their own than they care about the rest of the country. The Booman continues,

… whatever faults President Trump may have and however deceitful and contemptuous his press secretary may be, they are citizens of The Village and there are limits on how much disrespect you can show them.

By taking some personal shots at Huckabee Sanders, Michelle Wolf caused a defensive reflex. In part, the correspondents are afraid that if the Trump administration doesn’t see a tweet in their feed in defense of Huckabee Sanders that there will be negative repercussions for their access. But it’s also just a standard part of this ritual. The comedian arrives, insults people primarily by telling the truth about them, then the media criticize the comedian for being impolite and not all that funny. They usually don’t express outrage about the shots that were aimed at them because that would draw more attention to those criticisms. Instead, they deflect people’s focus onto how the president or members of his administration were mistreated.

A lot has changed since Sally Quinn wrote that piece in 1998. For one, the Village had higher standards back then. They expected more from their president than tawdry furtive Oval Office blow jobs from unpaid interns. At this point, that kind of behavior would be a welcome improvement. Bush’s failures and Trump’s presidency have beaten them down.

But their world still revolves around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and they still want to maintain a certain majesty to the place bolstered by myths they feel morally and patriotically bound to concoct and promulgate. They know it’s a sham and that they deserve criticism for it, which is why they keep going back to Nerd Prom every year to get their dose of abuse.

While they were listening to Michelle Wolf tell them what shits they are last night in Washington DC, the president was telling them what shits they are in Washington Township in Michigan.

That they’re responding by defending the president’s press secretary shows less sense of self-awareness and preservation than Patty Hearst demonstrated during her Symbionese crime spree.

Trump is expected to address the NRA national convention in Dallas this week, where he will no doubt pump up the crowd with more hate speech. The snowflakes in the Washington media elite might want to start wearing bullet proof vests.

Update: Erik Wemple, The president is seeking to destroy journalism. Now let’s debate dinner entertainment!

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Michelle Wolf and the White House Correspondent’s Dinner

Trump Maladministration

I’ll give her a B. No one has ever surpassed the monologue by Stephen Colbert of a few years ago. But Wolf got off some good lines.

Favorite lines:

It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan. It’s a direct flight; it’s so close.

Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself. But it turns out the president of the United States is the one p—y you’re not allowed to grab.

Republicans are easy to make fun of. It’s like shooting fish in a Chris Christie. But I also want to make fun of Democrats. Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything.

People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor. Oh, he’s a doctor?

We should definitely talk about the women in the Trump administration. There’s Kellyanne Conway. Man, she has the perfect last name for what she does: Conway. It’s like if my name was Michelle Jokes Frizzy Hair Small T–s.

You guys gotta stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying: If a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?

Incidentally, a tree falls in the woods is Scott Pruitt’s definition of porn. Yeah, we all have our kinks.

And, of course, we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We’re graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.

Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get: you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time, don’t be such a little b—-, Jim Acosta.”

And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. You know, is it Sarah Sanders? Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know: Aunt Coulter.

We’ve got our friends at CNN here. Welcome, guys, it’s great to have you. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work.

The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

Trump is so broke.

[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]

He grabs p—ies ’cause he thinks there might be loose change in them.

Here is Colbert’s alternative reality video:

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