Republicans Charge Ahead on the Suicide Tax Bill

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Trump Maladministration

While we are all basking in the glow of Roy Moore’s defeat, congressional Republicans say they have reached an agreement on their tax bill, and that it will be voted on next week. And it’s doubtful they will allow Doug Jones to be seated first. Here’s what’s known about what’s in the bill.

 

 

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Famous Fatuous Fails

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Republican Party

This happened a couple of days ago. If you haven’t seen this yet, do watch.

Clearly the local yokel was not ready for prime time.

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Doug Jones Wins!

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Trump Maladministration

Sweet. And I understand the Republican establishment is already blaming Steve Bannon.

Update: I forgot to add —

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Waiting on the Alabama Returns

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Trump Maladministration

I just checked the news for the latest on voter turnout in Alabama. Word is that turnout is “high”; they expect about 25 percent of registered voters to vote.

WTF, Alabama? The whole country is biting its nails over this election, and the best you can do is 25 percent?

Last night at a rally Roy Moore’s wife Kayla actually said this —

Classic. In other news …

The European Parliament has accused Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of insider trading.

Earlier this year, Luke Ming Flanagan, an Irish politician and member of the European Parliament, the European Union’s governing body, commissioned a report on the 2008 eurozone banking crisis. The final version of this report, written by two Irish financial analysts, was presented in Brussels last week to a group of 52 European Parliament members affiliated with left-leaning parties. And it included a section covering Ross’ investment in the Bank of Ireland, in which he was a major shareholder and a member of the board of directors. The report alleges that when Ross sold off his holdings in the bank for a massive profit in 2014, he possessed inside information that the bank was relying on deceptive accounting practices to mask its losses and embellish its financial position.

You’ll have to read the article for details, which look pretty incriminating. But jeez louise, the guy cheats but still had to lie about being a billionaire. Pathetic.

How about this one — after dumping Matt Lauer, the Today Show’s ratings have gone up. Not surprised.

By now you’ve heard about the tweet Trump sent after Sen. Gillibrand called for him to be investigated for sexual assault.

Because, you know, nothing says “I’m not really a sexual predator” more than hurling sexist and demeaning insults at  women. And then, even better, deny that an obviously sexist comment was a sexist comment. Absolutely brilliant.

Elsewhere — take Steve Mnuchin. Please. Far, far away. He’s turning into one of the most annoying members of Trump’s cabinet, which is saying something. Bess Levin writes for Vanity Fair:

When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that more than 100 people in his department were “working around the clock” on forthcoming analysis regarding the G.O.P.’s tax plan, those he credited with “running scenarios” on the bills were surprised, given that such analysis did not, in fact exist. Their time had been spent, they told The New York Times, running models on “individual provisions or policy ideas”—a far cry from the detailed, thorough analysis that Mnuchin had repeatedly promised was right around the corner, and would definitively prove that the cuts paid for themselves. With the clock running down and the Inspector General digging into the mysterious case of the missing Treasury analysis, the former Goldman partner turned foreclosure mogul pulled through on Monday with a report clocking in at a single page and fewer than 500 words that says the Senate plan will totally pay for itself—assuming a set of circumstances that are about as likely as Jared Kushner bringing peace to the Middle East.

Seriously; the Treasury analysis is on one piece of paper, which is not nearly big enough to cover Mnuchin’s lying ass.

For real-live economists and tax experts, Mnuchin’s “analysis” is an infuriating disgrace. “The Treasury’s one-page note is a pathetic joke,” Jason Furman, a professor of Practice at Harvard Kennedy School and former Chairman of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told me. “I feel awful for the dozens of talented Treasury economists who have worked for years developing sophisticated models for dynamic analysis and dynamic scoring only to be completely shut out of this process. Instead of doing an analysis, the Treasury Department assumed a can opener, using an assumption they made about growth in the budget they put together long before they even had a tax-reform plan. Then they mechanically calculated the consequences of that growth assumption for the budget finding that the tax cuts pay for themselves, a result that a consensus of top economists in the recent Booth survey rejected.”

And so on. Paul Krugman said,

The document was a shameless attempt to fool the public — carefully worded to imply that economic experts at Treasury (they’re still in there somewhere, maybe locked in a closet) had actually done an analysis to that effect, without explicitly saying so. In fact, there was no economic analysis; Trump officials just made up numbers that would give them the result they wanted.

Even reporters hardened to Trump administration lies seemed shocked by the brazenness of this bait-and-switch. What made Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, think he could get away with it?

And the answer is, Paul Ryan’s been getting away with fantasy numbers for years. Why not Mnuchin?

And all of our futures may hinge on bleeping Alabama. I need a drink.

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Alabama Special Election

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Trump Maladministration

Tomorrow is the big day, the Alabama special election that could send rootin’ tootin’ whackjob Roy Moore to the Senate. All the pundits say the election could go either way. Some indicators are looking good for Doug Jones. But Jones will need a strong showing from black voters, and Alabama has a genius for finding new ways around the 15th Amendment.

Polls are all over the place. Some show Moore ahead; some show Jones ahead. Nate Silver:

What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however. There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.

Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar GroupJMC Analytics and PollingGravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.

But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.1

Silver goes into a long analysis of why the two methods come up with different results, but bottom line …

Because you’ve read so much detail about the polls, I don’t want to leave you without some characterization of the race. I still think Moore is favored, although not by much; Jones’s chances are probably somewhere in the same ballpark as Trump’s were of winning the Electoral College last November (about 30 percent).

Interesting data from WaPo:

White-collar folks who graduated from college are significantly more likely to defect from GOP candidate Roy Moore than blue-collar, non-college-educated people. The country club set cares far more about their state’s reputation and the effect it has on the business climate.

The Washington Post-Schar School poll published the weekend before last, which showed the race within the margin of error, found that Moore led Democratic candidate Doug Jones by 42 points among non-college-educated whites, 69 percent to 27 percent. Among college-educated whites, however, Moore led by just 4 points, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Among white non-college women, Moore led by 36 points. Among white women who graduated from college, Jones led by 15 points.

Business people fear the election of Moore will cost the state a proposed $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda plant and other business opportunities. Yeah, probably. But Jones does have a shot.

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The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act and Right-Wing Hypocrisy

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Trump Maladministration

The Republican Party took another step toward  chipping away at our freedoms by passing the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act this week. This bill would strip state and local governments of the power to enforce their own firearm laws. Instead, if this thing becomes law any right-wing yahoo from Alabama will be able to stroll around Manhattan with a concealed firearm. Which, I assure you, is something the large majority of New Yorkers do not want.

States rights? What a joke. “States rights” arguments only apply to laws and policies right wingers don’t like, such as desegregation. They like laws that impose their twisted values on blue states just fine.

We’re not just talking about New York, of course. The Los Angeles Times:

Under the proposed reciprocity law, anyone with a valid permit from another state would be able to carry a concealed firearm in California, even if they do not meet California’s more stringent standards. This is a highly objectionable infringement on the responsibilities of state and local law enforcement to maintain public safety, and is clearly aimed at undermining gun control efforts nationally. What’s more, it will put guns into the hands of more people who shouldn’t have them.

Right-wing myth to the contrary, there is a strong correlation between higher gun violence and loose gun control laws.

The rates of gun violence in the 10 states with the weakest gun laws are more than three times higher than those in the 10 states with the strongest gun laws. That’s one of the major findings of a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) that analyzes 10 indicators of firearm violence—including suicide, murder, fatal gun accidents, and mass shootings—in all 50 states and finds a “strong” correlation between gun violence and weak gun laws.

Gail Collins:

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it impossible for states to do anything about people who carry in guns from other states.

We have seen this idea, known as “concealed carry reciprocity,” before. It basically says gun owners only have to follow the laws of the state they hail from. Some states will give a permit to carry a concealed weapon to an 18-year-old. Some don’t care about a record of stalking. Some don’t have any rules at all — you’re O.K. to pack a pistol if you can breathe.

“The Republicans yell states’ rights all the time, but they’re hypocrites,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. He claimed, in a phone interview, that the last time Congress passed a bill to impose the laws of one state on a different state “it was the Fugitive Slave Act.” We can look forward to more of this discussion since Nadler is now the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. It used to be John Conyers, but then there was that sexual harassment matter.

Jerrold Nadler is a good guy, and I only wish he were chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Maybe some day.

Gun nuttery takes away our freedom. Gun nuttery puts us all at the mercy of hotheads with more testosterone than sense. A guy waving a gun can disrupt your children’s play in a public park, and there’s nothing you can do about it but go home, because his right to wave a gun around overrides yours. Strangers can walk through residential neighborhoods, or near schools, or anywhere else, carrying guns, and nothing can be done until they start killing people.

And if you don’t like it, expect your public demonstration to be menaced by goons with guns. Speak at your own risk.

 

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Another Foreign Policy Unforced Error: Jerusalem

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Trump Maladministration

Following Trump’s slurred announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem, the State Department updated its Worldwide Caution alert to be sure Americans traveling abroad know there are Terrorists Out There. Of course.

Trump had absolutely no idea why the move to Jerusalem might be problematic.

President Trump did not completely grasp the ramifications of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, several advisers told The Washington Post.

Trump wanted to seem “pro-Israel” and focused on “making a deal,” two advisers told the Post.

According to the newspaper, some administration officials voicing their support for the decision included Vice President Pence and adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law.

Others, though, advocated against the move, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Trump on Wednesday recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy there.

WaPo:

The decision to shake off warnings from senior officials such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and align himself instead with prominent proponents of the move, including Vice President Pence and major donor Sheldon Adelson, underscored the president’s determination to break with past policy and keep a key campaign pledge — despite the potential risks to U.S. interests in the region and the goal of Middle East peace.  …

… Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, had supported the move from early in Trump’s candidacy, and Pence, who is to visit Israel this month, told Trump that his base would love the decision, something the president liked to hear.

An important outside voice advising Trump to make the leap was [Sheldon] Adelson’s, according to several people familiar with the two men’s conversations. At a White House dinner earlier this year, Adelson made the issue a main topic, one person said. In the months that followed, Adelson periodically asked others close to Trump what was causing the delay and expressed frustration, these people said. …

… “It’s insane. We’re all resistant,” said one Trump confidant who recently spoke to the president about it. “He doesn’t realize what all he could trigger by doing this.”

While Trump appeared to have made up his mind, he continued to solicit input, two White House officials said, even asking random acquaintances about the Middle East in recent months. Several advisers said he did not seem to have a full understanding of the issue and instead appeared to be focused on “seeming pro-Israel,” in the words of one, and “making a deal,” in the words of another.

The WaPo article goes on to say that the announcement had nothing to do with any peace process, but rather was mostly about Trump wanting to keep a campaign promise. Of course, it was a stupid promise because moving our embassy to Jerusalem helps neither Israel nor the United States.

Presidents need to be able to play multi-dimensional chess. Trump can’t manage one-dimensional tic-tac-toe without screwing it up.

Juan Cole:

Some sections of the crazy quilt that makes up the Trump administration want to push Iran back out of the Arab world and weaken it, in support of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Those actors have just been handed a big setback by Trump’s slurred and crazed announcement that he will move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize it as the capital. …

… It isn’t that everyone doesn’t already know that Washington is on board with screwing over the Palestinians and humiliating the Arabs. But Trump just flaunted it in everyone’s face.

But let us consider the Saudi cold war with Iran. Given the open Saudi signals of cooperation with Israel against Tehran and given the Al Saud’s embrace of Trump, Riyadh is implicated in the Jerusalem decision whether they like it or not. In the propaganda wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran just got a big boost.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani called up Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan and the two agreed that Jerusalem is the permanent capital of Palestine. Turkey is majority Sunni, while Iran is a Shiite republic. Any attempt to block Iran’s influence would have to aim at instigating bad relations between these two, among the most populous and wealthy countries in the Middle East.

Trump managed to bring Turkey and Iran together by what they called his “wrong” and “illegal” action. In fact, Rouhani called for all 56 Muslim-majority countries to make a stand against the US. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Jerusalem will always be Arab and Islamic. The country’s Leader, Ali Khamenei, also weighed in, pledging to organize the Muslim world for a response. So now the Iranians (not Arabs) are the champions of Arab nationalism, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt are supine. So Trump is helping make Iran a leader of the Muslim world. Good job.

Charles Pierce:

People who believe that the president* is a dealmaking genius—or, more precisely, the people who are paid to tell him they believe it—likely will see this move as a clever ploy to shock both sides into serious negotiations. Sensible people, however, will see this move as a man who fingerpaints with botulism. World leaders, of course, are basically aghast. Even Jared Kushner’s new pals, the Saudis, consider this a reckless idea. From Haaretz:

“Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a statement. “The kingdom’s policy – has been – and remains in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the U.S. administration.”

Jared Kushner is, of course, dumber than a bag of hammers, and the fact that this walking tribute to privileged cluelessness is in charge of our Middle East policy ought to scare the stuffing out of all of us. Politico reports that Kushner — who pushed for the move of the embassy — has no clue why this would jeopardize his good relations with the Saudis or threaten any negotiations regarding the Palestinians.

With the exception of Benjamin Netanyahu, world leaders have expressed strong condemnation of Trump’s move. And, truly, it was an unforced error. I’m not aware of any pressure being put on Trump to mess with the status quo. He did it because he wanted to.

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Unilateral Disarmament? McCarthyism?

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Trump Maladministration

I have major misgivings about the calls for Al Franken to resign from the Senate, but if he does, I will demand that the Democrats go on an aggressive and merciless offense against Republicans on the sexual harassment/assault issue. The Dems will be able to offer a contrast between themselves and the Republicans: We take this issue seriously while they protect rapists and pedophiles!

Otherwise we will have lost a good senator for nothing.

Because, you know, if Democrats resign for this — and I agree John Conyers needed to go — and Republicans don’t, the GOP will hold that up as proof that Democrats are perverts. Even now Mitch McConnell is calling on Franken to resign while his party supports Roy Moore and makes excuses for Donald Trump. And they’ll get away with that if the Democrats don’t step up.

The public mind is a lazy mind. A long time ago I read that people who talk a lot about morality are perceived as being moral even when they aren’t. And now Republicans seem to be coasting on the argument that they aren’t guilty of anything because they haven’t admitted to being guilty.  And if the Democrats don’t shout over them, they’ll get away with that.

Stuff to read, pro and con:

Al Franken, the latest casualty of the ‘Weinstein’ effect, now a victim of sexual McCarthyism

I Believe Franken’s Accusers Because He Groped Me, Too

Update: See Paul Waldman, The depressing lesson of political sex scandals

When it comes to sex scandals, the politicians who are the most guilty and the least repentant are the ones who survive.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is expected to announce his resignation on Thursday, after two moreallegations of inappropriate sexual behavior were published on Wednesday and most of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate called for him to step down. If that is indeed what happens, it will be a turn of events that is at once rare — senators very seldom voluntarily give up their seats for any reason, let alone for allegations that haven’t been proven in court — and unsurprising, if you understand how scandals like this usually proceed.

That’s because Franken was contrite and apologetic when the allegations first emerged. While he said in general terms that he didn’t remember events in the same way his accusers did, he didn’t attack them or call them liars, and he pledged to do better. When a politician reacts that way, there’s a good chance he’s on his way out.

And who survives this kind of scandal? The ones that are the least repentant — and often, the most guilty.

Also, I understand that Franken did just resign.

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Mueller Subpoenas Deutsche Bank

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Trump Maladministration

Shit’s getting real, fast. Mueller flipped Flynn and is now digging into Trump’s personal finances.

Russ Choma and Andy Kroll at Mother Jones:

Now it’s getting personal. On Tuesday, a German newspaper reported that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia scandal, has issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank, which Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars, making this financial behemoth Trump’s largest creditor. This summer, Trump said that he considered his family’s personal finances a “red line” that Mueller should not cross. But by targeting Deutsche Bank with a subpoena for more information about Trump’s accounts, Mueller may well be crossing that line. More important perhaps, he is digging into a massive Trump conflict of interest and one of the biggest questions regarding Trump’s business empire: why would this German bank lend him so much money when US banks wouldn’t?

I wouldn’t say Mueller “may well” be crossing that line; I’d say he definitely is. Deutsche Bank is not a “U.S.” bank, strictly speaking, but it does a lot of business in the U.S. and has a big headquarters in New York City. You know, where Trump used to live.

Deutsche Bank is important to Trump because U.S. banks won’t work with him. He’s a bad risk. If Deutsche Bank hadn’t extended a line of credit to him, he’d be washed up today. And today it’s said that Trump owes Deutsche Bank hundreds of millions of dollars. But the question is, why would Deutsche Bank lend him money? What’s in it for them?

Josh Marshall:

Why Deutsche Bank still works with Trump (they financed most of the DC Trump hotel project, for instance) is a basic question running through the Russia story. I’ve had a couple theories. One is simply this: that years ago Trump realized that he couldn’t be shut out by every major bank. He needed at least one major lender who would still do business with him and thus made sure not to cheat or gouge them as actively as he did the others. (This wasn’t terribly credible since he got in a legal tangle with DB a few years ago demanding that he be released from his debt to the bank and be reimbursed because of the banks role in the 2008 financial crisis. Yes, he sued saying he should be released from repaying a loan.) The other possibility is that there was some extra-economic factor that kept them lending.

Along those lines many have pointed out that lots of Russian money goes through Deutsche Bank and indeed the bank has been repeatedly fined for Russian money laundering. The Deutsche Bank subpoena is certainly about probing the President’s financial ties to Russia, which are as we know extensive.

A hypothesis that explains all of the known facts: Trump is personally in debt to Russians up to his comb-over. Putin could ruin him politically and financially just by giving the word, which means Trump as POTUS must tread carefully to not overly piss off Putin. And of course his power over Trump gave Putin incentive to try to manipulate the election in Trump’s favor.

We may learn eventually that something else is going on, but so far that’s where it all seems to be pointing. Even if my hypothesis is proved wrong, it’s a safe bet that Trump’s finances, including his taxes, won’t stand up to legal scrutiny.

Also, in other news: Now Southern California is on fire.

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How Can We Impeach Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

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Trump Maladministration

A quick rundown …

Obstruction of Justice.  There’s a hell of an obstruction of justice case against Trump just based on what he’s done publicly. The obstruction of justice case was a slam dunk months ago, in fact. And he’s too stupid to stop digging that hole. So now it’s like a slam dunk and a whole bunch of free throws. One of his lawyers has put out the bizarre argument that presidents cannot obstruct justice. But Trump’s attorney general, Jeff “Stars and Bars” Sessions, is on record as having a different opinion. So good luck getting out of that one, Donny.

The Emoluments Clause. The Constitution says that U.S. officials may not may not accept money, gifts or titles of nobility from foreign governments, and that no monetary benefit (other than salary) should be derived by holding office.

But what happens when a president has businesses on the side with foreign governments? Trump had promised his business would not make new deals with foreign governments while he is in office, but he keeps breaking that promise. And we’re in new territory here.

Anita Kumar reported for McClatchy today that

A construction company owned in part by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea plans to build a Trump-branded luxury resort development in Indonesia despite a vow from Donald Trump that his family business would not make any deals with foreign government entities while he serves as president. …

… McClatchy reported in September that a major construction company owned by the Chinese government was awarded a $32-million contract to build a six-lane road as part of the residential piece of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project.

And this is a problem because …

Walter Shaub, who served as the director of the Office of Government Ethics until July, said it was a “foregone conclusion” that Trump would have numerous conflicts of interests after he made the decision to retain his business. “Just about every decision he makes puts him under cloud of suspicion,” Shaub said. “It became inevitable because he didn’t sell. It’s precisely why he should have divested.”

Now every time his company does business in a foreign country or with a foreign entity, Trump faces a fresh set of questions: Is a foreign government gaining access to him because of his business? Is the business deal a factor in U.S. foreign policy? Is a foreign government building goodwill with him because of his company? …

…Ethics experts, including those involved in three separate lawsuits accusing Trump of violating the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution, say the latest agreements with Posco could violate the law depending on what kind of influence the foreign governments have on the company and whether the Trump Organization is receiving a benefit.

The Logan Act. No one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, but it’s been on the books since 1799.

The Logan Act makes it a crime for a United States citizen, “without authority” from the federal government, to communicate with foreign officials in order to “influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government” in a dispute with the United States or “to defeat the measures of the United States.” A conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to three years. …

… The statute applies squarely to Mr. Flynn. According to court filings, a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team told Mr. Flynn on or about Dec. 22, 2016, to contact officials from Russia and other foreign governments regarding a resolution pending before the United Nations Security Council that condemned Israeli settlement activity. Mr. Flynn then asked the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, to delay a vote on the resolution or use Russia’s veto to prevent it from passing.

There appears to be a broad consensus now that the “very senior member” was Jared “Back Channel” Kushner, who has his own problems with Russians. But were other members of the transition team in the dark about what Kushner and Flynn were up to? That’s extremely doubtful.

Collusion. And, finally, we get to the old “did Russia help Trump win the election” question. Brian Beutler writes,

There is more than enough evidence to say definitively that the Trump administration colluded with Russia, and there is every reason to believe the plot encompassed criminal activity, even if that activity remains invisible for now. …

…We know that Russian spies approached the Trump campaign offering assistance in the election multiple times. At least twice, Russians dangled the lure of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including stolen emails, and both times, Trump campaign officials (George Papadopoulos and Donald Trump, Jr.) expressed interest. Trump, Jr. was particularly enthusiastic about the idea of cooperating with the Russians, and shortly after he welcomed Russian spies to Trump tower for a meeting about “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he coordinated messaging with Wikileaks, which operated last summer and fall as a cutout for Russian hackers.

After repeatedly communicating to Russia (in public and in private) that they welcomed interference in the election, Trump and his aides cast public doubt on whether the saboteurs were Russians at all. When Trump went on to win the election after benefiting from this interference, members of his inner circle, through Michael Flynn, secretly connived with Russia to subvert the countermeasures the American government had undertaken as penalties for Russia’s interference. …

… Meanwhile, Trump’s pretense that Flynn did no wrong but to lie to Vice President Mike Pence is falling apart, as it becomes increasingly clear that Flynn was honest with the entire team about his communication with Russian agents, and they all agreed to tell lies about it to the public. Trump admitted on Saturday that he knew Flynn had repeated those lies to the FBI at the time he ousted Flynn, and at the time he beseeched FBI Director James Comey to let Flynn off the hook. The president is for this and a myriad other reasons the subject of an obstruction investigation.

At this point, to say collusion allegations remain unproven is materially misleading. Collusion has been conclusively proven; we are in the process of learning how extensive it was, and whether, in the course of it, American conspirators committed federal crimes.

I have argued several times that we don’t know if whatever the Russians did had any measurable effect on the election, but just attempting to use the help of a foreign government to win a presidential election is, um, bad.

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