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Donald Trump announced his FBI pick on Twitter … and the White House is silent

Early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump announced his pick for FBI director … sort of. Trump named Christopher Wray in a tweet, which was followed by hours of total silence from the crack White House communications team. Presumably they learned about Trump’s pick at the same time the rest of the world did.

Republicans naturally rushed out to promote the choice in glowing, highly specific terms:

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It’s not clear why anyone would assume that, but King is a loyal Republican so that was probably the absolute least he could say.

Here are a couple things we do know about Wray, besides that he was Chris Christie’s Bridgegate lawyer: He’s a partner at a law firm that represents Rosneft, Russia’s national oil company. And another of that firm’s partners, Bobby Burchfield, is the outside ethics adviser in charge of vetting Trump Organization transactions for conflicts of interest while Trump is president. King and Spalding is a 900-lawyer firm, but both Wray and Burchfield are Washington, D.C.-based partners in the firm, and these connections are still an interesting place to start while we wait for the White House to get its act together and tell us what a great pick Wray is. 

Dan Coats and Mike Rogers refuse to say whether or not Trump tried to get them to interfere at FBI

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and  Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday morning. Senator Mark Warner was the first to ask Coats and Mike Rogers about Trump’s request to intervene and downplay FBI investigation.

Rogers refused to discuss details of the any conversation, but stated that he didn’t feel that he has been asked to do anything “illegal or immoral” or feel that he was “pressured.” Refused to answer whether such a conversation with Trump occurred.

Warner then asked Coats directly, saying that if the conversations didn’t happen he had a chance to lay them to rest. But Coats and Rogers refused to answer.

Coats: “I don’t believe it’s appropriate to address that in a public session. … I do not feel it is appropriate to address confidential information in a public session.”

Warner attempted to get Coats or Rogers to respond, offering them the chance to give any clear statement that such a conversation did or did not take place and warning that evidence on the subject was forthcoming.

Coats: “I don’t believe this is the appropriate venue. … ”

Warner: “There was a chance here to lay to rest some of these press reports. … At some points, these facts have to come out.”

Marco Rubio then asked simply

“Are you prepared to say that you’ve never been asked to interfere in an investigation at the FBI?”

Neither Coats nor Rogers would respond, with Coats mentioning that he’d talk to the Special Counsel.


Republicans on the committee were eager to call the matter closed by statements from Coats and Rogers that they had “not felt pressured” to engage in anything illegal. Republican Senator James Risch even called the matter “put to rest,” even though both Coats and Rogers refused to state whether or not a conversation even occurred.

Surprisingly, what Mike Rogers and Dan Coats “felt” is not the issue.

Despite overnight stories detailing Donald Trump’s attempts to recruit Coats into the effort to halt the FBI investigation by applying pressure to then director James Comey, and previous reports that Rogers had been asked to “downplay” the investigation, the subject of testimony was ongoing evaluation of laws applying to intelligence gathering. Coats devoted his opening statement to defending the tools provided by FISA, insisting that they are under ’rigorous supervision’ and recommending ‘permanent reauthorization.’ Coats endorsed similar requests made by former DNI James Clapper and insisted there had been no intentional violations in which FISA had been misused to spy on domestic targets.

Coats insistence that FISA has been properly used, and that the Section 702 procedures protect against the use of the system to collect information on a ‘US person,’ further degrade the insistent by Trump and his surrogates that President Obama had surveilled members of his campaign staff.

Conservative lawyer: No President’s actions have ever…

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As best I can tell, no President’s actions have ever so adversely affected trust in his administration, including Nixon during Watergate

Those words are from the 12th of 17 tweets by Jack Goldsmith yesterday.  Goldsmith is universally considered to be an outstanding legal mind.  He graduated from Washington and Lee University Summa cum Laude, picked up a second bachelor’s at Oxford, and got his law degree from Yale.  He also has an Masters from Oxford, and clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkerson on the Fourth Circuit and for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.   He taught at the University of Chicago Law School before joining the administration of George W. Bush, where he first served in the Defense Department, and then as Assistant Attorney General supervising the Office of Legal Counsel, from which he resigned in 2004.  He now teaches at Harvard Law.

There is no doubt that Goldsmith is considered a conservative.

Thus when he put forth his powerful Twitter storm yesterday, many people took notice.

I reproduce the 17 tweets from that storm below.

I suggest that this is yet another indication of the readiness of an increasing number of people on the right politically willing to see this President out of office.


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8/ I don’t know about 11-6, but this view is certainly warranted now and has been for a while.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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8/ I don’t know about 11-6, but this view is certainly warranted now and has been for a while.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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9/ One thing DT behavior entails (as predicted, https://t.co/fooV7AynXb) is many losses in court, and not just on the immigration EOs.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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9/ One thing DT behavior entails (as predicted, https://t.co/fooV7AynXb) is many losses in court, and not just on the immigration EOs.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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10/ Everything else Executive would normally win—reversing Clean Power Plan, terminating treaty, new regs, etc.—will be much, much harder.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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10/ Everything else Executive would normally win—reversing Clean Power Plan, terminating treaty, new regs, etc.—will be much, much harder.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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11/ The impulsive, uncontrolled, ill-informed President infects the legal soundness of everything his administration does.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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11/ The impulsive, uncontrolled, ill-informed President infects the legal soundness of everything his administration does.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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12/ As best I can tell, no President’s actions have ever so adversely affected trust in his administration, including Nixon during Watergate

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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12/ As best I can tell, no President’s actions have ever so adversely affected trust in his administration, including Nixon during Watergate

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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13/ My sympathies for the honorable people (especially the honorable attorneys) working around Trump are greater than ever.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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13/ My sympathies for the honorable people (especially the honorable attorneys) working around Trump are greater than ever.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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14/ Every hour they face the qu whether doing the normal thing in protecting presidential prerogatives is, with this POTUS, appropriate.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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14/ Every hour they face the qu whether doing the normal thing in protecting presidential prerogatives is, with this POTUS, appropriate.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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15/ Thus the question: How much can *executive branch officials* indulge the presumption of regularity in their work?

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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15/ Thus the question: How much can *executive branch officials* indulge the presumption of regularity in their work?

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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16/ And: To the extent that they can’t, how long do they continue to serve?

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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16/ And: To the extent that they can’t, how long do they continue to serve?

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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17/ And: How long should they apply normal executive branch principles to buck up this president?  END.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

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17/ And: How long should they apply normal executive branch principles to buck up this president?  END.

— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017

Trump dines with 6 Republican members of Senate Intelligence Committee

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According to an article in today’s Washington Examiner, Trump is hosting dinner tonite for Senators who will be questioning Comey in Thursday’s hearing. The lucky diners include:

Clapper tells Australians Watergate ‘pales’ in comparison to the Russia saga

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I have to say when your former Director of National Intelligence says he understands if Aussies don’t want to share intelligence with the U.S. We are not in Kansas any more Toto…

Clapper is in Australia and told the press club today that he would understand if Australia wanted to withhold intelligence from the US. The headline though from my local paper of course was on his response to Watergate comparisons questions:

Watergate ‘pales’ compared with Donald Trump, says former US intelligence chief.

The “more balanced” national broadcaster (bit like PBS) went with a more sober:

Donald Trump’s Russia links will dwarf the Watergate scandal, says James Clapper

www.abc.net.au/…

Top law firms refuse to defend Trump from Robert Mueller

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Trump’s terrible reputation for stiffing his lawyers and being a gigantic jackass has caught up to him again:

 “The concerns were, ‘The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,’” said one lawyer close to the White House who is familiar with some of the discussions between the firms and the administration, as well as deliberations within the firms themselves.

First of all, I have no idea why Trump thought he would even begin to get an attorney of Ted Olson’s stature to defend him. The firms he reached out to are very well known. Sullivan and Cromwell. Kirkland and Ellis. Williams and Connolly. Old school. WASP. Big money. The piece notes one additional factor was they didn’t want to be associated with him lest other clients feel like the firm would get sucked into the black hole that is Trump’s world. There are also worries it could kill top recruitment of young litigators. 

Make no mistake, Robert Mueller is no joke. He’s done street level yeoman prosecutor’s work and won. When someone like him is on your ass, you better be bringing Johnny Cochran level A game to your shit. If I were on Trump’s staff, I’d be mortgaged up to the eyeballs in retainers. I certainly wouldn’t think about joining this administration. 

So, Trump is stuck with his personal divorce guy. Who, hilariously, may also under Mueller’s investigation. 

But one of the sources said that Kasowitz has been reaching out to Washington legal veterans to solicit ideas and suggestions about how to craft an overall defense strategy, including how and when to publicly release information that might be helpful to the president’s defense, the source said.

His own guy has no fucking clue what to do. All class this bunch. All class. 

Donald Trump vows to keep using Twitter no matter how much ‘FAKE MSM’ begs him to stop

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Ahem.

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1. There is no news outlet in the world that genuinely wants you, Donald J. Trump, to stop using Twitter. Donald Trump on Twitter is a golden ticket to a Wonka-esque land of crackpot theories and loud burping noises. In past years CNN would have to shoot down a commercial airliner to get the same sort of consistent news fodder that you, Donald J. Trump, provide them on a daily basis. There are indeed people in the country who want you to stop using Twitter; many of them work in the same building you do.

2. So which idiot in Donald Trump’s immediate line of vision is telling him that the “media” does not want him to tweet? How did this come up? Who was the poor sap that gently suggested to Donald Trump that his lawyers would greatly prefer he shut his enormous onion-scented trap for two sodding seconds, and how many seconds after that suggestion did it take for Donald Trump to deduce that this pitiable administration nobody was in fact a plant for his old nemesis, Mean Guy He Saw On TV?

3. What (and this is just idle curiosity at this point) is the “FAKE MSM”?


Is the implication that the “mainstream media,” using a term already intended as derogatory, is itself also fake? Not that the news they report is fake, but that, say, the Washington Post does not actually exist? That it is merely a sheet with eye holes cut into it or a combination of projector and fog machine, in accordance with the rules of Scooby Doo villains? Are we progressing from the assertion that specific stories Donald doesn’t like are “fake” to a new notion that the entire concept of “the press” is itself a fiction, a conspiracy against him by unseen forces? Or is this just an accidental word jumble, a byproduct of the man squatting in the most powerful office in the world being only a half-step above illiteracy or dementia?

4. Is there, like, some bell that rings somewhere in the bowels of hell when Donald J. Trump uses the word “honest” in a sentence? Does a puppy somewhere in the world lose its tail? Is a tornado spawned over Kansas? It does not feel like the universe would allow such a thing to happen without somewhere, alarming repercussions.

5. Why is “Social Media” capitalized, like a brand name? Does Donald believe the—you know what, never mind. You do you, Donald. It’s not like we’re going to have you to kick around much longer. Fight the FAKE MSM, buddy, one tweet at at time.

Only four months into the job, sycophantic Jeff Sessions is already threatening to resign

Nothing to see here, just the complete collapse of trust and cooperation between the idiot man-child and the hired members of his own administration.

As the White House braces for former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, sources tell ABC News the relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign. […]

Asked by ABC News if the attorney general had threatened or offered to resign, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment.

Jeff Sessions was one of Trump’s most reliable backers, shares Trump’s contempt for civil rights and the rights of immigrants, and has been on the job for less than four months—and the relationship is already going to hell.

Perhaps it does not matter how many sycophants and loyalists Trump surrounds himself with. Regardless of how much assistance they give him or how slavishly they attempt to cater to his rapidly shifting whims Donald Trump is simply incapable of carrying out the duties of the office.

Do Middle Fingers in New Zealand Portend New Global Trend for Trump Regime?

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After giving the world a series of symbolic insulting gestures since taking office in January, the administration of President Donald Trump is now facing literal middle fingers as people around the world appear increasingly willing to show the U.S. leadership how they really feel about their agenda.

“I want Trump followed everywhere he goes with an array of cheeky placards and taunts; a chorus of kazoos… [and] a crowd of raised middle fingers.”
—Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Wellington, New Zealand on Tuesday, his motorcade was greeted by throngs of angered local residents protesting with their middle fingers up—many voicing their opposition to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

“I’ve never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade as I saw today,” said a New York Times reporter who was traveling in the press pool.

At a rally nearby, people threw objects, including shoes and water-filled condoms, at a paper maché puppet of Trump.

As Greenpeace activists dropped an enormous banner decrying Trump’s withdraw from Paris, one New Zealander said the middle finger was actually a gesture too weak to express his anger. “As a Kiwi I can say it’s my ‘go to’ form of displaying my discontent however we should come up with something more offensive for these dudes.”

Euronews reports:

Last year it was trendy. And last month, Democratic Party members in California were encouraged to give Trump the middle finger. But now, bird-flipping the president is going global.

Whether over his dismissal of human rights concerns, the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement last week, or the latest insults and lies hurled at the mayor of London in the wake of a violent attack in the city—the global populace seems increasingly ready to offer Trump their middle fingers.

As argued by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, writing for the Guardian on Tuesday, the British government should cancel a scheduled state visit by the U.S. president this summer. But if that doesn’t happen, she said, people in the U.K. should seize the opportunity of his arrival to give Trump the kind of unwelcome salute that Tillerson received in New Zealand.

“If the Trump state visit goes ahead, I recommend that we view it as an opportunity to show Trump what we are made of, as my colleague Gaby Hinsliff suggested. We are not cowed, we are not reeling, and we are supremely unimpressed by anyone who seeks to divide us at times of tragedy.”

She continued, “What better way to demonstrate this than through a festival of piss-taking, a jubilee of mockery that follows the president wherever he goes? One of the things that shone through on the women’s march was the hilarity of the signs and slogans. Consider that a benchmark to be beaten – I want Trump followed everywhere he goes with an array of cheeky placards and taunts; a chorus of kazoos… [and] a crowd of raised middle fingers.”

How Trump co-opted his kid’s cancer charity to line his own pockets

It seemed like Eric Trump actually started out with the best of intentions when founding his Eric Trump Foundation to support research into children’s cancer by raising lots of money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the leading pediatric cancer center. He threw huge annual golf events (at the family’s golf course, naturally), with all of the money raised going to the hospital because daddy didn’t charge anything to use the venue and all the other costs were comped.

While it might have started out with the best of intentions on Eric’s part, daddy then got ahold of him and reminded him that just looking good isn’t enough if you don’t profit directly. That’s the picture that emerges from a Forbes investigation by Dan Alexander.

In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free–that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.

Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.

All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors. It also raises larger questions about the Trump family dynamics and whether Eric and his brother, Don Jr., can be truly independent of their father.

In the first several years of Eric Trump’s foundation, the golf tournament seemed to be functioning relatively normally, with expenses averaging about $50,000—higher than you would think would be necessary if the golf course was being offered for nothing, but not out of bounds. Then in 2011, the foundation’s tax filings show the costs ballooned from $46,000 to $142,000. Why?

“In the early years, they weren’t being billed [for the club]—the bills would just disappear,” says Ian Gillule, who served as membership and marketing director at Trump National Westchester during two stints from 2006 to 2015 and witnessed how Donald Trump reacted to the tournament’s economics. “Mr. Trump had a cow. He flipped. He was like, ‘We’re donating all of this stuff, and there’s no paper trail? No credit?’ And he went nuts. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s my son or not—everybody gets billed.'”

Then there’s that $100,000 in outside donations that the Donald J. Trump Foundation collected to go to the Eric Trump Foundation, to cover the increased cost of using the Trump golf course—in other words, daddy’s foundation giving other people’s money to Eric so that Eric could give it to Trump’s private business. As Alexander describes it, “this maneuver would appear to have more in common with a drug cartel’s money-laundering operation than a charity’s best-practices textbook.”

By 2015, the costs for the golf tournament ballooned to $322,000, with no clear explanation for why. Eric Trump insists that the golf course, the drinks, and the entertainment were all comped. It’s hard to imagine that the single event cost that much in terms of staff time, and those expenses—overhead and salaries—are included in other IRS filings.

Even if the Eric Trump Foundation had to pay the full rate for literally everything, Forbes couldn’t come up with a plausible path to $322,000 given the parameters of the annual event (a golf outing for about 200 and dinner for perhaps 400 more). Neither could golf tournament experts or the former head golf professional at Trump National Westchester. “If you gave me that much money to run a tournament, I couldn’t imagine what we could do,” says Patrick Langan, who worked at the club from 2006 to 2015. “It certainly wasn’t done that way.”

Who knows where the money went? But it seems a likely bet that it’s somewhere in the private coffers of the Trump Organization—particularly since that huge explosion in costs for the annual tournament coincided with an influx of new board members to Eric’s foundation. In 2010, four of the original board members who were personal friends of Eric departed. The original seven-member board became a 14-member board made up mostly of Trump Organization employees including Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and executive vice president Dan Scavino Jr.

“They were wearing two hats,” says Langan, the former director of golf, who says he sat in on meetings where he couldn’t tell where the business ended and the charity began. “You’re dealing with people talking about the event and the charity who also at the same time are thinking about it as a corporation and as a business. It’s a for-profit club. You know, they’re trying to make money.”

The good news is, Eric Trump has actually raised a lot of money for St. Jude—$2.9 million just last year—and “the foundation’s money has funded research into a rare form of cancer.” The bad news is it could have raised even more if it wasn’t another vehicle for this family of grifters to line their own pockets, maybe illegally. Eric Trump isn’t doing the fundraising personally anymore and the foundation is now calling itself Curetivity.

And holding its golf events at the Trump National Golf Course.