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Brennan: “I am aware of intelligence of contacts and interactions between Russians / Trump Campaign”

What’s that old Law School truism … “Never ask a Question, that you don’t already know the Answer to.” 

Nationwide ‘March for Truth’ Events Take Aim at Trump’s Destructive Fact-Free Rule

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Just days after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement and with the testimony of fired FBI director James Comey scheduled for next week, U.S. citizens gathered for protests in cities nationwide on Saturday to denounce the president’s penchant for lying, obscuring facts, and promoting alternative realities.

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Demanding answers on whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with alleged Russian interference in last year’s election and highlighting his ongoing refusal to sever ties with his business empire or release his tax returns, the dozens of groups who organized the “March for Truth” say that getting to the bottom of these issues—and holding Trump to account if misdeeds are exposed—remains an imperative.

“Every day we learn more about the role Russian state-led hacking and information warfare played in the 2016 election, and there are crucial unanswered questions about the relationship between the Russian state and Donald Trump, his associates and his campaign,” the organizers stated on their website. “The legitimacy of the United States government hinges on the answers to these questions. If the President was elected even in part due to collusion with a foreign effort to interfere in our democratic process, then the will of the people has been subverted.”

Backed by dozens of local groups and national organizations—including MoveOn, Women’s March, Indivisible, Public Citizen, Free Speech for People, and Town Hall Project—the marches were scheduled in at least 140 cities and towns across all fifty states. Organizers provided a map allowing people to use their zip code to locate the nearest event.

“People around the country are connecting the dots on Donald Trump’s potentially criminal undermining of our democracy because Congress refuses to do so,” said Jo Comerford, campaign director for MoveOn. “The appointment of a special counsel is good first step. Now we need Democrats and Republicans to launch an independent commission to get to the bottom of Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, his conflicts of interest, and his efforts to cover them up—and we need it now.”

Videos gave a flavor of Saturday’s events and captured the hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of people who gathered at the various rallies and marches.

New York City:

Washington, D.C.:

St. Louis, Missouri:

Austin, Texas:

Grand Junction, Colorado:

Chicago, Illinois (where as of this writing, people were just getting warmed up):

Bedminster, New Jersey:

Detroit, Michigan:

Palm Beach, Florida:

 

“Trump’s Incompetence Won’t Save Our Democracy:” Masha Gessen for the New York Times

On those few occasions when Trump now emerges from behind his self-imposed Twitter wall, Americans are given a glimpse of just how fundamentally inept and unsuited he is for the task of the Presidency. His European trip provided the most recent example as he proceeded to stumble through simple photo-ops and interviews making juvenile gaffes and clumsy mistakes. If nothing else was accomplished on that trip, it underscored his incapacity at the job. For some, that was a source of a peculiar relief—after all, how much harm can an incompetent do?

Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen has emerged as one of the most perceptive critics of the Trump Administration since the election. Her article, Autocracy: Rules For Survival is now mandatory reading for anyone seeking to make sense of the national catastrophe that has befallen us. As a longtime, outspoken opponent of Vladimir Putin (she is the author of The Man Without A Face: The unlikely rise of Vladimir Putin”) Gessen often teases out uncanny parallels between the Russian despot and his sycophantic admirer in the Oval Office. In doing so she opens a window into a dark world of autocratic misrule that we as Americans– until this point in time– had the good fortune to escape.

Writing for the New York Times this weekend, she takes on the widely held perception that Trump’s painfully obvious incompetence at mastering the art of the U.S. Presidency will somehow mitigate the horrendous damage he has already begun to wreak on the country and the world:

Can an autocrat be ridiculous? Can a democracy be destroyed by someone who has only the barest idea of what the word “democracy” means? Can pure incompetence plunge the world into a catastrophic war? We don’t like to think so.

Trump’s grandiose buffoonery, lack of social skills, manners or class, and sheer ignorance have made him the butt of withering jokes and sneers from whole swaths of the American population, particularly the educated and professional classes. The Western European Democracies have demonstrated their contempt as well, but their disdain is more reflexive, grounded in painful historical experience. Reflecting on the recent French election in which voters resoundingly repudiated the ultra-nationalist, “Trumpian”  Marine Le Pen, the writer James Traub commented:

A tragic history has taught the French never to take their values for granted….The French know that you cannot trifle with history; Americans have had fewer reasons in modern times to worry about the dark consequences of political choices.

In the same way Americans have never had to contend with an impervious, rigid, autocratic presence in the White House, they have also never had to contend with an utter fool. A nation that historically prides itself on its sophistication and competence, even mastery, of all things from economy to warfare will naturally have a hard time internalizing the fact that a delusional egomaniac with no demonstrable intellect, talent, or other redeeming quality can bring the entire nation down with his fumbling grasp.  Even George W. Bush, seen by many as a President far out of his depth, had the intelligence to surround himself (mostly) with competent, if rigidly ideological people and adhere to basic governmental protocol. Trump’s modus operandi appears to be to obstinately thumb his nose at all of the country’s institutions, with a heedless disregard to history or the consequences of his acts.

But that utter lack of interest, that stunning embrace of ignorance, is exactly what Trump tapped into in order to get where he is today. By and large his voting base is made of those who shun complexity and deliberately shut their ears to complicated solutions.  These are people for whom ignorance is a warm cocoon against the realities of modern existence. These are the people who want to “build a wall” or “bring back coal.”  They embrace the rejection of reason and science that Trump embodies This simplistic, anti-intellectual attitude, with a dose of media-generated charisma thrown in, is terribly appealing to many millions of Americans. 

Gessen questions the popular perception that history’s worst actors, the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Mussolinis, were the “evil geniuses” that the scope of their crimes suggest. In fact, they were starkly mediocre men:

We imagine the villains of history as cunning strategists, brilliant masterminds of horror. This happens because we learn about them from history books, which weave narratives that retrospectively imbue events with logic, making them seem predetermined.

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But a careful reading of contemporary accounts will show that both Hitler and Stalin struck many of their countrymen as men of limited ability, education and imagination — and, indeed, as being incompetent in government and military leadership. Contrary to popular wisdom, they are not political savants, possessed of one extraordinary talent that brings them to power. It is the blunt instrument of reassuring ignorance that propels their rise in a frighteningly complex world.

Gessen has personal experience with Putin, having been, as she notes, one of the few people to have been permitted an unscripted interview with him:

I can vouch for the fact that he is a poorly educated, under-informed, incurious man whose ambition is vastly out of proportion to his understanding of the world. To the extent that he has any interest in the business of governing, it is his role — on the world stage or on Russian television — that concerns him.

This same lack of imagination and mediocrity,–a “militant incompetence”– is exactly what Trump has demonstrated in virtually every significant action he has taken thus far, from his Cabinet appointments of people who revile the agencies they are now tasked to lead (read: “dismantle”), to his interactions with foreign leaders. As Gessen points out, Trump is far more interested in being seen as someone who is “in charge” than whatever consequences of his decisions may follow.

The arbitrary and senseless withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement is simply the most recent example of this. The travel ban on Muslims was one of the firs, The pointless launch of Tomahawk missiles wasted on a Syrian airfield, the dropping of a MOAB bomb for the spectacle of it, are others. The sole goal is to appear “decisive,” no matter how abominably bad and uninformed the “decision” turns out to be, no matter what terrible consequences may flow from it, and many in this country—including many in the media—are all too eager and willing to accept it and genuflect to the simple exercise of raw power.

Gessen concludes that Trump’s basic mindset is simply the mindset of other autocratic tyrants throughout modern history:

Mr. Trump has admitted that being president is harder than he thought. He does not, however, appear to be humbled by this discovery. More likely, he is, in keeping with his understanding of politics, resentful because his opponents — his predecessor, the elites, the establishment — have made things so complicated. If they had not, things would be as he thinks they should be: One man would give orders, and they would be carried out. He would not have to deal with recalcitrant legislators or, worse, meddlesome investigators. One nation, with the biggest bombs in the world, would dominate every other country and would not have to concern itself with the endlessly intricate relationships among and between all those other countries.

From Mao to Hitler to Pol Pot ordinary, untalented and barely marginally competent people placed into positions of power in the right place at the right time have wreaked tremendous, lasting damage on human society, during the last century alone. The fact that they happened to be mundane, incompetent human beings didn’t save the world from the consequences of their acts.  All they needed was a set of tools at their disposal, a segment of their society to cheer them on.

Special counsel Mueller adds to his investigation the probe of ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort

Sadie Gurman, Eric Tucker and Jeff Horwitz report:

The special counsel investigating possible ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia’s government has taken over a separate criminal probe involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and may expand his inquiry to investigate the roles of the attorney general and deputy attorney general in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, The Associated Press has learned. […]

The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Manafort, who was forced to resign as Trump campaign chairman in August amid questions over his business dealings years ago in Ukraine, predated the 2016 election and the counterintelligence probe that in July began investigating possible collusion between Moscow and associates of Trump.

The move to consolidate the matters, involving allegations of misuse of Ukrainian government funds, indicates that [special counsel Robert] Mueller is assuming a broad mandate in his new role running the sensational investigation. 

The Department of Justice first started checking out what Manafort was doing in Ukraine three years ago. 

Pruitt Offers ‘Incoherent Distortions of Reality’ in Defense of Paris Exit

EPA head Scott Pruitt, who has publicly questioned the science of global warming, took pains to frame President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accord as something done in the interest of the environment. (Screenshot: White House)

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tried on Friday to defend President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement by selectively quoting from “the environmental left,” which at times criticized the deal for not going far enough. 

Mentioning both the Sierra Club and noted former NASA climate scientist James Hansen by name, Pruitt falsely claimed that they opposed the deal “largely because it didn’t hold nations like China and India accountable.”

Responding to the press conference as it unfolded, the Sierra Club tweeted: “The Sierra Club fully supports the Paris Agreement. Scott Pruitt is a liar.”

Others chimed in:

Meanwhile, Pruitt, who has publicly questioned the science of global warming and who since taking office has systemically deconstructed many of the United States’ environmental regulations and protections, took pains to frame Trump’s withdrawal from the global accord as something done in the interest of the environment.

“Truly,” Pruitt said, “Paris at its core was a bunch of words committed to very minimal environmental benefits.”

After, when asked by a reporter if Trump believes that “climate change is real and a threat to the United States,” Pruitt said that his personal beliefs were not germane to the discussions he had with the president about the accord.

He said that the president was “focused on” whether the agreement “impacted us economically and whether good environmental objectives were achieved as a result of Paris. His decision was no, and that was our discussion.”

Pruitt also took fire from critics for citing the much-derided New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, a known “climate-change
 denier and an incendiary Islamophobe,” in defense of the Paris withdrawal.

In a statement following the press briefing, Sierra Club’s Global Climate Policy director John Coequyt said that Pruitt is “clearly scrambling to explain the unexplainable” amid the “firestorm of criticism about Trump’s historic mistake to pull out of the Paris Agreement.”

“Pruitt’s incoherent distortions of reality offer no good reasons why the Trump Administration would turn its back on the vast majorities of the public that support the Paris Agreement because there are no good reasons. Pruitt is learning that the hard way,” Coequyt said, adding that he and Trump are now “complicit in endangering our families and our future by making this historic mistake just to boost the profits of a few corporate polluters.”

Taking the podium after Pruitt, White House press secretary Sean Spicer also dodged questions about Trump’s beliefs regarding climate change. “You say you haven’t discussed climate change with the president,” one reporter asked. “Can you have that discussion?” Spicer responded: “I will try.”

You Have To See This! IMPEACHERÀ!!

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This is absolutely hilarious and extremely well done. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I’ll just shut up now and let you watch this video by Operatico Politico.


Fox News Host Exposed as Running a Scam Charity That Received Funding from Trump

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The journalistic fraud that is Fox News is well known. It’s a network that was contrived as a right-wing spin factory, but dishonestly marketed as being “fair and balanced.” They have a revolving cast of scripted characters who alternately play politicians and pundits. Often the same person in both roles. Their commitment to partisan deceit is rooted deeply in the foul culture nurtured by its founders Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

However, a new investigation proves that ideological fraud is not the only unethical practice employed by Fox News. Following the scandal-driven departures of Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, a new cretin was crowned as the top Foxie. Tucker Carlson was awarded O’Reilly’s prized time slot that anchors the network’s primetime lineup. Never mind that Carlson has a record of failure on the three previous networks foolish enough to hire him. Fox News put all their faith behind Carlson. And he soon proved that he was totally undeserving. Last month, for the first time in seventeen years, MSNBC’s primetime beat Fox News.

Now it has come to light that Carlson is more than just a terrible TV host. The Center for Media and Democracy conducted an exhaustive investigation into the stewardship of his website, The Daily Caller (TDC). Carlson launched the site six years ago and it quickly became a staple of wingnut propaganda. The Washington Post published CMD’s findings with this summary of the scam:

“Most of the roughly 50 journalists who produce content for the Daily Caller actually work for the Daily Caller News Foundation, a tax-exempt organization with 501(c)(3) status that is ostensibly separate from DailyCaller.com. The two entities share the same floor of the same Washington office, however, and virtually everything produced by the foundation — which accepted $3 million in donations in 2015, according to an IRS filing — appears on the for-profit website, which sells advertising on the articles.

In short, TDC takes in tax-free donations to finance their for-profit newsroom. Then they use the articles written by foundation authors to populate a commercial website that receives advertising revenue. The Post cites legal experts that describe this an obvious tax dodge:

“‘It’s a huge rip-off for taxpayers if the Daily Caller News Foundation is receiving revenue that it doesn’t pay taxes on, to produce stories that are used by the for-profit enterprise, which then makes money on the stories through ads,’ said Lisa Graves, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration who now serves as executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.”

The unscrupulous business practices that Carlson employs are part of an established pattern. TDC was first bankrolled by Republican stalwart and notorious climate change denier, Foster Friess. He laid out $3 million to get the site off the ground. The Koch brothers were also generous with Carlson’s new venture. They contributed over $800,000 to the effort.

More recently, Carlson enjoyed the benevolence of an even more prominent financier. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump sought out Carlson’s help to reach out to conservative voters. Trump purchased the use of TDC’s mailing list to solicit both votes and contributions. The CMD estimates that Carlson took in about $150,000 for his services.

So Carlson was feverishly promoting Trump, hosting his surrogates, and even interviewing him on Air Force One after the inauguration. However, he failed to inform his audience that he was paid substantial sums of money by Trump. It’s an unambiguous lapse of ethics that calls into question Carlson’s integrity and motives. Furthermore, Fox News is equally unprincipled for allowing Carlson to go on the air under these circumstances. But in neither case would anyone familiar with the Fox code of ethics be surprised. It’s just standard operating procedure for a network that was born to deceive.

Republican senator says U.S. ‘coddled the Putin regime’ under Obama, stays silent on Trump

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The sitting president of the United States is under investigation for collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The president’s son-in-law, a top adviser, reportedly asked for a secure back channel to talk to Russia that would evade the notice of U.S. intelligence. His regime has sought to lift sanctions on Russia and is considering returning two compounds to Russia that then-President Obama closed because they were used for espionage. And Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is lathered up over how Obama was not aggressive enough against Russian espionage. 

Cotton has released a statement on “reports that the United States missed opportunities to crack down on Russian espionage during the Obama administration.” Specifically, “These revelations are another example of how the Obama administration coddled the Putin regime for eight years.” Cotton did not release statements on, for instance, the firing of James Comey, the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Trump-Russia ties, Jeff Sessions’ failure during his confirmation process that he’d met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, or a host of other issues relating to Trump-Russia. But a report that the Obama administration should have practiced more aggressive counterintelligence? Outrage!

Cotton’s statement ends by calling the report “yet another reminder of the need for the State Department to enforce these rules aggressively.” No doubt any minute now Cotton’s going to be out with a fiery denunciation of Trump’s desire to let Russia reopen those two compounds Obama closed.

After six years of silence, Goldman-Sachs CEO finally tweets. And it’s a doozy.

Six years ago, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman-Sachs got a Twitter account. And he’s never tweeted a single chirp. Until today. And what did he use his very first tweet to do? To slam Donald Trump’s pullout of the Paris agreement!

Donald Trump’s Twitter account is a ‘gold mine’ of information for investigators

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Conducting an independent investigation into clandestine links between a presidential candidate and a foreign government sounds like a recipe for spending a lot of time digging through obscure documents, piecing together chains of emails, and tracking down nervous witnesses. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller has one source of information that was missing in similar investigations of the past—and it’s not exactly hidden.

President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed – packed with more than 35,000 time-stamped missives dating to 2009 – offers a treasure trove of evidence for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his growing team of investigators, according to lawyers and veterans of past White House scandals.

It’s clear that Trump’s Twitter account offers an unending bounty of irony and hypocrisy for anyone who takes a moment to compare his statements of the past with his actions of today. There are no topics on which Trump hasn’t reversed himself, blatantly lied, or blamed President Obama. Often all three.

But what can it offer the official investigation?

… the @realdonaldtrump account gives investigators a detailed timeline of Trump’s thoughts and opinions – including where they might differ from official accounts – and can also be used to establish intent, which can be critical in a criminal investigation.

It’s hard to argue that your Muslim Ban isn’t a Muslim Ban if you’re laying out your desire to ban Muslims 140 characters at a time. And it’s hard to ignore Trump’s attempts to stop the investigation into Russian interference in the election when he’s served it up on a tray.  


Trump and Mueller are breaking new ground …

Legal experts couldn’t name a single example where a president’s social media posts have been cited in a federal criminal case. Twitter was in its early adoption stages when I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a top George W. Bush White House aide, was convicted in 2007 for perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice over his role in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

President Obama did use social media, but darn it, Obama was scrupulously free of scandal and constantly aware that his posts on sites like Facebook or Twitter were being read by millions, meaning that his social media posting tended to be filled with dignity, statements that match his policies, and even … grammar.

Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t just provided a treasure trove of naked id on display, he’s proven to be a nightmare client for any lawyer.

Legal experts say the president’s recent statements, including his admission to NBC News’ Lester Holt that he had the Russia investigation in mind before firing Comey, as well as his comment reported by the New York Times that Comey was a publicity-seeking “nut job” helps them paint a poignant picture of the president’s intentions.

You don’t really have to work that hard to investigate Donald Trump. Just wait till he opens his mouth … or lifts a finger.