Saturday, February 03, 2018

Nunes Memo Proves to Be a Dud to All But Kool-Aid Drinkers

Every review of the Nunes Memo I have heard on legitimate news outlets - which excludes Fox News that some are now calling "Trump TV" - seem to see the over wrought work of fiction as being a dud and/or not proving a shred of what Der Trumpenführer claims.  The principal bitch of Trump's stooges is that the FBI may have presented to the FISA court the Steele dossier as part of the supporting evidence.  It utterly ignores the fact that (i) Carter Page had been under intelligence agency scrutiny for roughly three (3) years BEFORE this filing particular FISA filing which was prompted by Page's travels to Russia, thus making Nunes' attempts to equate Page's trips to that of some midwest tourist are ridiculous, (ii) none of the "salacious" parts of the dossier related to Page - as one GOP congressman was forced to admit during an interview on Steele & Ungar last evening - and (iii) FISA court judges, not the FBI or Justice Department have the final say in whether a warrant is issued.  If the process is so flawed, why did not Nunes and others in Congress make changes before the reauthorization of the controlling law not that long ago?  Anyone other than the Kool-Aid drinkers of Trumps base ought to have severe questions for the Republicans behind the memo.  Indeed, a main Washington Post editorial underscores that the Nunes memo proves the very opposite of the lair-in-chief in the White House claims.  Here are editorial highlights:
EVEN TAKEN at face value, the infamous Nunes memo does nothing to discredit the Russia investigation, which was President Trump’s transparent aim in authorizing its release on Friday. It also does little to show abuse of surveillance law, which was the pretext on which House leaders justified its disclosure.
The memo argues that the FBI may have abused special spying authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), obtaining a warrant to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page using information from the controversial Steele dossier, a collection of allegations about Mr. Trump and his circle assembled by a former British intelligence agent with funding from Democrats. The memo claims that the FBI did not disclose the dossier’s full provenance in its application for a FISA warrant, suggesting that the warrant against Mr. Page — and, therefore, perhaps, the early stages of the Russia investigation — was tainted.
Law enforcement officials have warned that the memo offers a slanted and inaccurate picture. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman on the Senate Intelligence Committee with high-level access and far more credibility than those behind the memo, insisted Friday that the “underlying documents” on which the memo is based “simply do not support its conclusions.”
[T]he memo does more to refute than to support the FBI corruption narrative that the president is spinning. Consider these four damning admissions:
First, the memo states that separate information on a different Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, “triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence operation.” In other words, it was not the Democratic-funded dossier or the warrant against Mr. Page that led to the Russia probe. Instead, the memo reveals that there were preexisting grounds to investigate, based on information about a different Trump associate. So the president cannot construe this memo as offering evidence that the Russia probe began corruptly.
Second, the memo indicates that the Justice Department sought its warrant against Mr. Page in October 2016 — after Mr. Page had left the Trump campaign. So the president’s campaign was not the intended target.
Third, the memo notes that “the FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals,” and that “each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause.” The court would not have made those separate findings or granted renewals without evidence that the surveillance was producing valuable information that Mr. Page may have been acting as an agent of a foreign power.
Fourth, the memo states that among those who signed renewal applications were Dana Boente, whom Mr. Trump tapped to temporarily lead the Justice Department after firing acting attorney general Sally Yates, and Rod J. Rosenstein, whom Mr. Trump chose to be the deputy attorney general. For the conspiracy narrative to hold any water, one would have to believe that officials appointed by a Republican president, including one confirmed by a Republican Senate, were part of a plot to bring down that same Republican president, and that they successfully hoodwinked FISA judges selected by the Republican-appointed chief justice of the United States. This hoodwinking would have continued after the nature of the dossier had been widely publicized and Mr. Page’s Russian connections publicly scrutinized. This is beyond improbable.
The memo offers no evidence that the dossier’s allegations about Mr. Page were wrong. In fact, Mr. Page himself confirmed a great deal of the dossier’s material about himself in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, admitting to extensive contact with Russian officials during a July 2016 trip to Moscow.
The memo also omits a great deal of the other information that bolstered the case against Mr. Page. He has been on the government’s radar screen since at least 2013, when investigators scrutinized a Russian spy’s apparent attempt to recruit him
Did the FISA court fail to receive all relevant information about the dossier? That’s a legitimate question, but it’s impossible to know the answer, especially because House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican leaders let the Nunes document go public without the simultaneous disclosure of a Democratic memo that is still restricted from public view. 
The Nunes memo has turned out to be a giant, damaging distraction. Shortly after its release, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reminded the country of what is really at stake. “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy,” Mr. McCain said. “ The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel [Robert S.] Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. . . . If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”
How long will Mr. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and all the other supposed adults in the GOP watch in complicity as the president and his enablers do “Putin’s job for him”?

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, February 02, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

In Trump vs. the F.B.I., Trump Will Lose

Outside of Fox News viewers and Daily Stormer readers - both groups live in a delusional alternate universe where racism and hatred of others are the primary motivation - a majority of Americans seem to be figuring out the truth about the Trump/Nunes effort to wage war against the FBI and Justice Department in the hope of stopping the Russiagate investigation that increasingly appears on the verge of revealing serious crimes by Trump and most of the circle of liars and sycophants  with whom he has surrounded himself.  Indeed, a vast majority of Americans (71%) want Trump to be questioned under oath by Robert Mueller.  Many hope and believe that before it is all over, other senior Republicans - think Mitch McConnell - might also be exposed as having aided and abetted in the cover up of Trump/Pence collusion with Russia.  Obstruction of justice in short hand parlance. Tim Weiner, an author of historical works and a former national security correspondent for The New York Times has a column in the New York Times that lays out in simple terms what lies behind the Trump/Nunes/GOP war against the FBI and why, if America proves lucky, Trump will lose and will deservedly be remembered as one of America's worst and most dishonest occupants of the White House.  Here are column highlights:
Trump entered office last year as a singular figure. But he has come to resemble two of his predecessors in one crucial respect. Though he’s more paranoid than Richard Nixon and more mendacious than Bill Clinton, he seems bent on following them down a road to hell: a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Like them, he’ll lose.
He might win the battle with the bureau over the pending release of a scurrilous memo concocted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, a cudgel created to attack everyone who’s been in charge of the federal investigation of Team Trump. He may try to fire them all. But he won’t win the war.
We have a good idea what’s in the poison-pen four-page memo. . . . . It argues, essentially, that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and F.B.I. leaders deceived the federal judge who approved the wiretap warrant and extended it in 2017.
The bureau called the memo materially false and misleading in an extraordinary unsigned statement on Wednesday afternoon. Christopher Wray, whom Mr. Trump installed after defenestrating James Comey, has personally emphasized the danger of releasing the memo.
[Trump] clearly sees the memo as a weapon of political warfare — a way to rid himself of Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees both the F.B.I. and the special prosecutor investigating the White House, Robert Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has made it clear that he will not fire Mr. Mueller at the president’s whim — which, to the president, means he needs to go.
If he ousts Mr. Rosenstein, he might conceivably find a replacement somewhere in the bowels of the Justice Department. He’d want a stooge, a willing executioner, more loyal to him than to the Constitution . . . .
Mr. Trump has been transparent in his antagonism. It is not a disinterested belief that the bureau is corrupt and in need of reform.  He’d been in office for only six days when F.B.I. agents came to the White House to interview the national security adviser, Mike Flynn, who’d engaged in skulduggery with Russia. Mr. Flynn lied to the F.B.I.
In that moment, the counterintelligence case became a criminal case focusing on the White House. Ever since, the president has done nearly everything in his power to subvert and sabotage the investigators.
He now stands on the verge of re-enacting the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon forced out his own attorney general and the next man in line in order to sack the special prosecutor investigating Watergate. Nixon’s willing executioner back in the October 1973 was the No. 3 man at Justice, the solicitor general Robert Bork. At the end of that fateful night, Nixon promised him the next seat on the Supreme Court. It worked out badly for all concerned . . . .
[A]s Nixon learned, the president can’t fire his way out of this crisis. Despite the degradations and depredations that this president has inflicted on the executive branch, there remains a phalanx of honorable people at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. more beholden to principle than politics, prepared to fall on their swords rather than suborn high crimes. Mr. Wray is one.
When he was sworn in four months ago, he told an audience of F.B.I. agents that he was going to uphold the Constitution and follow the rule of law.
The framers of the Constitution contemplated there would be times like this. Though they failed to foresee a leader quite like Donald Trump a man more akin to the mad King George of England than to Madison and Jefferson — they knew not every president would be enlightened. But they did not dream any would be so benighted, so blind as to place personal loyalty above the rule of law.
The president has measured Mr. Mueller for the guillotine for months. As the bloodhounds close in on the Oval Office, he may sharpen his blade and place the prosecutor’s head on a pike. If so, he’ll have to confront the Constitution. And he’ll lose again.
Of course, if the Elector College electors had performed their duty as designed by the Founding Fathers, Trump would never have been certified and  America's domestic and international degradation could have been avoided.  Going forward, the Electoral College needs to either be abolished or consist of electors with spines who put their constitutional duty to safeguard the nation ahead of partisanship.

Nunes May Be Making Himself Vulnerable - Politically and for Obstruction of Justice

At times it is difficult to determine who is the more dishonest - Devin Nunes or his "dear leader" Donald Trump, for who Nunes will prostitute himself to near unimaginable lengths.  Nunes has now had fellow members of the House Intelligence Committee compare him to Joseph McCarthy while others have indicated that Nunes has not read any of the underlying documents underlying his fictional memo assailing the FBI.  Others are also suggesting that Nunes may be setting himself up for obstruction of justice charges.  This from The Raw Story:
Former White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen warned on Wednesday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) may have opened himself up to obstruction of justice charges if he colluded with the White House to create a memo smearing the FBI’s Russia investigation. . . . . Nunes has refused to deny that he worked with White House staffers while writing an allegedly misleading memo suggesting that the Justice Department acted improperly when it extended surveillance of former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page, who was thought to be a foreign agent.
“Nunes’s speech and debate clause Congressional immunity may not protect him from liability for conduct outside Congress.”  He added: “Depending on the facts, Nunes may have put himself in middle of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. He better beware: There r no secrets in this White House.”
As icing on the cake, a piece in New York Magazine reports that Nunes' shenanigans and politico fellatio of Donald Trump is not sitting well with some in his home district where Nunes stands for re-election in November.  Here are story excerpts:
More each day, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, is making himself the tip of the spear of White House efforts to discredit the Mueller investigation.
Moreover, the means deployed by Nunes to achieve this political goal . . . he and his staff prepared and are trying to get into the public domain, involve discrediting the independence of the FBI.
This is a pretty big reach for a relatively obscure GOP member of Congress, whose investigatory skills were sardonically compared to those of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther films by Senator Lindsey Graham.
Having committed his committee early on to maximum defense of Trump and his associates via ever-more-dubious allegations of misconduct by, well, everyone else, Nunes has now gone far down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, and is making allegations that if accepted would require a massive purge of federal law-enforcement personnel to “cleanse” them of anti-Trump bias. And now he may have been caught by the ranking minority member of his committee, fellow-Californian Adam Schiff, in altering his classified memo before sharing it with the White House.
At first glance you’d figure Nunes to be pretty safe. His Central Valley district (rated as eight points more Republican than the national average by the Cook Political Report) gave Donald Trump a nine-point winning margin in 2016. Nunes himself won 68 percent. Republicans have a 43/33 registration advantage in the 22nd District, centered in the Republican-trending parts of Fresno and Tulare Counties.
But Nunes’s increasingly bizarre behavior is giving unlikely oxygen to his most prominent Democratic challenger, local prosecutor Andrew Janz, who created something of a buzz in December by erecting billboards showing the incumbent on a child leash (along with the president) held by Vladimir Putin.
More tellingly, Janz commissioned a poll from Public Policy Polling earlier this month that showed a generic Democrat within five points of Nunes (who led 50/45). The survey also suggested independents were breaking pretty heavily against the incumbent, which is exactly what a Democrat would need in this district.
This district is still a tough sell for any Democrat. But if Democrats regain the kind of big national lead that generic congressional ballot tests were showing for much of 2017, then an upset is not out of the question . . . .

Rick Gates Lawyers Withdraw from Russiagate Case - Is A Guilty Plea Coming?

Wednesday we learned that Donald Trump and White House Communications Director Hope Hicks discussed hiding emails between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russian operatives from investigators.  The discussion caused one of Trump, Sr.'s attorneys to resign seemingly out of fears of being caught up in obstruction of justice.  Yesterday we learned that three of the attorneys for Robert Gates - one of two individuals indicted to date in the Mueller investigation - resigned, fueling speculation that Gates is seeking a possible guilty plea deal  and cooperation with Mueller efforts to put Trump and his co-conspirators in a bull's eye.   Making the whole situation more bizarre is the fact that the resigning counsel put their reasons for withdrawal in a filing that they asked the court to seal and bar from public view.  In practice, attorneys usually resign for one of three reasons: (i) their client isn't paying their bills, or (ii) the client is refusing to take their advice and recommendations, or (iii) their client is asking them to commit a fraud on the court.  Politico looks at this surprising development. (I suspect Messrs Trump and Manafort will not find this comforting).  Here are story highlights:
Three attorneys representing Rick Gates told a federal court Thursday they are immediately withdrawing as counsel for the former Donald Trump campaign aide, who is fighting special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of him on money laundering and other charges.
Lawyers Shanlon Wu, Walter Mack and Annemarie McAvoy said in a two-page motion that they would explain the reasons for their abrupt move in documents filed under seal with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“The document speaks for itself,” McAvoy told POLITICO, declining further comment.
Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty to Mueller’s charges filed in October, the first to be publicly announced in relation to the investigation into whether the Republican presidential campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
While Gates’ shift in legal strategy was a surprise, speculation had been mounting that the longtime GOP operative might be seeking to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. CNN reported last month that Gates had added Washington defense attorney Tom Green to his team, noting he’d been spotted at Mueller’s downtown office twice.  Green has not filed a formal appearance in the court case . . . .
Gates had also retained former assistant U.S. attorney Michael Dry as his attorney, but that relationship was severed before Mueller filed his October indictment.
“The number of lawyers he’s cycled through in such a short period of time is highly unusual,” said one Washington-based defense attorney familiar with the Russia probe.
A criminal trial won’t start until September at the earliest, according to the federal judge overseeing the case, who last month rejected a request from Mueller’s team to begin the trial in May. Gates has also been working to get permanent release from house arrest by securing a $5 million bail package.
He [Gates] was reprimanded in December by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for appearing in a brief, videotaped address trying to raise money for his own legal defense fund, a move that she said raised questions about his following a gag order issued for all parties and lawyers involved in the high-profile case.
Let's hope Gates strikes a plea deal and spills his guts. :)

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Will Virginia GOP Cause Northern Virginia to be Disqualified from Amazon’s HQ2 Selection?

The other day I noted how Indian Republicans seemly blew Indianapolis from consideration for Amazon's new Headquarters by refusing to approve protections for LGBT Indianans.   Seemly, prostituting themselves to the Christofascists in their state was deemed more important than landing 50,000 new jobs for the state.  Virginia Republicans have largely followed the wrongheaded behavior of their Indiana partmates so far in the 2018 by  session of the Virginia General Assembly.  Now, a number of activists are arguing that none of the 9 cities under consideration by Amazon in states without LGBT non-discrimination protections should be eliminated form consideration.  The activists' demand is, in fact, in keeping with Amazon's statement that it values "diversity and equality."  If Virginia loses out because of the GOP's love affair with bigots and bigotry, voters need to send them a message in both November 2018 and November 2019: vote Republicans at all levels out of office.  Meanwhile, call your representatives and state senators in the General Assembly and demand that the vote for passage of non-discrimination bills.  Here are story highlights on the issue: 
Should cities in states that don’t protect LGBT people from discrimination still be considered for Amazon’s second headquarters? Activists from across the nation are coming together to send a clear message to the e-retailer as they consider the options: “No Gay? No Way.”
The tech giant has been a leader in using corporate influence to benefit the LGBT community and has had a queer employee resource group for over a decade. So why are they considering locations that would take away the civil rights of any employees transferred out of the Seattle office?
“We were frankly just stunned that a company with such a great track record of equality and diversity had put all these states into the mix,” Conor Gaughan, the ad-hoc campaign’s manager told USA Today.
Nine out of the twenty finalists for Amazon’s HQ2 are in states that offer no protections for LGBT people. Some of the states are actively hostile to civil rights.
Austin and Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis, Miami, Raleigh, N.C., and the D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia do not protect LGBT people from discrimination.
Indiana voted down a proposed hate crimes law this week because it included sexual orientation and gender identity.
Public schools in Texas are required to teach students that homosexuality is unnatural and unacceptable. Tennessee state law prohibits local governments from enacting nondiscrimination laws that include LGBT people.
Amazon’s requirements for the new location were clear, saying it requires “a compatible cultural and community environment” that includes “the presence and support of a diverse population.” Now advocates want them to comply with their own standards.
The coalition of activists plan a protest outside of Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle today, complete with a plane waving a “No Gay? No Way.” banner behind it. They will also be placing billboards on trucks to drive through Seattle streets with the logo emblazoned on them.
Call your senator and member of the House of Delegates today!

More Thursday Male Beauty

Mueller Zeros in on False Trump Tower Meeting Narrative

Hope Hicks - Trump's accomplice in obstruction of justice?
Barely a day goes by without another revelation that bolster the case of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenführer,  and his circle of sycophants who are reminiscent of band of liars and misfits that  Hitler surrounded himself with.  And let's be clear, the constant excuse that some of Trump's minions and henchmen were "naive" or "inexperienced" simply doesn't fly.  First they had legal counsel available who they could have consulted.  Secondly, if one is going to hold important positions, then it behoves what to get their shit together and make one's self competent. Now, the New York Times has broken a story that strongly suggests that Trump and/or White House communications director Hope Hicks sought to obstruct justice and hide information from investigators.  Conduct that is might pass in a privately held real estate company with a long history of shady practices (such as dealings with mobsters) simply doesn't fly once one moves into the White House.  Here are highlights from the Times story:
Aboard Air Force One on a flight home from Europe last July, President Trump and his advisers raced to cobble together a news release about a mysterious meeting at Trump Tower the previous summer between Russians and top Trump campaign officials. Rather than acknowledge the meeting’s intended purpose — to obtain political dirt about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government — the statement instead described the meeting as being about an obscure Russian adoption policy.
The statement, released in response to questions from The New York Times about the meeting, has become a focus of the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller in recent months have questioned numerous White House officials about how the release came together — and about how directly Mr. Trump oversaw the process.
Mr. Mueller’s team recently notified Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the Air Force One statement is one of about a dozen subjects that prosecutors want to discuss in a face-to-face interview of Mr. Trump that is still being negotiated.
The revelation of the meeting was striking: It placed the president’s son and his top campaign officials in direct contact with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Mrs. Clinton, and an email to the president’s son emerged saying that the information was part of Russia’s effort to help the Trump campaign.
What is already clear is that, as Mr. Trump’s aides and family members tried over 48 hours to manage one of the most consequential crises of the young administration, the situation quickly degenerated into something of a circular firing squad. They protected their own interests, shifted blame and potentially left themselves — and the president — legally vulnerable. The latest witness to be called for an interview about the episode was Mark Corallo, who served as a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team before resigning in July. Mr. Corallo received an interview request last week from the special counsel and has agreed to the interview, according to three people with knowledge of the request. Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting . . . . “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.
Early on the morning of Friday, July 7, reporters from The Times approached White House officials and lawyers with questions about the Trump Tower meeting a year earlier. The reporters said The Times was preparing a story revealing that the meeting with the Russians had taken place, and asked the White House for more information about its purpose.
The president and senior White House officials were in Germany . . . . citing the time difference and conflicting schedules. They scheduled a conference call with the reporters for early the next morning.   The call never happened, so the Times reporters submitted a list of 14 questions about the meeting to the White House and to the lawyers of the Trump campaign aides who attended the meeting. Among the questions: What was discussed, and what did the attendees think was going to be discussed?
President Trump’s aides received the list midflight on Air Force One on the way back from the summit meeting and began writing a response. In the plane’s front cabin, Mr. Trump huddled with Ms. Hicks. During the meeting, according to people familiar with the episode, Ms. Hicks was sending frequent text messages to Donald Trump Jr., who was in New York. Alan Garten, a lawyer for the younger Mr. Trump who was also in New York, was also messaging with White House advisers aboard the plane.
The president supervised the writing of the statement, according to three people familiar with the episode, with input from other White House aides. A fierce debate erupted over how much information the news release should include. Mr. Trump was insistent about including language that the meeting was about Russian adoptions . . . By early afternoon, The Times received a separate statement, from Jamie S. Gorelick, a lawyer at the time for Jared Kushner . . . It left nearly all of the questions unanswered — and seemed to put the onus on Donald Trump Jr. to answer them. Nearly four hours later, the statement that had been cobbled together aboard Air Force One was sent to The Times. The statement was in Donald Trump Jr.’s name and was issued by Mr. Garten.
Not long after, the news site Circa published a different version, saying that the June 2016 meeting had been set up “to discuss a Russian policy.” Mr. Corallo, the spokesman for the legal team, said in that story that the Russians had “misrepresented who they were and who they worked for.” He, along with the rest of the president’s legal team, was not consulted about Donald Trump Jr.’s statement before it was released.
The dueling statements, both of which withheld the true purpose of the meeting, created tension at the White House.  Accusations began flying that the botched response made an already bad situation worse. Ms. Hicks called Mr. Corallo, according to three people who relayed his version of events to The Times. She accused him of trafficking in conspiracy theories and drawing more attention to the story.
The conference call with the president, Mr. Corallo and Ms. Hicks took place the next morning, and what transpired on the call is a matter of dispute.
In Mr. Corallo’s account . . . he told both Mr. Trump and Ms. Hicks that the statement drafted aboard Air Force One would backfire because documents would eventually surface showing that the meeting had been set up for the Trump campaign to get political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians.
According to his account, Ms. Hicks responded that the emails “will never get out” because only a few people had access to them. Mr. Corallo, who worked as a Justice Department spokesman during the George W. Bush administration, told colleagues he was alarmed not only by what Ms. Hicks had said . . . but also that she had said it in front of the president without a lawyer on the phone and that the conversation could not be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Contacted on Wednesday, Mr. Corallo said he did not dispute any of the account shared by his colleagues but declined to elaborate further. . . . lawyers had already copied and stamped the emails for delivery to Capitol Hill.
Mr. Corallo told colleagues that he immediately notified the legal team of the conversation and jotted down notes to memorialize it. He also shared his concerns with Stephen K. Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist.
Mr. Corallo left the job shortly after the phone call. The recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” . . . . linked Mr. Corallo’s resignation to concerns he had about obstruction . . . .
The younger Mr. Trump ultimately released the emails after being told The Times was about to publish them. Within weeks, Mr. Mueller sent out grand jury subpoenas for documents and interviews about the June 2016 meeting.
A couple of take aways: first, Trump's first inclination is always to lie regardless of the topic or issue.  Here, the false statement to the Times may not have been a crime, but lying to investigators about it and how it came into existence, will be crimes.  The second take away?  Ms. Hicks is likely in a shit load of trouble.  She may have already lied to investigators and Corallo may set the stage where she will be seeking her own plea deal before it is all over.   Should that happen, let's hope she throws Trump under the bus.

As the FBI Hits Back At GOP/Trump Improprieties, a Constitutional Crisis Looms

Frighteningly, House Republicans continue to be hell bent to release a memo concocked by Rep. Devin Nunes, an apparent Trump/Putin minion, that the FBI and Justice Department state will create a national security danger to America.  Their sole motivation seems to be protect Der  Trumpenführer who is increasingly desperate to undermine the Mueller investigation.  As former RNC chairman Michael Steele noted last evening, some one innocent does not got to such extreme lengths to kill or discredit an investigation.  Steele's conclusion?  Trump has something very bad that he is seeking to hide.  As for Houser republicans and others who are trashing the FBI and Justice Department, his prediction is that the ultimate fall out will be extremely damaging to the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the FBI -including Trump's handpick director - and Justice Department took the unusually step of warning that the release of Nunes' concocked memo will cause serious national security to the nation.  I truly do not remember a time in my life time - Watergate included - when one political party has put partisanship and protecting an extremely foul occupant of the White Hose ahead of the national interest.  A piece in The Atlantic at the headlong plunge toward a constitutional crisis.  Here are excerpts:

For more than two weeks, the Trump White House has engaged in an unprecedented assault on the president’s own Justice Department, and in particular on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the the FBI. On Wednesday, the targets of that assault started firing back.
The apparent catalyst is a memo, prepared at the behest of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, that is said to allege inappropriate use of a dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, in securing a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser Carter Page. On Monday, the committee voted along partisan lines to release the memo, and the White House now has a chance to review the release.
The DOJ and FBI have both strenuously argued in private that the memo is factually wrong, because it leaves out key points; that it is misleading, because it is decoupled from the intelligence that feeds it; and that it would recklessly reveal classified information. On Monday, according to The Washington Post, Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray went to the White House to campaign against release. On Wednesday, the FBI went farther, releasing a highly unusual, unsigned public statement arguing against release. Saying that the FBI takes cooperation with congressional overseers seriously, it nonetheless laid down its flat opposition to releasing the memo. “The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the statement said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
In publicly making this blunt statement, the FBI places itself on a collision course with the White House. The president, hoping the memo will vindicate him or at least undermine the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, seems disposed to release it. . . . . Wednesday’s statement looks like a last-ditch effort to convince the White House, but if it doesn’t work, the rift will be clear. Wray risks making himself the second FBI director Trump fires.
Later on Wednesday, CNN reported that in December, as the Justice Department tried to push back on demands for documents from Nunes, Rosenstein visited the White House to ask Trump’s assistance. . . . . Rosenstein was also preparing for important testimony at the Capitol. Nunes, meanwhile, was a member of the Trump transition team and previously colluded with White House aides. . . . According to CNN, citing “sources familiar with the meeting,” Trump asked Rosenstein if he was “on my team.”
Trump has a history of asking questions of aides that seem to demand personal loyalty, even of those charged with upholding laws. Fired FBI Director James Comey testified under oath that Trump asked him for loyalty in January 2017. At a May meeting, Trump reportedly asked Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, who became acting director of the FBI, who he had voted for in the 2016 election.
Then CNN dropped another big story about FBI agent Peter Strzok, who has been accused of conspiring to hurt Trump’s campaign; . . . . Emails obtained by CNN indicate Strzok wrote the first draft of a letter that Comey sent to Congress on October 28, 2016, informing members that the FBI was reopening an investigation into Clinton based on emails newly found on Anthony Weiner’s computer. Strzok “also supported reopening the Clinton investigation once the emails were discovered on disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner's laptop, according to a source familiar with Strzok’s thinking,” CNN said. The revelation further undermines the story of Strzok leading some sort of resistance cell to Trump inside the FBI . . . .
[A]s my colleague David Frum put it on Twitter, “Never start a leak war against the FBI.” . . . . people in the bureaucracy have used leaks to get back at those who cross them.
A man who campaigned for president as the candidate of “law and order” is sprinting headlong into releasing a memo that the head of the FBI—Trump’s own hand-picked director—and the deputy attorney general, another Trump pick, believe could mislead the public and damage law enforcement. Meanwhile, there’s a real possibility that Trump’s attacks on the FBI and Justice Department have inspired retaliatory leaks, meaning that the president would have effectively elicited just the deep-state conspiracy against him that he alleged in the first place.
The White House’s assault on Justice and the FBI has long been premised on being able to an asymmetric war: Trump and his allies can make claims or even release the memo, but DOJ, bound by concerns about classified information, is hobbled from rebutting the memo. But many of the claims laid out by Trump champions make little or no sense.
In an increasingly energetic attempt to discredit the investigations that are targeting him, especially the Mueller probe, Trump is not discriminating about his targets.  The question is less whether Rosenstein or any other individual views himself as on the president’s team, but whether the president sees them as members of the opposing team.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Virginia Republicans Need to Learn What Not to Do From Indiana

Despite a new governor who wants Virginia to be "open for business" and welcoming talent from wherever it may come, since the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, Virginia Republicans, especially in the Virginia Senate are demonstrating that (i) the learned nothing from their party's shellacking in the 2017 elections, and (ii) they will go to any lengths to thwart legislation that would grant LGBT Virginians a shred of equality in civil rights and non-discrimination protections.  Del. Bob Marshall may be gone from Richmond, but his spirit lives on amongst knuckle dragging Republicans.  A piece in LGBTQ Nation looks at how a similar mindset in Indiana has likely killed Indianapolis' chances to be the site of Amazon's new headquarters.  Would that Virginia Republicans would learn from Indiana's mistakes and cease striving to make Virginia toxic to companies like Amazon.  Here are article highlights:

Despite overwhelming support for a proposed hate crimes law, Indiana Republicans have squashed the idea to appease their religious right supporters. Indiana is one of only five states without a hate crimes law.
While Indianapolis was named one of twenty finalists for Amazon’s “HQ2” offices that would bring thousands of high paying jobs to the area, the Fortune 500 company was crystal clear that it would choose a location that values diversity and equality. Experts had already expressed reservations that Indiana would land the prime development and today’s decision only adds another nail to the coffin.
The state is still reeling from former Governor Mike Pence’s disastrous attempt to legalize discrimination against LGBT people, but now state Republicans have completely surrendered to the demands of a small minority that demands complete obedience. Pence infamously went on national television to defend the law he signed while surrounded by the state’s most vociferously anti-LGBT activists and refused to say whether he thought LGBT people should be discriminated against.
“Republicans reinforced just how out-of-touch they are with the majority of Hoosiers, blocking a policy nearly two-thirds of Hoosiers support and 45 other states have enacted,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said in an emailed statement.
“Today’s action proves Statehouse Republicans are more than willing to jeopardize Indianapolis’ shot at landing Amazon’s second headquarters to appease shadowy special interests. [Governor Eric] Holcomb’s inaction and Republicans’ appeasement of special interests may have just cost Hoosiers 50,000 good-paying jobs.”
Given the lunacy of both the GOP base in Virginia and the insanity of far too many Republicans in the General Assembly, it will be a crap shoot as to whether Virginia can enact legislation that will show that Virginia values the diversity and equality that companies like Amazon demand.  

The Fictitious State of Trump’s Fantastical Union

I may not have watched Der Trumpenführer's "State of the Union" address since I knew in advance that it would bear little resemblance to objective reality, but many others did.  In the New York Times, the reactions ranged from that of "conservative" Ross Douthat who perpetually has his head up his ass, in my view, especially when it comes to being an apologist for religion and all of the toxicity it ushers into the world, to making the statement  about last night when he said "you could read tonight’s remarks (a better idea than listening to their somewhat soporific delivery) in part as an attempt to hit the reset button, to pitch himself as a centrist dealmaker rather than a predictable ideologue . . . we saw a glimpse of a potentially successful presidency. . . "  The only problem is that given Trump's utter lack of any moral compass, we will never see a "successful presidency" and even Douthat concedes that Trump lacks any plan to act on the few meritorious items he mentioned.  

Far Better analysis of the disingenuous performance can be found from Nicholas Kristof - who fact checked Trump's claims - who counters Trump claims with facts and figures that show the speech had little to do with reality and, instead was a propaganda piece believable only to his most unhinged base and or the otherwise delusional.  Another good take down comes from Frank Bruni.  Here are excerpts:
The word that came to mind most often as I watched Donald Trump deliver his first State of the Union address was “pretend.”
He pretends to be a statesman, and we’re supposed to pretend that hundreds of vulgar and recklessly divisive moments before this — thousands, if we’re adding tweets — don’t negate that claim.
We’re supposed to pretend that he gives a fig about decorum, though it disappears almost as soon as the teleprompter does. Above all, we’re supposed to pretend that what he says today has any bearing on what he’ll say tomorrow, when what he said yesterday contradicted it.
Our president  [Trump] lives in a world of sand and wind and make-believe, where the merest gust can alter the shape of everything, and Tuesday night’s remarks — especially his appeal for “common ground” and his vision of “all of us together” as “one American family” — should be seen in that shifting, swirling, fantastical context.
But Trump is a ridiculous breed apart, his moods more erratic, his poses more ephemeral, his pledges emptier.
Last February, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, he used his opening minutes to exalt civil rights, decry anti-Semitism and proclaim that “we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”
Later came the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and his insistence that there were “some very fine people” among the white nationalists and neo-Nazis there.
Early this month he invited television cameras into the White House so that we could behold his placid demeanor as Democrats made their pitch for Dreamers and he recommended a “bill of love.” Within 48 hours, he was ranting about “shithole countries” whose human effluvium befouls our shores.
On Tuesday night, Trump dwelled boastfully on certain economic indicators — unemployment figures, the stock market — to portray America as a newly industrious land, dizzy with sudden riches. But we Americans aren’t that dizzy: We still expect more from our country and president than a Dow above 25,000, and that’s why Trump’s approval rating is below 40 percent.
He took starkly partisan positions on regulations, gun rights, foreign aid, “religious liberty” and more, then dared to pretend that he was extending an “open hand” to Democrats.
There were howlers aplenty in his address. “Americans love their country, and they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return,” he said. How does minimizing Russian interference in the 2016 election — and thwarting the investigation into what happened — accomplish that?
There were fictions galore. “For the last year,” he asserted, “we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.” No. He, his brood, Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton and Tom Price (remember him?) swanned around on the government’s dime, their self-promotion and self-celebration extraordinary even by Washington’s standards.
The distance between Trump when he’s controlled and Trump when he’s unbound makes a speech like Tuesday night’s an especially hollow charade. And the orchestrated news in it can’t erase the messier developments beforehand, including the escalation of his assault on the F.B.I. and reports of his lawyers’ panic about his offer to be interviewed by the special counsel Robert Mueller. Jonathan Swan wrote in Axios that one of Trump’s intimates “believes the president would be incapable of avoiding perjuring himself. ‘Trump doesn’t deal in reality,’ the source said. ‘He creates his own reality.’ ”
His speech was such a creation, and to treat it any other way is to launder his entire political history and see a leader who has never been there.

Beware of The Nunes Conspiracy

In the interests of full disclosure, I did NOT listen to Der Trumpenführer "State of the Union" address last evening.  Why? First, I cannot stomach even hearing the man's voice, and second, everything he said is a lie and I did not want to feel the urge to vomit up my dinner.  Simply put, I loath the man and believe that he is the most foul individual to ever occupy the White House.  But perhaps more importantly, while Trump lied using the platform of the State of the Union address, he is waging a war against the pillars of America's national law enforcement agencies, all to hide and cover up his illegal actions be they collusion with Russia or more venial crimes such as money laundering.  Sadly, many congressional Republicans are actively aiding and abetting in the trashing of America's institutions.  Leading the charge is Rep. Devin Nunes who seem more focused on pleasing Vladimir Putin rather than upholding his oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.  A column in the New York Times looks the ongoing travesty , particularly the conspiracy lead by Nunes to undermine constitutional government.  Here are excerpts:
First, a few words on the State of the Union address. There will be a lot of meaningless commentary about President Trump’s speech tonight. His critics will criticize him, his supporters will praise him and pundits will throw around the word “reset.”
You can safely ignore most of it.  “State of the Union speeches have a celebrated history of not making much of an impact,” . . .
Here’s a challenge: Read the latest coverage about Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and see if you can figure out what he is supposed to have done wrong.
The so-called Nunes memo — an effort by House Republicans to cast aspersions on the Russia investigation — evidently singles out Rosenstein for criticism. The memo, which may be released soon, suggests that he was wrong to extend a wiretap on Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser.
The details are complicated, and you can dig into them in The Times’s coverage. The short version: There is no evidence that Rosenstein made a mistake. Page, after all, has had the kind of contact with the Russian government that should interest F.B.I. investigators.
Instead of evidence, the memo engages in the same dark and misleading conspiracy theories that have characterized other efforts by President Trump’s allies to discredit the Russia investigation. But the substance of the claims isn’t really the point. Distraction is the point, and the distraction campaign is having an impact.
Fox News ["Faux News" on this blog and "Trump TV" on the bogs of LGBT activist friends] other and some other parts of the Republican-friendly media spend hours repeating the conspiracies, and many voters now believe them. “The current moment is different from Watergate,” The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote yesterday. “There is a massive propaganda apparatus out there — one that reaches deep into the right-wing media and into the Congress that has been pushing the alt-narrative.”
And Trump not only fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director once leading the inquiry, last year, but he has now succeeded in pushing out Andrew McCabe, the deputy F.B.I. director. In both cases, team Trump has justified the moves with dark, misleading suggestions of bias. Now, it seems, team Trump is on the cusp of accelerating a whisper campaign against Rosenstein, who oversees Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation.
In truth, Rosenstein is a Republican — appointed by Trump — who built up a strong reputation over years in the Justice Department. His biggest career blemish was his brief willingness last year to bend to White House pressure and give Trump cover for Comey’s firing.
Since then, though, Rosenstein has chosen to back the rule of law over the rule of Trump. Rosenstein not only appointed Mueller to take over the Russia investigation; he has also defended Mueller — another Republican with a strong bipartisan reputation — against the similar charges of bias.
The smearing of both men, like the smearing of Comey, is a ploy. At the least, it is meant to call into question the ultimate findings of the Russia investigation. At the worst, the smearing is meant to make it politically possible to replace one or both with Trump loyalists who don’t believe in the rule of law.
Related: House Republicans voted yesterday to release the Nunes memo, a move that Justice Department officials have called “extremely reckless.”
Tom Nichols, a Naval War College professor, wrote: “The memo itself is far less important than the fact that GOP Congressmen are now at war with our own law enforcement and intelligence community, something in a lifetime of being a Republican I never expected to see. This will end badly.”

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump is Trying to Make America White Again

Some are condemning House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for stating the obvious about Der Trumpenführer's immigration reform proposals: they seek to decrease the entry of non-whites into America.  Driving home last night listening to "Steele and Ungar," former RNC chair Michael Steeler conceded that there is no other interpretation of Trump's goals, especially when he cited Norway, one of the most lily white nations on earth as a place he'd prefer to see immigrants come from.  The man is an out and out racist as over 45 years of documented behavior has underscored.  Personally, I cannot understand Trump's fears - or those of his white supremacist followers, which likely include a majority of evangelicals - of others simply because they have darker skin, yet he and they cannot see beyond skin color.  Or sexual orientation either for that matter.  Given my large Hindu client base, the proposals would hit the Indian community very hard given their history of hard working individuals immigrating, making their fortune, if you will, and then sponsoring their aging parents to come to America.  These people are no burden on the social safety net.  If anything, America needs more people like them and fewer poorly educated, bigoted whites. A column in the Washington Post looks at Trump's insidious immigration "reform" goals.  Here are  column excerpts:
President Trump’s immigration proposal reveals what he has been after all along: an end to family-based immigration and the “lottery visa,” which would mean fewer Latino, African and Muslim newcomers. And perhaps more Norwegians, if any want to come.
Yes, Trump is trying to Make America White Again. You’re probably not surprised.
The broad amnesty that the White House offers to 1.8 million undocumented people brought here when they were children is just a diversion. The $25 billion Trump wants for his “border wall system” — really more of an intermittent fence — is mostly a sop to his base. Much more important in the long run is the fundamental shift Trump wants to make in the nation’s system of legal immigration.
The administration seeks to drastically curtail the ability of immigrants to sponsor family members for entry into the country. This can only be seen as an attempt to halt the “browning” of America.
Under current law, U.S. citizens — including immigrants who are naturalized — can petition to obtain entry for their spouses, parents, siblings and sons and daughters of any age. Immigrants who are not citizens but hold green cards — meaning they are permanent residents — can sponsor spouses and minor or adult children for entry.

Trump proposes a sweeping change: Both citizens and green-card holders would be able to sponsor only spouses and minor children. As far as parents, siblings and adult children are concerned: Hasta la vista.
It is, of course, ironic that Republicans, who yammer so much about family values, would even entertain a proposal that is so deeply anti-family. But the party nominated and elected a thrice-married man who bragged about his habit of sexual harassment and allegedly paid hush money to a porn star for her silence about a tryst, so I guess that horse has long since left the barn.

Since it is difficult to argue against bringing close relatives together, proponents use the clinical-sounding term “chain migration,” as if we were talking about links of metal rather than flesh-and-blood human beings.
Trump also wants to eliminate the diversity visa program, which allocates 50,000 visas each year to countries that otherwise send few immigrants to the United States. Applicants are selected by lottery but then are carefully vetted. White House claims that individuals are admitted “at random” in a program “riddled with fraud and abuse” are lies.

The net result of Trump’s plan — the whole purpose, apparently — would be to welcome fewer people of color into the United States. In an Oval Office meeting, Trump reportedly demanded to know why there couldn’t be more immigrants from countries such as Norway. Surely it is not just a coincidence that Norway is one of the whitest countries in the world.

There’s a simple question here: Do you believe in America or not?  Throughout its history, the country has accepted waves of mostly low-skilled immigrants — German, Irish, Italian, Eastern European, now Latino. There are highly skilled immigrants, too; African newcomers, for example, are better-educated than the U.S. population as a whole, and an estimated 63 percent of people holding “computer and mathematical” jobs in Silicon Valley are foreign-born. But most immigrants over the years have arrived bearing not much more than grit, ambition and a dream.
Does an influx of workers with entry-level skills tend to depress wages? That’s the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking why the federal minimum wage is so low as to be almost irrelevant.
And we should recognize that immigration gives the United States a tremendous competitive advantage. In other advanced countries, populations are aging rapidly. Immigration provides a steady stream of younger workers whose brain and brawn keep programs such as Medicare and Social Security viable.
The only coherent — if despicable — arguments for Trump’s plan are racial and cultural. The way they used to put it in the Jim Crow days was succinct: White is right.