Friday, May 26, 2017

Video shows Trump shoving fellow NATO leader at his first summit

Florida GOPer Helped Russian Hacker Disseminate Dems’ Voter Turnout Data

A Republican political operative in Florida asked the alleged Russian hacker who broke into Democratic Party organizations’ servers at the height of the 2016 campaign to pass him stolen documents, according to a report Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.
In return, that operative received valuable Democratic voter-turnout analyses, which the newspaper found at least one GOP campaign consultant took advantage of the information. The hacker went on to flag that same data to Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump’s who briefly advised his presidential campaign, and who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.
The Wall Street Journal’s report presents the clearest allegations to date of collusion between people connected to Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Cybersecurity experts were sounding the alarm as early as last July that Guccifer 2.0, which had tapped into both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic National Campaign Committee, was connected to the Russian military intelligence apparatus. However, in September, Florida GOP consultant Aaron Nevins wrote to Guccifer 2.0 to tell the hacker to “feel free to send any Florida based information,” according to the Journal.  Read full story here 

Appeals Court Slaps Down Donald Trump’s Travel Ban Yet Again

In yet another setback for the Trump administration, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday refused to lift a nationwide injunction that halted a key provision of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban on six predominantly Muslim nations.

The ruling is the most bruising the White House has suffered in its attempts to defend the ban, as it was rendered by 13 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit — which deemed the case important enough to skip the usual three-judge process that the vast majority of cases go through.

U.S. Chief Circuit Judge Roger Gregory wrote that the text of Trump’s executive order, which was challenged in courts across the country for targeting members of a particular faith, “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

“Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute,” Gregory wrote in a ruling that largely upheld the original block on the travel ban. “It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation.”  Read full post 

Right-Wing Media Jump to Defend Montana Candidate After He Assaults a Reporter

AP: Montana GOP candidate charged for “allegedly grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground.” Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's congressional seat, was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking a journalist, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The AP story quoted an article by Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who was a witness at the scene, writing that Gianforte grabbed The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs “by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground,” and "then began to punch Jacobs.” The AP also noted that an audio recording of the assault shows that it occurred after Jacobs asked Gianforte “about the GOP’s health care bill” which was followed by a “crashing sound” before Jacobs can be heard saying Gianforte “‘just body-slammed him.” From the May 25 AP report:

The Republican candidate in the nationally-watched election Thursday for Montana’s sole congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground.


Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin made the announcement shortly before midnight Wednesday in a written statement, about six hours after the attack on reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. Gianforte would face a maximum $500 fine or 6 months in jail if convicted.

Gianforte was in a private office preparing for an interview with Fox News when Jacobs came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

The Fox News crew watched in astonishment as, after Jacobs pressed him on the GOP health care bill, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna wrote in an article. She added that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs.

In an audio recording posted by the Guardian, the reporter asks the congressional candidate about the GOP’s health care bill, which was just evaluated hours earlier by the Congressional Budget Office.

“We’ll talk to you about that later,” Gianforte says on the recording, referring Jacobs to a spokesman.

When Jacobs says that there won’t be time, Gianforte says “Just--” and there is a crashing sound. Gianforte yells, “The last guy who came here did the same thing,” and a shaken-sounded Jacobs tells the candidate he just body-slammed him.

“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte says. [The Associated Press, 5/25/17]

Jared Kushner Reportedly Draws Interest Of FBI In Russia Investigation

The FBI is looking at Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of its investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election, The Washington Post and NBC News reported Thursday evening.

Kushner has not been accused of wrongdoing, both outlets noted. Sources told the Post that Kushner has come under scrutiny because of two meetings with Russian officials in December ― one with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and another with a banker.

Kushner met with Kislyak in December and Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a state-owned bank, after Trump was elected, at Kislyak’s request.

Kushner initially did not disclose the meetings on an application for a security clearance. His lawyer later acknowledged he had made an error and amended the application. Kushner has also voluntarily agreed to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the meetings.

U.S. intelligence officials have already concluded that Russia interfered in the U.S. election through hacking with the goal of getting Trump elected. Several officials involved with the Trump campaign, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign manager Paul Manafort, have also come under scrutiny for connections to Russia. Earlier in May, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey as his bureau investigated the Russian links. Following Comey’s firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor in the investigation.  Read full story here 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

White House, ethics office feud escalates

An escalating feud between the White House and the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has boiled over, with the Trump administration refusing to produce waivers it has granted to lobbyists that allow them to work in government agencies.
Walter Shaub, the office’s director, wants to review the waivers and make them public to ensure the Trump administration is adhering to publicly stated policies and an executive order signed by the president.

That would bring the Trump administration in line with practices followed under former President Barack Obama, who appointed Shaub to his current role.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is refusing to turn over the waivers. He wants time to consult with the Justice Department about the scope of Shaub’s authority.

In a letter to Shaub, which Mulvaney distributed widely throughout the government, the budget director called the request burdensome and questioned whether the OGE had the power to obtain the waivers. Republicans have in the past bristled at Shaub’s tactics and believe he is politicizing his office.

Shaub went public on Monday with the administration’s refusal to turn the waivers over.  Read full post 

How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received a purported Russian intelligence document describing a tacit understanding between the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

The Russian document mentioned a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter — a conversation that if made public would cast doubt on the inquiry’s integrity.

Current and former officials have said that document played a significant role in the July decision by then-FBI Director James B. Comey to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.   Read full post here 

Poll: Majority Of Voters Believe Trump Is Abusing His Power As President

A majority of voters believe that President Donald Trump is abusing the powers of his office, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.
Fifty-four percent of voters think Trump is abusing his power as President, according to the survey, while 43 percent think he is not.
In addition, a majority of those surveyed — 54 percent — disapproved of Trump’s decision to abruptly fire James Comey as director of the FBI, while only 36 percent approved.  Read full post 

McConnell: ‘I Don’t Know How We Get To 50’ Senate Votes To Pass ACA Repeal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday said he doesn’t know how Republicans will muster enough votes to get their bill repealing and replacing Obamacare through the Senate.
“I don’t know how we get to 50 at the moment,” McConnell said in an interview with Reuters. “But that’s the goal.”
He said there was “not a whole lot of news to be made on health care” and did not offer a timetable for passage of the Republican health care bill.
McConnell told Reuters that tax legislation would be less “challenging” to get through Congress than the legislation to repeal Obamacare, and said he does not plan to work with congressional Democrats to advance his legislative agenda.
It took congressional Republicans two tries to get the repeal bill through the House. They pulled the first iteration of the bill after failing to muster the votes to pass it, amid defections from hardline conservatives and moderate Republicans, and narrowly passed the second iteration despite unified opposition from Democratic members.  Read full post 

“I know this is an unpopular position these days, but I believe children should go to the doctor and eat."

Stephen Colbert Puts the Incredible Cruelty of Trump's New Budget Proposal in No Uncertain Terms

Sign of the times: Democratic candidates flip two Republican districts that voted big for Donald Trump

Democratic candidates won special elections in two districts that voted for President Donald Trump by significant margins.

In a special election for New York’s District 9 State Assembly, Democrat Christine Pellegrino upset Republican Thomas Gargiulo, The Huffington Post reported.

Trump had won District 9 by 23 points in November. The seat was formerly held by Republican Joseph Saladino, who resigned after being appointed town supervisor of Oyster Bay.

Democrats also pulled off an upset in New Hampshire’s Carroll County District 6, where Democrat Edith DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Plache, according to WMUR. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in District 6 by seven points.  Read post 

'Morning Joe' Predicts Trump Will Spell Electoral Disaster for the GOP

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said voters might not punish Republicans for defending President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and attacks on the rule of law — but they’ll hold the GOP accountable for legislative failures.

“We’re worried about the Constitution, we’re worried about the rule of law, we’re worried about separations of powers, we’re worried about somebody going to the office and doing great violence to our Constitution that has held this country, this republic, together for 240 years — these are just distractions,” Scarborough said.

“What people in middle America are focused on are jobs and the performance of this president and the performance of this Republican Congress,” he continued. “I mean, of course people care about all that, but I say, at the end of the day, somebody’s not going to go into a voting booth and say, ‘Hmm, he said something bad about a judge in Hawaii. They’re going to say, ‘What have they done to get me back to work?'”

The “Morning Joe” host slammed Trump as “a rank amateur,” and he said his failure to achieve any legislative successes would hurt Republicans more than his continuing scandals.

“He creates so much chaos that there’s just absolute dysfunction,” co-host Mika Brzezinski said. “You have a candidate that promised to make America great again, to rebuild the military.”  Read full post 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

23 Million Fewer Americans Would Have Health Coverage Under Obamacare Repeal Plan, Budget Office Confirms

Twenty-three million fewer Americans would have insurance under legislation that House Republicans narrowly passed last month, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Wednesday.

The agency also predicted the deficit would come down by $119 billion over the next decade ― and that premiums for people buying insurance on their own would be relatively lower than those premiums would be if the Affordable Care Act stays in place.

But the reasons health insurance would be less expensive for some aren’t much to cheer about, the budget report makes clear. Prices would come down for healthy people because those who are sick or have illness in their medical histories would have less access to coverage ― and the policies available on the market would tend to be a lot less comprehensive.

In other words, the price for lower premiums would be some combination of higher out-of-pocket costs, fewer covered services, and coverage that would be harder to get for the people who need it most.

Wednesday’s assessment of the American Health Care Act ― the House bill to repeal Obamacare ― is relatively similar to the evaluations the Congressional Budget Office issued previously, when it studied earlier versions of the legislation.

But in late April, House leaders rushed to vote on the bill less than 24 hours after making significant modifications, without waiting for the budget office to study how those changes might affect insurance coverage or the federal deficit.

One of those changes would allow states to waive a rule that prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums to people at greater risk of medical problems. Without that rule in place, insurers could jack up rates for people with pre-existing conditions, effectively making standard coverage unavailable ― and violating a key promise to guarantee insurance for everybody regardless of medical status, which most Republicans had endorsed.  Read full story 

Gov. Cuomo announces acquisition of 6,000 acres along, near Salmon River

Governor Andrew Cuomo said it was all about "improving access" to outdoors sports enthusiasts along and near the Salmon River in Oswego County.

When that access is improved, an uptick in the local economy due to increased fishing and other outdoors activities is sure to follow, he said

With that in, mind the governor signed documents today at a ceremony held at the state-run Salmon Run Hatchery in Altmar, finalizing the state's acquisition of two separate land tracts totaling nearly 6,000 acres.

The acquisitions were obtained via separate routes. One came for free, the result of years-old consent agreement with National Grid as a result of problems with coal-burning power plants in Western N.Y; the other came with a $4.5 million purchase from national land trust group.  Read full story here 

Donald Trump’s Budget Makes A Really Basic Numbers Error

The White House made a basic mathematical error when trying to prove that massive tax cuts would pay for themselves and then some, according to a leading economist who advised former President Barack Obama.

In a column in The Washington Post on Tuesday, Lawrence Summers, who directed Obama’s national economic council from 2009 to 2010, took the current White House to task for double-counting $2 trillion in revenue it predicts its tax cuts will generate.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal assumes that the tax cuts it would enact for wealthy individuals and corporations, as well as its reductions in regulations, will create consistent 3 percent economic growth ― enough to generate $2 trillion a year in additional revenue.

That projection in itself is dubious; tax cuts rarely, if ever, spur enough growth to replenish the revenue they cost the Treasury. But it is nonetheless a prediction consistent with the supply-side economics that Republicans have been peddling for decades.  Read full post 

So, What About Those Oval Office Tapes?

Budget director brags about Trump’s cruel welfare cuts: ‘You have to have compassion’ for wealthy taxpayers

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney asserted on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had produced the first federal budget that provides “compassion” for taxpayers.

During a briefing at the White House, Mulvaney defended Trump’s drastic cuts to entitlement programs to pay for increased military spending, a border wall and sizable tax reductions that would benefit the wealthy.

According to Mulvaney, the proposal looks “at the budget through the eyes of the taxpayer” instead of those who receive benefits from federal programs.

“If I can look you in the eye and say I’m going to take this money from you so I can help this injured vet, I can do that in good conscience,” he said. “I am a lot less comfortable to the point of not wanting to look you in the eye and say, ‘Look, I need to take this money from you to give to this person over here who really isn’t disabled but is getting a disabled benefit or this person over here who is supposed to use the money to go to school but isn’t actually going.”

Mulvaney said that the government would “no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off of those programs.”  Full post here 

DCCC Adds Reed And Stefanik To 2018 Target List

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already targeting all but one Republican member of the New York delegation in 2018. The DCCC announced Monday it was adding 20 new districts from across the country to its “battlefield” and among them are Rep. Elise Stefanik’s NY-21 and Rep. Tom Reed’s NY-23.

That leaves Rep. Peter King, NY-2, as the only congressional Republican in the state that the committee is not actively fundraising and recruiting against. In all, the DCCC has targeted 79 Republican-held seats.

“House Republicans’ midterm prospects grow dimmer with each passing day thanks to the endless supply of chaos, scandal and broken promises to voters from Republican-controlled Washington,” spokesperson Meredith Kelly stated in a press release.

The DCCC pointed to President Donald Trump’s approval rating as well as the ongoing Russia investigation as important factors that could influence the mid-term election. It also believes competitive special elections for traditionally red seats in Georgia, Montana and Kansas are an “ominous” sign for the GOP.

Stefanik’s campaign did not appear to be overly concerned either.

“There will be a time for politics. Now is the time to focus on the hard work of enacting policy and a continued, laser-like focus on putting constituents first. That is exactly what Congresswoman Stefanik is doing,” spokesperson Lenny Alcivar said.

Republicans Lee Zeldin, Dan Donovan, John Faso, Claudia Tenney, John Katko and Chris Collins were identified in the first round of battleground targets.  Post 

New York Magazine Just Discovered A $2 Trillion Mistake In Trump’s Budget Plan

Recently, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin claimed that the President’s “biggest tax cut in history” – little more than a massive giveaway to the ultra-wealthy to begin with – would “pay for itself.”

In a stunning bit of the math Republicans do to make themselves feel better, Mnuchin has apparently made a $2 trillion dollar mistake in the calculations upon which the White House’s budget is based.

In effect, the Trump Administration has decided that 2 – 2 = 4 and is trying to sell it to the American people. New York Magazine reports:
The budget assumes $2 trillion in higher revenue from growth in order to achieve balance after ten years. So the $2 trillion from higher growth is a double-count. It pays for the Trump cuts, and then it pays again for balancing the budget. 
Or, alternatively, Trump could be assuming that his tax cuts will not only pay for themselves but generate $2 trillion in higher revenue. But Trump has not claimed his tax cuts will recoup more than 100 percent of their lost revenue, so it’s simply an embarrassing mistake.

Read the full story here  

An Agency-By-Agency Look At Trump’s Proposed Budget

Take a look at how President Donald Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion federal spending plan would affect individual government agencies.

Up or down? Down 5 percent
Highlight: The proposed budget would limit subsidies to farmers, including a cut in government help for purchasing crop insurance. Crop insurance is overwhelmingly popular program with farm-state senators in both parties, and previous farm bills have only increased spending. The budget would also limit spending on environmentally friendly conservation programs and some rural development dollars that help small towns build infrastructure.
Trump isn’t the first president to try to limit farm subsidies. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush also proposed major reductions, but farm-state lawmakers have always kept them going. The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House agriculture committees both said Tuesday they oppose Trump’s proposed cuts.
Total spending: $132.3 billion.
Spending that needs Congress’ annual approval: $18 billion.
Up or down? Down 15.4 percent
Highlight: The budget would eliminate three economic development agencies and several grant programs aimed at preserving the environment and dealing with climate change. The Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership would be eliminated.
The budget would also eliminate several grant programs run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: the Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
Total spending: $8 billion.
Spending that needs Congress’ annual approval: $7.8 billion.

Republicans: Montana special election 'closer than it should be'

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Republican Greg Gianforte’s closing motivational speech to voters ahead of Thursday’s special House election in Montana is the same thing GOP strategists are whispering in private: “This race is closer than it should be.”

It’s a recurring nightmare of a pattern for Republicans around the country, as traditional GOP strongholds prove more difficult and expensive for the party to hold than it ever anticipated when President Donald Trump plucked House members like Ryan Zinke, the former Montana Republican now running the Interior Department, for his Cabinet. Gianforte is still favored to keep the seat red, but a state Trump carried by 20 percentage points last year became a battleground in the past few months.

Democrat Rob Quist, a folk singer and first-time candidate, has raised more than $6 million for his campaign, including $1 million in the past week alone as energized Democratic donors pour online cash into political causes this year. Quist hopes that enthusiasm also contributes to an outsize turnout — as it did in special elections in Kansas and Georgia earlier this year — for the oddly scheduled Thursday election, happening just before a holiday weekend.

"I remember talking to people when it first started who said this was a slam dunk, Gianforte’s it. And it’s not there anymore,” said Jim Larson, the Montana Democratic Party chairman. “It is a lot closer than people ever thought it would be.”   Read full story 

Former CIA Director John Brennan did not make the president's life easier

Current and former U.S. intelligence leaders made it clear on Tuesday that they have little interest in helping President Donald Trump escape the scandal surrounding his campaign’s ties to Russia.

During three congressional hearings, the leaders lent new weight to questions about whether Trump’s campaign aides colluded with Russian officials to influence the presidential election — providing yet another setback as the White House seeks a reset during Trump’s foreign trip.

Former CIA Director John Brennan said U.S. intelligence agencies had picked up contacts between Russia and people involved in Trump's campaign, and left open the possibility that Russian officials may have been successful in recruiting some of the aides.

Across Capitol Hill, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats declined to comment on a Washington Post report that Trump had asked him to deny evidence of Russia collusion, though Coats left the door open to answering such questions in the future. And National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers did nothing to douse the Post's allegation that Trump had made a similar request to him — as lawmakers failed to ask him a single question about the issue.  Read full story here 

The senator calls the president’s proposed cuts to the State Department “irresponsible.”

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that if “fully implemented,” President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to State Department funding would lead to “a lot of Benghazi situations.”

Trump first full budget proposal, released Tuesday, was met with heavy criticism, including from his fellow Republicans. But Graham evoking the deadly 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound attacks was, perhaps, the most pointed critiqued offered. Those attacks ― which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens ― have been spotlighted by Republicans as massive, even criminal, failures of the Obama administration and, specifically, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For Graham to cite the Benghazi attacks illustrates the frustration he and others have with Trump’s push to cut U.S. foreign policy functions outside of the military.

“Twenty-nine percent cut to the State Department, I think, is very irresponsible given threats we face,” said Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If fully implemented we’d have to retreat from the world or have a lot of Benghazi situations on our hands.”

Graham, who briefly was one of Trump’s opponents in the 2016 presidential race, also said the U.S. can’t win wars “with hard power alone,” referring to an approach focused on the heavy use of military force.  Read the full story 

Former CIA Chief Says Intelligence Warrants FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation

WASHINGTON ― The former head of the CIA said he has seen intelligence about interactions between President Donald Trump’s campaign associates and Russian officials that made him believe there was a need for the ongoing FBI investigation into possible collusion.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” former CIA chief John Brennan told lawmakers on Tuesday during a House Intelligence Committee hearing. By the time he left the CIA on Jan. 20, Brennan continued, he had “unresolved questions” as to whether the Russians were successful in getting Americans “to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion.”

Brennan told lawmakers he could not say with certainty whether the president’s campaign associates colluded with Moscow. “But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the [FBI] to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring or colluding with Russian officials,” he testified Tuesday.

Brennan made the disclosure after multiple Republican lawmakers asked Brennan to provide “evidence” that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to boost Trump’s chances of winning the 2016 presidential election. In carefully worded responses, Brennan said that, as CIA chief, he dealt with intelligence rather than evidence ― and the intelligence warranted further investigation.  Read full story 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump Asked DNI, NSA Director To Push Back Against FBI Russia Probe

President Donald Trump in March asked the director of national intelligence and director of the National Security Agency to push back against the FBI’s investigation into whether members of his campaign colluded with Russian officials last year, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed current and former officials, that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and NSA Director Michael Rogers to publicly deny that any evidence of collusion existed.
He made that request after former FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that his bureau was conducting an investigation into whether there was any “coordination” between Russian officials and Trump’s associates during the campaign, according to the Washington Post.
Two unnamed current and two unnamed former officials cited in the report said that Coats and Rogers deemed Trump’s request inappropriate and refused to do so.
Trump made the request to Rogers in a phone call, according to the Washington Post, and a senior NSA official documented the conversation in an internal memo written at the time.
Senior officials in Trump’s administration also approached top intelligence officials about the possibility of asking Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.  Read full post here 

Payments to IDC senators a “mockery of our laws,” says legal memo from Democratic counsel

In the wake of a New York Times article that revealed several senators are being paid for leadership positions they do not hold, an attorney for the Senate Democrats has declared the practice illegal in an analysis backed up by case law and legal precedent.

The Times article, published May 11, revealed that information was sent to the State Comptroller’s Office certifying that Sens. Diane Savino, José Peralta and David Valesky were serving as committee leaders and should be paid an additional stipend for their service. All three are members of the “Independent Democratic Conference” and caucus with Senate Republicans, which tips the balance of power in the state Senate to the Republicans.

All three serve as “vice chairs” of standing committees and not actual chairs. Senate Democrats believe there is no gray area about which titles and positions deserve additional pay under state law.

“The granting of legislative allowances to senators who do not hold one of the specifically itemized positions listed in Legislative Law Section 5-A is not permitted by law,” wrote Shontell M. Smith, Esq., Director of Counsel and Finance for the Senate Democratic Conference in a memo released Monday. “Senate leadership and their staffs may not lawfully file records with the Comptroller that authorize payments to senators for such allowances unless that specific senator explicitly holds the position listed in Legislative Law.”   Read full story here 

This is How Low the Trump Apologists Will Stoop

Trump Putting Together Legal Team To Guide Him Throughout Russia Probe

President Donald Trump is lawyering up, according to a report published Monday by the Washington Post.

Trump and his advisers are “moving rapidly” to secure outside counsel to guide the President through ongoing investigations into possible collusion between members of his campaign and Russian officials, the Washington Post reported, citing four unnamed sources briefed on the discussions.
The administration has put together a list of finalists, according to the report, including Marc E. Kasowitz, Robert J. Giuffra Jr., Reid H. Weingarten and Theodore B. Olson.
Kasowitz has defended Trump in the past, and wrote a letter during Trump’s campaign last year demanding a retraction and apology from the New York Times for publishing a report that Trump groped women years earlier.  Read full post 

‘Trump doesn’t care about workers’: Carrier employees react to announcement that 632 jobs are moving to Mexico

In a letter released today, the Carrier corporation announced it was firing 632 workers from its factory in Indianapolis and moving those jobs to Monterrey, Mexico, by the end of 2017.

The company, which makes heating and air conditioning units, became the posterchild of offshoring when during the 2016 presidential campaign a video went viral of management announcing to angry workers that the entire plant was being shut down and 1,400 jobs were being eliminated.

Donald Trump leapt on the issue and hammered Hillary Clinton for supporting free-trade deals like NAFTA that by 2004 led to the net loss of 1 million U.S.-based jobs.

Trump vowed to save all the jobs at Carrier, as well as at another Indianapolis factory, Rexnord, that announced last year that it was also moving 300 jobs to Monterrey. Bashing Carrier helped propel Trump to an upset victory.

On December 1, President-elect Trump swept into Indianapolis and triumphantly announced that he struck a deal with Carrier’s parent company, UTC, to save “over 1,100” jobs. Trump claimed too that was the “minimum number” of jobs being saved and the number of workers would “go up very substantially as they expand this area, this plant.”  Read full story 

Manafort, Stone Turn Docs Over To Senate Intel Committee In Russia Probe

Two former Trump allies have turned over documents requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into possible collusion by Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives interfering in the U.S. election, NBC News reportedMonday.  Read full story here 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.   Read full story here

'Morning Joe' Panel Identifies the Most Likely Targets of the FBI's Russia Probe

Only two White House officials fit the description of the “significant person of interest” targeted in the ongoing Russia probe, according to panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The Washington Post reported Friday that the law enforcement investigation had reached “the highest levels of government” to include a current White House official who is close to the president.

“There are some facts that emerged weeks ago that I think are going to get more attention,” said David Ignatius, a columnist for the Post. “Jared Kushner, now senior adviser to the president, we know, met with (Russian) ambassador (Sergey) Kislyak, accompanied by Mike Flynn, back during the transition period.”

Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, met in December with Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, a graduate of Russia’s spy school who now heads Vnesheconombank, but failed to disclose the meeting on his security clearance forms.

“Those events, whether they have anything to do with this latest investigation, will be part of where this goes,” Ignatius said. “Kushner offered to testify, voluntarily, before the Senate Intelligence Committee many weeks ago about the facts I just described.”

Host Joe Scarborough pointed to comments by the White House chief strategist that may have taken on new significance, and he also pointed out that the White House counsel also fit the description of the official under investigation.

“One of his rivals, Steve Bannon, was telling reporters he didn’t have to worry about Kushner because Russia would take care of him,” Scarborough said. “That’s there. Also you have to look at — since we said Jared’s name, we might as well — the other person, Don McGahn has been in the middle of everything from the very — I’m not suggesting that he is one of those, but if you were narrowing it down to one (or) two.”  Read full post 

Trump’s Wavering Promises And Scandals Complicate Israel Trip

President Donald Trump arrives in Israel Monday in the midst of political turmoil, following news that he revealed classified information to Russian officials.

The Israeli leg of the president’s trip abroad, his first since taking office, has also seen tension over shifting plans and diplomatic stumbles. Even Trump’s arrival at the airport became a contentious event, as Israeli media reported Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily commanded his ministers to attend Trump’s welcome ceremony after learning many had planned to skip it.

The controversies around Trump’s visit underscore a larger shift in how some Israel officials are viewing the new U.S. president. Since the inauguration, analysts say Trump’s changing policies and vague statements have made him a more unreliable ally than many on the Israeli far right anticipated.

“There is a sense of disappointment with Trump, because their knee-jerk reaction to his election was ‘great, we don’t have to worry about a Palestinian state, we don’t have to worry about pressure on settlements and we’re going to have the American embassy in Jerusalem,’” Yossi Alpher, a former senior Israeli intelligence official, told HuffPost.

“It’s clear to them that this is not the case, and they are confused and disappointed.”  Read full story here 

Trump To Propose Major Cuts To Medicaid In Budget

President Donald Trump will propose slashing the budget for Medicaid by more than $800 billion over 10 years in a budget set to be released Tuesday, according to several reports published Sunday evening.
Trump’s proposed cuts were first reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by CNN and the Associated Press.
The President’s forthcoming proposal comes after he pledged on the campaign trail not to touch social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
Read full post here

Report: Girl in Weiner sexting case lied to damage Clinton

The teenage girl who had exchanged sexually explicit text messages with former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) lied about her age and political motivations to harm Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a report by the investigative news site WhoWhatWhy.

In a report published Monday, the website said the girl who exchanged the messages with Weiner was closer to 17 and not 15, as initial reports said. That also puts her above the age of consent in North Carolina, which is 16.

In addition, she and her family were also not Clinton supporters, as the girl claimed in a letter published by BuzzFeed, according to social media posts unearthed by the website. The report also says the girl initiated the contact with Weiner and then sought advice from a GOP figure behind "prior efforts to harm Weiner and other Democrats."

The website suggests this could mean that Weiner was the target of a politically motivated plot.

“Seeing that Weiner is both a repeat offender — his sexting addiction cost him his job in Congress as well as a shot at becoming mayor of New York — and associated with one of the most important people in Clinton’s inner circle, it is conceivable that this was a set-up from the beginning, with the objective of embarrassing the Clinton campaign,” the WhoWhatWhy report reads.

The investigation of Weiner and his accuser led the FBI to announce just weeks before Election Day that it was again looking at Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of State. It did so because it had found a number of Clinton's emails on Weiner's laptop, which were forwarded to him from his wife, Human Abedin, a longtime aide to Clinton.   Read full story 

The former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign says the president is 'absolutely crazy' and Republicans are stuck to him like 'Velcro.'

Donald Trump is “unfit for office,” a president whose actions are often “absolutely crazy” and whose White House has “a complete disregard for the truth.” His firing of James Comey as the FBI director was overseeing an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and whether Trump’s advisers colluded with it amounts to “close to an obstruction case” against the president.

But, says John Podesta—the sharp-tongued campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton whose 60,000 hacked emails are at the heart of that FBI investigation into the team of the man who defeated them—don’t expect impeachment proceedings anytime soon.

Republican congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have chosen to “Velcro their own political fate” to Trump’s and won’t pursue allegations against the president of their own party unless forced to do so by a 2018 midterm election debacle or further revelations. “It is clear to me that Republicans on Capitol Hill are not going to begin to turn on him at this point,” Podesta says.

His scathing comments about a presidency in crisis—and the Republicans who “enable” Trump—came in an exclusive new interview for The Global Politico about Clinton’s shocking election defeat and the still-unfolding investigations swirling around Russia’s role in it. The wide-ranging conversation covered everything from infighting on last year’s Clinton campaign (“if those 70,000 votes had gone differently in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, … we would have all been geniuses”) to Watergate comparisons (unlike Trump, “Nixon, for all his flaws… was a serious person”) to why Clinton lost and whether her new PAC means she’s running for president again (“quite frankly, she’s done with that”).   Read the full story here 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

‘SNL’ Asks: Who You Gonna Believe? The FBI Director Or The Guy Who’s Lying?

Trump Slammed Michelle Obama For Not Covering Hair In Saudi Arabia, But...

Donald Trump’s old tweets keep coming back to haunt him. This time, they followed him to Saudi Arabia, during his first trip overseas as President of the United States.

In 2015, half a year before he announced he was running for president, Trump criticized then-First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf over her hair during a trip to Saudi Arabia.

But when Trump and his family visited the Islamic nation this weekend, people noticed that his wife Melania Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump did the exact same thing.

Melania Trump wore loose-fitting conservative outfits to the Islamic nation, much like Obama did during her 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia. Trump was seen wearing a black Stella McCartney jumpsuit covered most of her arms and legs, and was accentuated with a gold belt and chain-link necklace. Ivanka Trump wore a long-sleeved floral dress that reached above the ankles.   Read full story

Joe Biden says he never thought Hillary Clinton ‘was a great candidate,’ does not rule out running for president in 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden opened up about public service during a speech at the SALT hedge fund conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Biden, 74, went as far as to say that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was “never a great candidate,” but that he was, CNN reports.

He qualified the statement by adding, “Hillary would have been a really good president.”

When pressed about running in 2020, Biden said, “Could I? Yes. Would I? Probably not,” according to CNN.

By the time the next election cycle rolls around, Biden will be 78. Barack Obama’s right-hand man said that at the moment, he’s focused on putting his family back together after the death of his son, Beau, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2015. He was just 46.

Biden also said he must fulfill several financial promises with his wife, Jill, including paying off their mortgage, CNN notes.

Nonetheless, should the stars align, Biden said, “I may very well do it.”  Read full post here 

Deputy AG Confirms That Decision to Fire Comey Came From Trump, Not Him

President Donald Trump wanted to fire FBI Director James Comey long before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo in support of his ouster, Rosenstein told senators on Thursday. The White House put Rosenstein at the center of the growing storm last week when it claimed his memo was the catalyst for the firing. But according to Rosenstein, while he supported Comey's firing, his memo on Comey neither instigated his removal nor was meant to
justify it.

Rosenstein's side of the story—bits of it, at least—came out Thursday afternoon after he briefed the Senate on Comey's firing, when senators summarized his testimony to reporters. On Friday, the Justice Department released some of Rosenstein's remarks delivered to the senators. Those remarks verify some pieces of the emerging story around the firing and contradict the White House's initial narrative.  Read full post here 

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Claims About Russia Investigation Aren’t Adding Up

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some things aren’t adding up in President Donald Trump’s account of the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with Russians, an inquiry he says “I respect” yet considers a “witch hunt.”
The matter vastly overshadowed anything else said and done by the administration over the past week. Yet in the nooks and crannies of Trump’s rhetoric and that of his aides, statements on jobs, foreign policy and more also call for a second look.
A review from another wild week in Washington:
TRUMP, on his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey: “I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.” — news conference Thursday with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos.
THE FACTS: The recommendation he cites came after Trump decided to fire Comey, according to Rosenstein and to Trump’s own previous statement taking sole ownership of the decision.
In an interview with NBC two days after the May 9 Comey dismissal, Trump said he had been planning to fire Comey for months, and linked it with the FBI’s Russia investigation. “In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.'”
On Thursday, Rosenstein told senators in a closed-door briefing that he had been informed of Trump’s decision to fire Comey before he wrote his memo providing a rationale for that act, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.  Continue reading the story here 

CNN: Comey Thinks Trump Was Trying To Influence Him Regarding Russia Probe

Former FBI Director James Comey believes President Donald Trump was trying to influence his thinking about the investigation into alleged ties between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, CNN reported on Saturday.

CNN reported, citing a source familiar with Comey’s thinking, that the fired FBI head now thinks Trump was trying to influence his judgment regarding the investigation.
The source told CNN that “intent is hard to prove” with regard to Trump’s motivation for doing so, since “you have to have intent in order to obstruct justice in the criminal sense.”
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that in February, Trump asked Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a request that Comey documented in a memo.
On Thursday, Benjamin Wittes, the editor of the blog Lawfare and a self-described “friend” of Comey, said the former FBI director described two instances when Trump attempted “personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess.”   Read full story here 

Report: WH Exploring Whether It Can Use Ethics Rule To Limit Special Counsel

The White House is looking at whether it can use a federal ethics rule to limit the scope of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged ties between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, Reuters reported on Friday.
Trump’s administration began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations on Wednesday shortly after the Justice Department announced its hiring of a special counsel, according to Reuters’ report, which cited two unnamed sources “familiar with White House thinking.”
That code previously prohibited executive branch appointees from involvement in matters regarding their former employers or clients for one year after their appointment. Trump signed an executive order in January extending that time period to two years.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who the Justice Department named as special counsel in the probe, resigned his position at law firm WilmerHale to lead the investigation. Clients of the firm include Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Reuters reported that without a waiver from the Justice Department, Mueller would be barred by the rule from investigating those members of Trump’s administration.  Read full story here 

Cracks appear in the GOP façade as the news keeps getting more devastating for Trump. How long can he last?

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president last November, many of the billionaire’s critics tried to convince themselves that he would finally tone down his divisive rhetoric and curtail the unhinged behavior now that he was actually going to be president of the United States. It was a kind of defense mechanism against the utter shock of the situation. Hardly anyone had truly believed that Trump would — or even could — be elected president, so when he was, many dumbfounded (and terrified) people resorted to self-deception in order to cope.

Of course, many Republicans had similarly deluded themselves earlier in the year, after Trump had managed to win the party’s nomination. Now that he was entering the general election as a major-party candidate for president, the reasoning went, he would finally “pivot” and start acting … well, presidential.

We all know how that turned out, of course. After just four months in the Oval Office it should be absolutely clear that President Trump will not be changing any time soon. That is to say, he will not stop tweeting like an unhinged maniac early in the morning or peddling blatant falsehoods and conspiracy theories or revealing classified information to foreign officials in order to boast, or repeatedly breaking democratic norms — whether it be personally attacking sitting judges who rule against his policies, or calling journalists “enemies of the people.” In other words, Donald Trump will not (read: cannot) stop acting like Donald Trump — an impulsive, vindictive and unscrupulous billionaire with the temperament of a pubescent boy.   Read full post here 

A slip of the tongue from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy mentions Donald Trump being on Vladimir Putin's payroll

Speaker Paul Ryan is trying out the Trump regime's favorite defense against damning news—focus on the leaker rather than on the content. In this case, it's the release of a transcript with a slip of the tongue from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about Donald Trump being on Vladimir Putin's payroll, a "joke" that Ryan immediately threatened all of those present to forget ever happened. Ryan is in full deflection mode trying to cover up what he and others in Republican leadership—we're looking at you, Mitch McConnell—knew about Russia's interference in the election on behalf of Trump and when they knew it.

Friday morning, Ryan told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the
recording was “a cause of concern” for him and other Republicans.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” the speaker said. “There was somebody who taped a meeting a year ago where our majority leader cracked a joke and then they released the tape of that joke out just a few days ago and that’s a pretty bizarre thing to happen. So obviously that’s a cause of concern of ours.”

He's never seen anything like this? How about watching the Russians hacking the DNC, getting a briefing from the Ukrainian prime minister which detailed the attacks and the sophisticated propaganda Russia was conducting against it and other European nations, and then brushing off the suggestion that Putin was controlling the possible Republican presidential nominee? That's pretty bizarre and unimaginable. And that's exactly what happened.  Read full story here 

First on CNN: Russian officials bragged they could use Flynn to influence Trump, sources say

Washington (CNN)Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser retired Gen. Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team, sources told CNN.

The conversations deeply concerned US intelligence officials, some of whom acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn, who was tapped to become Trump's national security adviser, current and former governments officials said. 

"This was a five-alarm fire from early on," one former Obama administration official said, "the way the Russians were talking about him." Another former administration official said Flynn was viewed as a potential national security problem.

The conversations picked up by US intelligence officials indicated the Russians regarded Flynn as an ally, sources said. That relationship developed throughout 2016, months before Flynn was caught on an intercepted call in December speaking with Russia's ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. That call, and Flynn's changing story about it, ultimately led to his firing as Trump's first national security adviser.  Read full story here 

Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.  Read full story