Monday, February 27, 2017

Politico: Spicer Cracks Down On Leaks, Puts Staff Through 'Phone Check'

White House press secretary Sean Spicer cracked down on leaks from his own office by telling staffers to hand over their phones for a "phone check" during a meeting which itself was then leaked to the media, according to a Sunday report by Politico.

Spicer met last week with communications staffers to express his frustration over ongoing leaks, Politico reported, citing unnamed sources in the room.

He told staffers to place their phones on a table for a "phone check" of whatever devices staffers were carrying at the time, including both government-issued and personal phones, according to the report.

Politico reported, citing multiple sources, that White House lawyers were also present for the meeting.

Spicer told staffers that the use of messaging apps which are encrypted or delete messages after they are sent would violate the Federal Records Act, according to multiple unnamed sources in the room cited in the report.

According to Politico, Spicer warned those present that there would be "more problems" if news of the meeting and "phone check" was leaked to the press.

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM's request for comment. Read post 

The First 100 Lies: The Trump Team’s Flurry Of Falsehoods

To say that President Donald Trump has a casual relationship with the truth would be a gross understatement. He has repeatedly cited debunked conspiracy theories, pushed voter fraud myths, and embellished his record and accomplishments. The barrage of falsehoods has been so furious that journalists have taken to issuing instant fact-checks during press conferences and calling out false statements during cable news broadcasts.

All presidents lie, but lying so brazenly and so frequently about even silly factoids like his golf game has put Trump in his own category. His disregard for the truth is reflected in his top aides, who have inflated easily disproved figures like the attendance at his inauguration and even cited terror attacks that never happened.

The Huffington Post tracked the public remarks of Trump and his aides to compile a list of 100 incidents of egregious falsehoods. Still, it is likely the administration has made dozens of other misleading and exaggerated claims.

1. White House press secretary Sean Spicer falsely claimed the crowd on the National Mall was “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” (Jan. 21)

2. Trump falsely claimed that the crowd for his swearing-in stretched down the National Mall to the Washington Monument and totaled more than 1 million people. (Jan. 21)

3. As Trump fondly recalled his Inauguration Day, he said it stopped raining “immediately” when he began his speech. A light rain continued to fall throughout the address. (Jan. 21)

4. During his speech at CIA headquarters, Trump claimed the media made up his feud with the agency. In fact, he started it by comparing the intelligence community to “Nazi Germany.” (Jan. 21)

5. During his speech at CIA headquarters, Trump repeated the claim that he “didn’t want to go into Iraq.” He told Howard Stern in 2002 that he supported the Iraq War. (Jan. 21)

6. During his speech at CIA headquarters, Trump said he had the “all-time record in the history of Time Magazine. … I’ve been on it for 15 times this year.” Trump had been featured on the magazine a total of 11 times. (Jan. 21)

7. Trump claimed that his inauguration drew 11 million more viewers than Barack Obama’s in 2013. It didn’t, and viewership for Obama’s first inauguration, in 2009, was even higher. (Jan. 22)  Read full story here 

Chuck Todd Just Called out Trump for Crying ‘Fake News’ Every Time There’s a New Russia story

Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, called out President Donald Trump on Sunday for his pattern of crying "fake news" whenever a story breaks about his shadowy involvement with Russia.

Todd went off on Trump's pattern of taking to Twitter to lash out on whichever outlet reports on he and his inner circle's apparent ties with Russia. The new president has especially gone after the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and his own network.

“Whenever stories break on that subject, press bashing, which is always part of the president’s arsenal, seems to escalate,” Todd said. “It’s a tactic with a pattern. The president’s attacks on the media repeatedly have directly followed reporting on Russia,” Todd continued.

Todd presented the following timeline as an example of the trend:

"On January 5, NBC News reported on the intelligence community’s report on Russian influence in the election. On January 6th, President-elect Trump tweeted, ‘I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.’ On February 13th, 14th, and 15th, news outlets reported on Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. On February 16th, President Trump spent much of a 77-minute news conference attacking the press.”

Todd continued, “On Thursday night, media outlets reported that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to publicly discredit a New York Times story on Russia, after the FBI’s deputy director reportedly told him it was overblown. On Friday, the president went after the press.” Read full story here 

White House Refuses To Guarantee People Won’t Lose Health Insurance From Repeal

WASHINGTON ― White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to assure Americans on Sunday that anyone currently covered under the Affordable Care Act would not lose their coverage under President Donald Trump’s health care plan.

Sanders repeatedly dodged the question on ABC’s “This Week,” saying Trump had promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it “with something that’s better.”

Host George Stephanopoulos pressed Sanders on why, if Trump was so intent on replacing the law with something better, the White House couldn’t guarantee that everyone currently with insurance wouldn’t lose it. Sanders said it was “a goal” to make sure people didn’t lose coverage, but she stopped short of saying people would be able to keep their current insurance, or would even be offered similar plans.

“We cannot survive under the current system,” Sanders said. “We have to make a massive overhaul to the health care system in America, because it is simply just not sustainable, and everybody agrees with that.”

“There is nobody that argues that we’re on a track that we can maintain,” she continued. “So we’re looking at every possible way to do exactly that: repeal a terrible, failed system and replace with something better.”

When Stephanopoulos pressed again whether that meant Trump wouldn’t sign a replacement bill that would cause people to lose coverage, Sanders said she wouldn’t “speak specifically for the president on that topic.”

“What I can say is he’s made it a high priority and a No. 1 focus that we make sure that people that have insurance continue their insurance, particularly those in the highest need,” she said.

A consulting firm told governors Saturday that the Republican plan to replace Obamacare could lead to millions losing their health coverage, with many people covered under the Medicaid expansion suddenly unable to afford health insurance.

When he was running for president, Trump told “60 Minutes” in 2015 that everyone would win from his health care replacement.

“I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump said. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” Read full story here 

A Month Into Office, Trump's Job Approval Rating a Historic Low

President Donald Trump's job approval rating is a mere 44 percent, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll published Sunday finds, further documenting the skepticism with which the public views the former reality TV star's short time in the White House.
In fact, he has "the lowest approval ratings of any new chief executive in modern American history," CNBC writes.
Forty-eight percent say they disapprove of Trump's performance as president, and 32 percent said his performance thus far shows he's not up to being president.
And while 63 percent of Republicans say he's off to a great start, NBC notes that Trump "is the only president in the history of modern polling to begin his first term with a net negative approval rating."
His net negative rating is -4 percent. 
His predecessor, in contrast, started off with a net positive 34 percent, while George H.W. Bush had a net positive of 45 percent.The results of the poll, conducted February 18-22, come two days before Trump makes his first address to Congress. Post 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Intel Community and the Slow Death of Trump's Presidency

The New York Times Just Released This EPIC Anti-Trump Ad To Air At The Oscars

Members of Congress call for investigation into Priebus’s contact with the FBI

On Thursday night, multiple outlets broke news that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus communicated with top FBI officials and asked them to publicly contradict media reports of communications between Trump’s associates and Russians during the presidential campaign.

Citing the ongoing reports into the investigation, the FBI refused.

The White House issued its own denials, as well as a confusing back-and-forth timeline defending Priebus’ request — initially saying that the FBI had contacted Priebus first, before walking that back to confirm the original timeline.

But according to legal experts, Priebus’ contact with the FBI were deeply unethical and possibly illegal.

For one, the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and administration’s contacts with Russia is ongoing, and as White House Chief of Staff, Priebus’ contact with the FBI appears to be in violation of Department of Justice rules.

Federal law also prohibits any communication that “endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” If Priebus requested that the FBI publicly report that an ongoing investigation was closed, that could be a violation of this law. Read full story here 

Rep. Darrell Issa Suggests Trump-Russia Inquiry Needs Special Prosecutor, Not Jeff Sessions

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said during an interview on “Real Time With Bill Maher” on Friday night that the investigation into Russia’s ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the U.S. election hacking needs a special prosecutor ― not Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The conservative congressman, who supported Trump during his 2016 campaign, also seemed to agree with host Bill Maher that Sessions should recuse himself from the investigation.

Maher posed a question to Issa about the FBI’s investigation Trump-Russia by flipping the controversy on its head.

Maher asked Issa if, in 2012, he “would let it slide” had Russians hacked Mitt Romney’s campaign and been in talks with former President Barack Obama’s campaign.

“No,” Issa said quickly. When asked if he’d let it slide in Trump’s administration, Issa said again, just as quickly: “No.”

“We need an independent prosecutor,” Maher said later. “And Jeff Sessions should recuse himself, the same way Loretta Lynch recused herself, because he was a part of the Trump campaign, is that correct?” Maher asked, referring to former Attorney General Lynch and Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.  Read full story 

Buoyed By Anti-Trump Activism, Democrat Wins Delaware Special Election

MIDDLETOWN, Del. ― This is what democracy looks like.

It’s been a chant that has animated marches and protests around the country since the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated president, but it’s been more aspirational than descriptive. On Saturday, in a state Senate district in Delaware that stretches from Middletown to Newark, the voices in the streets turned into votes in the ballot box.

In the most expensive special election in Delaware history ― a contest to decide which party controls the state Senate ― Democrat Stephanie Hansen was on track to annihilate her Republican rival on the back of extraordinary turnout.

The last time her opponent, John Marino, ran in this district, in 2014, he lost by just 2 points. Hansen’s 58-42 percent victory over Marino on Saturday ensured that Democrats will maintain control of the state Senate. It also notched a big Donald Trump-era win for a new generation of Democratic activists shocked into action by the November election.

“We turned back that win from Washington and made sure it won’t hit Delaware,” Hansen said in her victory speech Saturday night.

While Hansen’s campaign was focused on local issues, she saw a huge swell of support after nationwide Women’s March protests on Jan. 21. Protesters, many of them out in the streets for the first time, have been turning their energy toward local and state politics. The first major election since the uprising was Delaware’s.  Read full story here 

Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories

The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.

Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.

The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia. Read full story here 

Tom Perez Elected Democratic National Committee Chair

ATLANTA ― Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday after a contentious race that highlighted divisions within the party.

Perez bested Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only other candidate remaining in the race after an inconclusive first round of voting. The final tally was 235 for Perez and 200 for Ellison.

Perez will now begin the work of rebuilding a Democratic Party battered by historic electoral losses as it is undertakes the task of confronting President Donald Trump and his agenda.

He also will have to win the trust of those who supported Ellison, his chief opponent. Many progressive activists who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential primary viewed Ellison’s candidacy as a way to secure a foothold in the party after Sanders’ defeat.

Perez immediately moved to appoint Ellison deputy DNC chair and accepted a hug from his rival on the conference room stage. “I’m asking you to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez,” Ellison told his supporters.

Perez bashed Trump and the “know-nothing movement,” and vowed to lead Democrats to victory against the president in 2020. Read full story 

Donald Trump Will Use Every Weapon to Stamp out the Grassroots Resistance

Pundits say Donald Trump is “undermining democracy”. But their concern is often just about elite institutions: the media, the judiciary, the electoral system. What is ignored is the effect that the Trump administration will have on the social movements, which serve as pillars of the resistance. If these fall, our democracy will be irreparably harmed.

Democracy extends far beyond the ballot box – it includes the active participation of labor and racial justice movements in civil society. People tend to think that voting and electioneering are the sum total of democracy. It makes sense in a way; media influences public opinion, and the eyes of the media are trained on the horse-race aspects of American politics. But thinking this way misses the bigger picture.

When we see Black Lives Matter rallying for racial equality, or when the Water Protectors at Standing Rock camp out for weeks to protect their water supply, that’s democracy. When workers decide that they want a union in their workplace, that’s democracy. And when those same workers decide to withhold their labor and demand the compensation and respect that they are owed, that’s democracy as well. Read full story

Five takeaways from the Scott Pruitt emails

A liberal group this week released thousands of pages of emails, obtained under an open records law, detailing communications between new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt and various energy and conservative interests.

The emails painted a picture of an office that went out of its way to coordinate with the fossil fuel and conservative organizations.

Pruitt’s staffers often shared talking points, memos, strategy and more with the outside groups or companies and were in frequent conversation with them.

The documents also provided a unique perspective into Pruitt’s priorities and concerns on environmental and other legal matters.

Here are five takeaways from the documents and the stories surrounding them.

The emails probably would not have threatened Pruitt’s confirmation

Senate Democrats argued Pruitt’s confirmation vote should have been delayed until the emails were released.

The GOP refused to budge, and voted 52 to 46 on Feb. 17 to confirm him, mostly along party lines.

“Seeing industry representatives fawning over Pruitt’s efforts to attack the EPA, it’s clear that this information should have been closely examined by the Senate as we considered his nomination to run that agency,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said after the records were published.

But it’s unlikely that the emails would have significant shifted the winds against Pruitt: members already knew about significant coordination between Pruitt and the fossil fuel industry, thanks to a 2014 New York Times story that revealed industry ties beyond what the contents of the emails showed. Read full story 

‘I want an investigation’: Father of slain SEAL blames Trump’s carelessness and ego for son’s death

The father of a Navy SEAL killed during a mission that Donald Trump approved just a week into his administration blames the president for his son’s death.

William Owens told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with Trump when the remains of son, William “Ryan” Owens, were returned to Dover Air Force Base.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,” Owens recalled explaining to the chaplain. “I told them I don’t want to meet the president.”

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.”

Owens questioned Trump’s motivation for signing off on a mission just six days into his presidency.

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” he asked. “For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”

Although U.S. military officials told The New York Timesthat “everything went wrong” during the mission, the Trump administration has called the operation a success. Administration officials have claimed that an investigation would tarnish the memory Owen’s son, but the father disagrees.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he remarked. “I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation.”

Owens suggested that Trump’s order to ban travel from seven majority-Muslim country a day before his son’s death may have compromised the mission. Read story here 

WSJ: White House Complained Report On Travel Ban Not What Trump 'Asked For'

White House officials said a report disputing the threat posed by travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries included in President Donald Trump's executive order was "not the intelligence assessment the president asked for," according to a report published Saturday by the Wall Street Journal.

“The President asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the President asked for,” an unnamed senior administration official said as quoted in the Wall Street Journal's report.

Unnamed officials said that the report ignored information that supports the travel ban, per the report, and that they have not yet been presented with the report they requested.

The Associated Press reported on Friday that it had obtained a draft document of the report, which concluded that citizenship of the countries included in Trump's ban is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threat level.

When Trump announced the now-blocked ban in January, however, he specifically cited "foreign terrorist entry" as one threat it would eliminate. Read full post 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Intel Officials Just Revealed Trump Begged Them To Bury Russian Scandal After FBI Denied Him

President Donald Trump and his lackeys are desperately working overtime to conceal their connections to agents of the Russian Federation. In their clumsy attempts to evade justice, all they have succeeded in doing is shining the spotlight upon themselves even brighter.

It has been revealed that the latest revelation into the administration’s potentially treasonous activities is they actively lobbied for members of the intelligence community to refute media reports of Trump’s Russian connections. After the FBI refused to play patsy, the Trump camp began begging anyone in the intelligence community who would listen to downplay the validity of the damning leaks and discredit the media reports.

The administration lined up intelligence community members and orchestrated telephone calls between them and major media outlets. The content of the conversations have not been disclosed, and apparently were of little consequence or sway as the conversations have not been printed anywhere.

Surprisingly, Trump’s administration has not denied they asked the FBI for help performing damage control. The White House did not, however, admit that they had enlisted the help of other members of the intelligence community once the FBI refused.  Read full story here 

CNY Solidarity Coalition

Grassroots effort to protect all Central New Yorkers from the dangers of the Trump-Pence-Bannon-Ryan administration’s policies, appointees, and rhetoric.

Follow link here 

In absence of town hall, Katko's votes speak

To the Editor:
Congressman John Katko campaigned on a promise to hold regular town hall meetings. Unsettled by constituents' justified anger at planned gutting of Affordable Care Act funding and protections, and shock at the dysfunctional White House, the role of a white supremacist on the National Security Council, the president's conflicts of interest and Russia's role in his election -- all serious threats to public health and democracy -- Katko has retreated.

A "telephone town-hall" in which only a handful of people ask questions does not serve the need for communication, clarity and transparency. 
Given the Trump administration attacks on refugees, civil rights and a free press, on environmental and worker protections, and sustained misrepresentation of Trump's motivations, actions, and past, it is essential we have a firm voice calling such actions into question, standing up for justice. 
Without in-person constituent meetings, Katko's voting record offers the only measure of his commitment to democracy, civil rights and environmental safety. Katko voted to rescind Obama regulations that:
  • prevented coal waste from being dumped into streams;
  • prevented states from canceling federal family planning grants, in order to deny funding to organizations providing abortions (an already de-funded service);
  • required resource extraction issuers to disclose payments to governments for commercial development of oil, natural gas or minerals. 
How do these votes represent the needs of Central New York? How are they justified in relation to good governance, public health and environmental security? 
Central New Yorkers deserve, indeed demand, in-person town-hall meetings with Mr. Katko to address the unsettling news coming out of Washington and his own record with respect to our community's needs.

Law Professors File Ethics Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway Over ‘Lies’

President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway should face sanctions for “professional misconduct,” which include repeated lies and ethics breaches, according to a formal complaint filed by 15 law professors across the nation.

“We do not file this complaint lightly,” states the letter, which legal ethics professors from leading universities such as Yale, Georgetown, Fordham and Duke filed this week. “We believe that, at one time, Ms. Conway understood her ethical responsibilities as a lawyer and abided by them. But she is currently behaving in a way that brings shame upon the legal profession.”

Conway obtained a law degree from George Washington University Law School. She was admitted to the Washington, D.C., bar in 1995, though she is currently suspended for nonpayment of dues, according to the complaint.

The letter, which The Washington Post obtained, was sent to the Washington, D.C., Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Board of Professional Responsibility, which addresses complaints about members of the local bar. Read full story 

Jake Tapper Nails White House Barring Of Media With 1 Perfect Word

The White House on Friday blocked several major media organizations, including The New York Times, CNN and The Huffington Post, from attending an off-camera press briefing, held in lieu of the daily televised news conference.

And CNN anchor Jake Tapper did not take the unprecedented move lightly.

Before his report on President Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Tapper took some time on CNN’s “The Lead” to break down why it’s such a problem that the White House barred certain media.

“Let’s not make any mistake about what’s happening here,” Tapper said.

“It’s not acceptable. In fact, it’s petulant,” he continued. He suggested the White House has difficulty telling the truth and referenced Trump calling the press the “enemy of the American people.”

Tapper then used White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s own words against him, cutting to a 2016 quote from Spicer promising that the White House wouldn’t ban media from government access.

“I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship,” Spicer said in December.

Then, Tapper boiled it all down to the Trump administration’s values.

“The White House does not seem to respect the idea of accountability. This White House does not seem to value an independent press,” he said. Full story

Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he won't tolerate 'White House interference.'

The top Democrat on the Senate committee investigating President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia says he has “grave concerns” about the independence of the probe following a report that the panel’s Republican chairman helped the White House knock down negative news stories.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Saturday he called Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to express his concerns.

But Warner did not go so far as to say he was giving up on the Intelligence Committee’s probe, which many Democrats consider the best hope for getting to the bottom of the ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow given that GOP leaders have made clear they won't agree to a select committee or independent commission.
“I will not accept any process that is undermined by political interference,” Warner said in a statement. "I am consulting with members of the Intelligence Committee to determine an appropriate course of action so we can ensure that the American people get the thorough, impartial investigation that they deserve, free from White House interference.”

Warner also issued a warning to his GOP counterparts, saying that if he determines the Intelligence panel “cannot properly conduct an independent investigation, I will support empowering whoever can do it right.”

His warning is a nod to the many Democratic lawmakers and a few Republicans who have called for an independent commission or select committee to investigate the issue.  Read full story here 

Bannon Makes Stunning Threat to Media: We're Going to Make It Worse for You Every Day


On Thursday, during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon shockingly admitted Donald Trump’s goal (Bannon’s goal) in appointing new precarious cabinet members to head protective government agencies like the EPA — is to dismantle and “deconstruct” those organizations altogether. You can read that Daily Kos story by Dartagnan here.

On the same day, during a joint CPAC press conference with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Bannon threatened the media with a quote that is undeniably one of the most odious and perilous public statements made against the free press by a White House official, on record. Chris Cillizza with The Washington Post cites Bannon.

“It's going to get worse every day for the media,” Bannon said, insisting that the “corporatist” media would continue to see Trump pursue exactly the sort of economic nationalism that journalism allegedly despises. Then he added this call to arms:“If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”

Cillizza says the message from Bannon was unmistakable: The enemy of Donald Trump and his team, is not really the Democratic Party, it’s the media. He adds that presidential administrations and the press have often experienced adversarial positions.

But what Bannon and, by extension, Trump are up to is something very different than simply an adversarial working relationship with the media. Bannon doesn't want to change the media. He wants to totally dismantle the media. He wants to break its back and leave it for dead by the side of the road.

What is somewhat ironic, more than disturbing, and almost comical, is that Bannon is telling reputable reporters, including those at the Washington Post, that the White House plans to destroy them. And rather than stand up to him, reporters rush back to their laptops to write up the story, staying respectfully neutral, while indirectly serving as a right wing echo chamber.  

Read full post

Friday: Protesters Gather Outside Rep. Stefanik's Watertown Office

About 30 people protested outside the Watertown office of north country congresswoman Elise Stefanik Friday.

A group called "Write The Power 21" organized the gathering, seeking a "town hall" meeting with Rep. Stefanik.

"Again, ask for a town hall meeting which we've all been asking for," said Sara Schaff, an organizer of Friday's rally. "But then we're also following through with questions on the health care, on the environment, and other concerns that we have that affect especially the north country." Post 

Trump lawyer pushed pro-Russia deal for Ukraine, politician claims

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)The setting was a Manhattan restaurant, and after 25 minutes what allegedly emerged was a pro-Russian peace plan for Ukraine that its author believes may have ended up in the White House.

In a CNN interview, Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko said he discussed his left-field proposal for Ukraine in January with US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who offered to deliver the plan to the Trump administration.
The exact details of the plan are unclear, yet reports have suggested it revolves around leasing Crimea -- annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 -- to Moscow for 50 to 100 years. In exchange, Russia would withdraw its troops from the separatist regions in Ukraine's war-torn east. 
    Artemenko declined to discuss the plan's details, yet hinted that a lease might be part of the idea.
    The lawmaker says Cohen, who has long advised Trump, wanted to take the plan to Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.
    Any suggestion that the White House might consider a plan that formalizes Russia's control of Crimea would cause consternation in Kiev and among its allies in Europe. The White House has flatly denied any knowledge of the proposal.  
    Read story

    'Where's Katko?': CNY group challenges GOP congressman, wants town hall meeting

    The CNY Solidarity Coalition launched its first major campaign by asking a question.

    "Where's Katko?"

    The group, which formed to "resist the ever-evolving Trump-Pence-Bannon-Ryan agenda," says it launched in the aftermath of the presidential election. And while they focus on national issues, central New York's congressional representative has been a frequent target.

    In late January, the CNY Solidarity Coalition used the hashtag #whereskatko to question why U.S. Rep. John Katko, who's in his second term as a member of Congress, hasn't held an in-person town hall meeting.

    Dana Balter, of Syracuse, is a member of the coalition. She said they've heard from many constituents in the 24th Congressional District who aren't happy with Katko's responsiveness.

    "We're frustrated. We can't seem to find him so we just started asking, '#WheresKatko?' We want Congressman Katko to be available, be responsive, be here," Balter said.

    "We want in-person town hall meetings. The people who put him in office have the right to know where he stands on the issues and the right to be heard. He doesn't seem to be getting that message from all the phone calls, emails and letters flooding his offices. Maybe this social media campaign will do the trick."

    The group is focused on urging Katko to hold a town hall meeting not only because he hasn't held one, but because it's part of a national strategy targeting congressional Republicans.  Read story 

    Senate GOP Backs Cuomo’s Push Against Bias Crimes

    Senate Republicans are backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to combat hate crimes in New York, which includes $25 million in grants to strengthen security at soft targets like day care and community centers. 
    “We stand with the Governor, Assembly and the people of New York in strongly condemning hate crimes and anti-semitism anywhere it exists, and look forward to taking decisive action to combat it,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Security has always been a top priority of our conference and we must ensure the state provides adequate resources to protect our citizens from these attacks or threats.”
    Cuomo announced the measures, which includes a text messaging feature for the Division of Human Rights to report hate crime incidents, after yet another round of bomb threats Jewish Community Centers and at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City. 
    Scrutiny has been further placed on anti-Semitic activity as President Donald Trump was slow to condemn both the incidents as well as the support he’s received from white supremacist groups during his campaign. 
    Trump this week forcefully condemned the incidents, saying the threats have to stop.

    Friday, February 24, 2017

    White House goes to war with the media

    President Donald Trump’s long-simmering and self-proclaimed “war” with the mainstream news media exploded on Friday, as Trump doubled down on his declaration that the media is an “enemy of the American people” and press secretary Sean Spicer blocked certain media outlets from a White House briefing. 

    The latest barrage comes after senior administration officials amped up their attacks on the media in recent days, leaving press advocates and even some members of the president’s own party uncomfortable about the fight.

    The White House’s disdain for the media reached new heights Friday afternoon when Spicer barred certain outlets, including POLITICO, from attending an off-camera gaggle in his office in lieu of the daily news briefing. Reporters from The New York Times, CNN, BBC and the Los Angeles Times also were barred, even as small, overtly political conservative outlets like Breitbart were permitted to attend. Time magazine and The Associated Press boycotted the briefing to show solidarity with their fellow news organizations, and the White House Correspondents Association condemned the White House move.

    The episodes Friday mark the latest chapter in the Trump administration’s attacks on the mainstream media — long a talking point of conservatives that has gone to drastic new levels since Trump’s ascension. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon regularly refers to the media as the “opposition party” and told the crowd at CPAC on Thursday that the “corporatist, globalist media” opposes Trump’s agenda out of self-interest.

    “Clearly, this is an escalation. President Trump’s charged rhetoric, inflamed rhetoric, is intended to undermine the work of the media in the U.S.,” said Carlos Lauria, program director for the Americas at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international nonprofit that advocates press freedom. “But it also emboldens autocratic leaders around the world.”

    He cited leaders in Egypt, Venezuela, Russia and Turkey who routinely accumulated new powers “by marginalizing the independent media.” The aim of such denigration, he said, is to inoculate the administration from legitimate criticisms by delegitimizing the media.  Read full story

    Obama Just Got Coffee In NYC. What Happened Next Is AWESOME

    Former President Obama just attended a meeting on New York’s Fifth Avenue and then stopped for a cup of coffee.

    Hundreds of onlookers gathered to catch a glimpse of the beloved president.

    The reaction from the crowd tells you all you need to know about how the American people feel about our 44th President – and how deeply despised his successor is.

    Trump White House Bars News Organizations From Press Briefing

    The White House blocked several news outlets from attending a closed-door briefing Friday afternoon with press secretary Sean Spicer, a decision that drew strong rebukes from news organizations and may only heighten tensions between the press corps and the administration.

    The New York Times and CNN, both of which have reported critically on the administration and are frequent targets of President Donald Trump, were prohibited from attending. The Huffington Post was also denied entry.

    Both the Associated Press and Time magazine, which were allowed to enter, boycotted out of solidarity with those news organizations kept out.

    Spicer said prior to the start of the administration that the White House may skip televised daily briefings in favor of an off-camera briefing or gaggle with reporters. But Spicer has continued doing televised daily briefings except when traveling, making Friday’s decision an unusual one that led to frustration among journalists kept out.

    “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Times executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. “We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”

    CNN suggested in a statement the Trump White House was retaliating against certain news outlets over their coverage. Read story 

    CPAC scrambles to control damage after attendees wave Russian flags during Trump speech


    Staffers at CPAC quickly scrambled to confiscate Russian flags with the word “TRUMP” written on the front that were being waved by attendees during President Donald Trump’s speech on Friday.

    The trouble began when some attendees took out pro-Trump flags to wave during the president’s speech that also happened to have the same white-blue-and-red striped pattern as Russia’s official flag.

    Reporter Peter Hamby notes that CPAC staffers quickly realized that its attendees were waving Russian flags, and moved to confiscate them.  

    Read story.

    Gov. Cuomo promises state will 'match' savings if towns, counties share services

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- New York State would "match" the amount of taxpayer money saved by counties and towns if they find a way to share services or cut costs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his surrogates said in speeches across the state Thursday.

    The governor's office did not immediately detail how such a match program would work except to say that the state would pay local governments the amount of savings achieved in their first year of adopting a new plan to streamline services.

    "I will match those savings, and I will double the savings to the taxpayer," Cuomo said in a news conference Thursday in Rockland County. 

    Read story here 

    Reports Say White House Asked FBI To Dispute Stories About Russia Ties

    The White House asked the FBI to publicly dispute reports about President Donald Trump’s team communicating with Russian officials during last year’s presidential campaign, CNN and The Associated Press reported Thursday.

    Such communication would mark a breach in protocol intended to prevent the White House from meddling in the agency’s investigations. Per a 2007 Justice Department memo, the White House should advise the department on criminal and civil enforcement “only where it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.”

    The request reportedly came earlier this month after the New York Times and CNN reported on the Trump team’s “constant” contact with Russia throughout the 2016 election. The White House denied those stories.

    According to the reports, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reached out to FBI Director James Comey and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and asked them to tell reporters that the stories weren’t true. CNN reports that Comey rejected the request because the FBI is investigating the alleged contact between Trump’s team and Russian officials.

    The AP reported that a White House official would not comment when asked if the administration was concerned about the appropriateness of Priebus’ communications with McCabe. The official was not authorized to disclose the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity, AP said.

    Earlier this week, Priebus called reports of the contact between Trump’s associates and Russian officials “total baloney.” In a separate interview, he said intelligence officials “assured” him the stories were inaccurate.  Read full story here 

    CNN Just Uncovered a MASSIVE White House Pay-For-Play Corruption Scandal

    In President Donald Trump’s administration, there is only one qualification needed for a cabinet position; money.

    According to CNN, in a bombshell report they received through the Freedom of Information Act, Trump’s transition team raised more than $6.5 million, with a vast majority of that money coming after the election. Presidential transition teams are financed in part by private fundraising and in part by federal funds.

    In a brazen display of pay-for-play corruption, the largest and most consistent donations came from people who Trump would end up appointing to top cabinet positions (or their families).

    World Wrestling Entertainment’s Linda McMahon, who is now chief of the Small Business Administration, was one of Trump’s earliest donors. She donated the maximum amount of $5,000 in July.

    Others such as Wilbur Ross, who is expected to be the new commerce secretary, and the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, both maxed out on donations prior to the election.

    Other nominees maxed out once Trump had secured the presidency.

    The report from CNN also comes on the heels of the announcement that the Department of Justice was rescinding an Obama-era plan to end federal use of for-profit prisons. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has numerous ties to the private prison system, made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

    The CEO Group, one of the largest private prison firms in the US, donated $125,000 to Trump’s campaign through a Super-PAC and now will reap the benefits of paying to play. Read full story 

    WATCH: Robert Reich Exposes the Republican Tax Scam

    Bernie Sanders: GOP Lawmakers Dodging Town Hall Events ‘Shouldn’t Be In Congress’

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has a strong message for lawmakers avoiding meetings with their constituents.

    “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress,” Sanders told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday.

    Republican lawmakers have been avoiding town hall events after several recent meetings turned contentious. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in particular made headlines for facing heated protests over their promises to repeal Obamacare. Republicans have accused angry attendees of being “paid protesters” rather than legitimately concerned citizens. But Sanders says that’s hogwash.

    “If you need police at the meetings, that’s fine, have police at the meetings, have security at the meetings,” Sanders said. “But don’t use that as an excuse to run away from your constituents after you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, throwing 20 million people off of health insurance, doing away with preexisting conditions. If you are going to do all those things, answer the questions that your constituents have.”  Read post 

    GOP Rep. Calls For Release Of Trump's Tax Returns At Town Hall

    During a town hall in Florida on Thursday freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called for President Donald Trump to release his tax returns following a question from an attendee.

    Donna Waters, a 56-year-old Pensacola resident, told Gaetz, "There are allegations that a hostile foreign country is committing acts of undeclared war by infiltrating the highest levels of our government," according to CNN.

    "You are on the Judiciary Committee. You have said they are going to investigate the Russian allegations. Yes or no, Yes or no -- let me ask my question -- will you call for the release of President Trump's income tax returns?" she then asked.

    As Gaetz prepared to answer the question, members of the audience began to shout, "Yes or no," per CNN.

    "Absolutely, Donald Trump should release his tax returns," the congressman then replied, though he did not say that Congress should subpoena the tax returns, according to CNN. Read post 

    Trump’s EPA Chief May Have Received Work Emails On His Personal Email Account

    WASHINGTON — President Trump’s new Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, may have received emails on a private email account despite telling senators that he only does official business with his government-issued account.

    A recently released batch of more than 7,000 pages of emails sent to and from Pruitt’s office while he was attorney general of Oklahoma contain several instances of messages being sent to a redacted email account — one that begins with “scott.pruitt” and ends with the domain name blacked out.

    In April 2013, for example, a staff member at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative nonprofit organization, emailed Pruitt at that redacted address, along with two aides, about Pruitt speaking about the oil and gas industry at an ALEC event. Read full post 

    Marsha Blackburn claims out of state people infiltrated her town hall — records seem to show she’s lying

    In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said that her recent town hall was overwhelmed by angry people that were not from her district. In a list that was provided to Raw Story, Blackburn is incorrect.

    “We had talked to people that were estimating crowds, and that is what they thought with those that came out for the event,” Blackburn told Blitzer. “There were some people who stood up to speak and ask a question and they identified themselves as living outside of the district. So, I don’t know who the reporter talked to. I do know that the first hundred people that RSVP’d had not put up the information on the city’s little website announcement that you needed to be a Fairview resident.”

    Blitzer cited a video that surfaced online showing people in the crowd raising their hands if the lived in the 7th District.

    “So, let me get back to the original question. How do you know only a third of the people who were inside actually were from your district?” Blitzer asked.

    Blackburn said that she knew because people were overheard in the line saying they lived in different counties and out-of-state car tags were seen in the parking lot.

    According to the list obtained by Raw Story, the information provided by attendees shows that they are residents of the 7th District. Organizers got the full list of RSVP’d constituents list from the City of Fairview as it’s public record. They then worked together to search for addresses to verify the sign-ups were from Blackburn’s district.

    Rusty Gordon, who lives in Fairview, TN and was the first person in line for Blackburn’s town hall explained that the reason there were so many out-of-state plates in the parking lot was because they were all told to park in the parking lot of two local grocery stores.

    “The only people that were in the parking lot were members of the media,” Gordon told Raw Story via phone. “So, there’s one lie there.”  Read full story 

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

    Sen. Gillibrand calls for changes to protect seniors from financial scams

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The IRS was calling Freddie Burton, 66, of Syracuse every day. They told her she owed thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes, and that federal agents would be at her door in hours if she didn't pay it back immediately.

    She first received calls in March 2016, and once came home to five voicemails left on her phone by people claiming to be the IRS demanding money, Burton said.

    "I called the IRS and they told me, 'No, we won't call your house like that.' That's how I knew it was a scam," she said.

    These types of scams targeting older citizens have been a growing concern over the years, prompting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to promote new legislation aimed at keeping seniors safe from money scams and financial abuse.  


    DiNapoli: Tax Collections Down 1 Percent

    Tax collections in January fell by $658.3 million over the same period last year, a 1 percent decline, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office. 

    Still, year-to-date tax revenue overall is slightly higher — some $167.9 million — than the most recent projections for the third quarter, the cash report released on Thursday found. 

    “State tax collections are slightly above Executive Budget projections,” DiNapoli said. “With the budget process well underway, and less than two months left in the fiscal year, we’re watching closely to see if revenues meet the Division of the Budget’s projected growth.” 

    There has been an increase in spending than initially projected, due in large part to the $2.1 billion of federal payments to the Essential Plan Program, as well as federal spending for Medicaid, also up by $2 billion.

    EU Leaders Can’t Figure Out If Trump’s America Is A Friend Or A Foe

     BRUSSELS — European Union officials shocked by a week of mixed messages from the Trump administration on the future of European integration may decide to treat the United States — at least in part — as a politically hostile entity that could limit the security and cooperation relationship that has underpinned the postwar Atlantic alliance, according to multiple diplomats and security officials in Brussels.

    The Trump campaign’s public support for Brexit and apparent ideological affinity with Marine Le Pen’s anti-EU National Front as well as statements by key White House advisers like Steve Bannon has left European intelligence, security, and diplomatic officials considering a radical change in a relationship that has long underpinned security and stability in Europe.

    “We’re spending far too much time in meetings trying to understand this administration’s approach to the 50-plus-year-old European integration project,” said one Brussels-based diplomat who did not want his country named criticizing the US during a fraught period of transition.

    “The underlying theme in these meetings is determining if America plans to remain a steadfast ally of the EU during a period where a resurgent and mischievous Russia is making common cause with the populist right wing in Europe and abroad to weaken, if not eliminate the EU,” the diplomat said.

    “How are we supposed to work with the country supposed to be our closest ally on issues [such as] Ukraine, terrorism, the refugee crisis, and tensions between Serbia and Kosovo while wondering about the rhetoric from our ally calling for our elimination?” the diplomat added. “It’s hard to be allied with someone who wants to destroy you.” 

    Read post

    John Boehner ‘started laughing’ at GOP’s latest phony promises about replacing Obamacare: report

    As Republican House Speaker, John Boehner doggedly opposed the Affordable Care Act, pledging to kill former President Barack Obama’s signature policy up until the end of his tenure.

    Now, Boehner admits that the current GOP leadership is more likely to make small reforms to Obamacare than “repeal-and- replace,” as congressional Republicans first promised.

    At a health care conference in Florida, Boehner dismissed the GOP’s call to repeal Obamacare and come up with a new plan as mere “happy talk,” Politico reports.

    “[Congressional Republicans are] going to fix Obamacare—I shouldn’t call it repeal-and-replace, because it’s not going to happen,” he said. In fact, Boehner “started laughing” in response to the idea that Republicans could swiftly steer a health plan through Congress. “Republicans never ever agree on health care,” he said, according to Politico. 

    The Republican leadership has made big promises about Obamacare’s replacement, while staying light on the policy details—even as angry constituents demand to know what will happen to their health care in town halls across the country. According to a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll, there’s been a large drop in support for getting rid of the ACA since the start of the year. 

    Read story

    Intrigue Over the Washington Post's New Motto: ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’—Is It Trump-Inspired?

    Three days after President Donald Trump declared the press the "enemy of the people," the Washington Post appeared to strike back with a new credo at the top of its website: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

    But the slogan was not a response to White House hostility, according to a source who asked not to be named. Rather, it was the culmination of a year-long search launched by Post publisher Jeff Bezos for a new credo to succeed the paper’s previous (and faintly arrogant) advertising slogan, “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.”

    The phrase, “Democracy dies in darkness,” does have its roots in a partisan political dispute.

     Ohio Judge Algenon L. Marbley coined the phrase  in a 2012 voter suppression case. The judge was challenging the Ohio Secretary of State's decision not to count provisional ballots cast in the presidential election that had been contested by poll workers.

    Marbley’s words were echoed by Post senior editor Bob Woodward in a Sunday appearance on Face the Nation.  

    Read full post

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    Fight Erupts in Trump Administration Over Transgender Students’ Rights

    WASHINGTON — A fight over an order that would rescind protections for transgender students in public schools has erupted inside the Trump administration, pitting Attorney General Jeff Sessions against the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.

    Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions. The draft order would reverse the directives put in place last year by the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

    Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent because he could not go forward without her consent. The order must come from the Justice and Education Departments.

    Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.
    Though an official order from the administration was expected to be released as early as Wednesday, Mr. Sessions and Ms. DeVos were still disputing the final language.

    Read full story