Saturday, May 20, 2017
All politicians, even the most polished, say things they wish they hadn’t. In the jargon of Washington, the process of resolving these self-inflicted crises is usually called the walk back. Compelled to provide more context, politicians will—usually through their press aides—admit that they “misspoke” or “regret their remarks.”Donald Trump forgoes the walk back in favor of irresponsibly disclaiming the seriousness and implications of his statements.
Just about any Trump utterance, apparently, can be written off as yet more locker room talk—including his private request to FBI Director Jim Comey to abandon the federal investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” the president said, according to a Comey memo revealed by The New York Times on Tuesday. After 12 hours of conspicuous silence, White House aides and several Republicans on Capitol Hill, chalked up the whole thing to a misunderstanding.
Trump’s complete absence of integrity is rubbing off on the party at large. Of Wednesday’s many news bombshells, the most contested story was about a year-old conversation among House Republican leaders in which Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was funneling money to then-candidate Donald Trump. Speaker Paul Ryan then swore the group to secrecy.
The basic nature of the pro-Trump subversion effort was known to GOP leaders before the parties’ conventions last year: The above conversation took place on June 15. Several weeks after the GOP officially nominated Trump in mid-July, in a secure setting with Obama administration officials and other members who receive classified briefings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to politicize any effort on the part of the government to reveal that Russian intelligence was intervening in the election to help Trump. “According to several officials,” the Post reported, “McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”
Despite Ryan’s clear awareness of the truth, we can infer that he sided with McConnell, tacitly or otherwise, because the Obama administration backed down in the face of McConnell’s threat. An official government assessment that Russia was helping Trump in the election didn’t reach the public until after the election, as Trump was transitioning to the presidency.
Unless this story has a second act, McCarthy and Ryan will stick to the explanation that their Putin-paying-Trump speculation was meant to be a joke. But even if that part of the conversation had never happened, the rest of it, and the later briefing with Obama officials, tell a perfectly rounded story of congressional Republicans’ complicity in Russian sabotage of the Clinton campaign. There is no way to walk this one back—and it wasn’t locker room talk.
[T]hroughout 2016 I maintained my opposition to Trump for three reasons, two of which are increasingly, worryingly relevant.First, I did not think Trump could beat Hillary Clinton. When it came to the popular vote, of course, he did not, but thanks to roughly 70,000 people in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, he won the presidency.
Second, I thought that Trump, even if he won, would be deeply destructive to the national fabric and to the conservative ideas I support.
Third, I strongly believed that Trump lacks moral character and that he sets a bad example both for my children and for people of faith.
Unfortunately, while I was wrong about my first concern, I am increasingly worried about the latter two. Trump’s evangelical Christian supporters often told me that whether we liked Trump or not, we needed him to save the Supreme Court. My response remains that four years of Clinton appointing judges, while awful, would be nothing compared with a generational wipeout of the GOP. Watergate may have turned Charles Colson from hatchet man to pastor, but the defense of President Trump is turning a lot of pastors into hatchet men. Few people come away from Trump’s orbit without compromising their characters.
A Republican reckoning is on the horizon. Voters are increasingly dissatisfied with a Republican Party unable to govern. And congressional Republicans increasingly find themselves in an impossible position: If they support the president, many Americans will believe they are neglecting their duty to hold him accountable. But if they do their duty, Trump’s core supporters will attack them as betrayers — and then run primary candidates against them.
Through it all, voter dissatisfaction has been growing. Trump’s core might stand with him, as he claimed, even if he killed someone in the middle of the street. But would those 70,000 voters who put him in the White House? As the president acts more irrationally and his Twitter rantings become more unhinged, will he draw more people to himself and his party than he will repel? I suspect not.
The president exudes incompetence and instability. . . . Republicans excuse this behavior as Trump being Trump, but that will only embolden voters who seek greater accountability to choose further change over stability. The sad reality is that the greatest defense of the president available at this point is one his team could never give on the record: He is an idiot who does not know any better.
Trump is increasingly disliked, and the Republicans who enable him are increasingly distrusted.
With a horde of vocal Trump supporters cheering on every inane statement, delusion, lie and bad act, the majority of the American people can be forgiven for thinking the GOP as a whole has lost its mind. The Republicans may soon lose a generation of voters through a combination of the sheer incompetence of Trump and a party rank and file with no ability to control its leader.
Unless Republican leaders stage an intervention, I expect them to experience a deserved electoral blood bath in November 2018.
The Republican Party has again demonstrated that it is the party of Christian extremists, hate and anti-LGBT bigotry by defeating a measure that would have barred anti-LGBT employment discrimination by federal contractors. In the world of the GOP it remains perfectly fine to fire gays solely on the basis of the sexual orientation. It's an issue that upsets me immensely since I was fired for being gay over a decade ago. The financial consequences were ruinous for me and my family and it has taken years to recover from it. Of course the House Republicans acted no differently than what we see in the Virginia General Assembly literally every year where pro-LGBT bills are killed and anti-LGBT employment discrimination remains legal in Virginia. The situation is ironic since a Republican acquaintance has been trying to convince me to come to a fundraiser for a GOP candidate running for the Lt. Governor nomination that he and his wife are hosting. He wants me simply to talk with the candidate, no monetary contribution required whatsoever. With votes like this in the House, the question is why bother. When push comes to shove, it's a strong bet that Republicans will always defer to the "family values" hate groups that set the GOP's social agenda: anti-LGBT animus, racism, and bigotry. Politico looks at the events in the House. Here are excerpts:
The House erupted in chaos Thursday morning with Democrats crying foul after Republicans hastily persuaded a few of their own to switch their votes and narrowly block an amendment intended to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.
It was an unruly scene on the floor with Democrats chanting, "Shame!" after GOP leaders barely muscled up the votes to reject, 212-213, an amendment by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would have effectively barred federal contractors from getting government work if they discriminate against the LGBT community.
At one point, a monitor in the House gallery showed there were 217 votes supporting the legislation, eliciting cheers of joy from Democrats who thought the measure might actually pass. But over the course of about 10 minutes, those votes suddenly dropped one by one to 212 — and the amendment failed.
A number of lawmakers from western states, who originally voted yes, changed their votes. According to a list tweeted out an hour after the vote by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office, they included: California Reps. Darrell Issa, David Valadao, Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters, and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, Rep. David Yong of Iowa and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine. Their offices have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Maloney, the amendment's author, was furious with Republicans for how they handled the floor fight over his offering. He singled out Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in particular for criticism, saying the No. 2 House Republican personally lobbied GOP members to change their votes when it looked like Maloney's proposal would pass.
"The leader [McCarthy] went around and twisted their arms, and they voted for discrimination," Maloney said. When Maloney complained directly to McCarthy, he said the majority leader told him "to get back on your own side."
"The members who switched are going to hold a very special place in American history as the people who didn't have the guts to stand up and support the will of the House," Maloney said off the chamber floor after the vote. "They literally snatched discrimination out of the jaws of equality."
The acrimony undermined a success for Ryan earlier that day regarding his commitment to regular order. Just moments before the LGBT vote, he’d shepherded the first House vote to bar the Confederate flag from flying in mass graves at federal cemeteries.
When the votes began shifting out of the 'aye' column on Maloney's measure, booing erupted in the chamber. Almost every Democrat was on his or her feet shouting and eventually they broke out in a chant, pointing their fingers at the other side of the chamber where the Republicans sit: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
As the amendment was being voted down, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen appeared to shake her head in disappointment. The Florida Republican has a transgender son and is one of the few Republicans who has been outspoken in advocating for the LGBT community.
After the chair closed the vote, Democrats continued shouting in anger.
“I’ve been the majority leader. I’ve been the whip,” Hoyer said on the floor after the vote as he blamed GOP leadership for pushing lawmakers to switch their votes. But he again hit the seven Republicans who changed their positions. “They will have themselves to look at tonight in the mirror and explain to themselves whether their first vote was a principled one.”
Friday, May 19, 2017
[Paul] Ryan is speaker of the House of Representatives, a legislative body with the power to issue subpoenas, compel testimony and, yes, impeach the president. In fact, under the Constitution, Ryan and his congressional colleagues are effectively the only check on a rogue chief executive.It has become painfully clear, however, that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.
They may make a few gestures toward accountability in the face of bad poll numbers, but there is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand.
And the big question we should be asking is how that happened. At this point we know who and what Trump is, and have a pretty good idea of what he has been doing. If we had two patriotic parties in the country, impeachment proceedings would already be underway. But we don’t. What’s the matter with Republicans?
First, Republicans are professional politicians. Yes, so are most Democrats. But the parties are not the same. The Democratic Party is a coalition of interest groups, with some shared views but also a lot of conflicts, and politicians get ahead through their success in striking compromises and finding acceptable solutions.
The G.O.P., by contrast, is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else. Other branches of the structure include a captive media that parrots the party line every step of the way.
And this monolithic structure — lavishly supported by a small number of very, very wealthy families — rewards, indeed insists on, absolute fealty. Furthermore, the structure has been in place for a long time: It has been 36 years since Reagan was elected, 22 years since the Gingrich takeover of Congress. What this means is that nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty.
The fact that the G.O.P. is a party of apparatchiks was one crucial factor in last year’s election. . . . . Republicans, however, went all in behind Trump, knowing full well that he was totally unqualified, strongly suspecting that he was corrupt and even speculating that he might be in Russian pay, simply because there was an “R” after his name on the ballot.
And even now, with the Trump/Flynn/Comey story getting worse by the hour, there has been no significant breaking of ranks. If you’re waiting to find the modern version of Howard Baker . . . . Men like that left the G.O.P. a long time ago.
Republicans won’t turn on Trump unless he has become such a political liability that he must be dumped. And even if Trump goes, one way or another, the threat to the Republic will be far from over.
As I have noted many times, given what the GOP has become, I am ashamed I ever had anything to do with it. It is morally bankrupt and a threat to constitutional government.In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. . . . . given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.
It’s bleak out there for Democrats and progressives, yet the future of the GOP may be more precarious than it appears.
Meanwhile, finds that Trump’s approval rating has sunk to 39.7 percent, its lowest since he assumed office—and that figure doesn’t account for the latest Comey memo revelations. The danger for Republicans is real, writes the Washington Post’s Philip Bump:
Studies have shown that partisan identity is formed early on, with partisanship tending to correlate to the popularity of the president in office. As in 2014, the most fervent Republican voters are those who were 18 at the outset of the Eisenhower and Reagan presidencies; the most Democratic were those who turned 18 as George W. Bush was mired in the Iraq War.
Here are some of the specific findings:Whether the Democrats are capable of harnessing that unrest is another question entirely.
Those who switched parties were less politically engaged than people who stayed with their parties. And among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, young people were far more likely than older adults to leave the GOP.
Only about half (53%) of those under 30 who initially identified as Republicans or leaned Republican consistently remained with the party over four subsequent surveys. Among older Republicans, 80% or more consistently identified as Republicans or leaned Republican.
Those who left the Republican Party, by contrast, expressed sharply negative views of Trump: 84% disapproved (57% strongly).
Democrats who stayed with their party – or left and returned – overwhelmingly disapproved of Trump’s job performance.
I’ve been a Republican political consultant for almost 30 years, and I’ve dispensed a lot of private advice. But now it’s time for me to reach out publicly to my fellow Republicans working in the Trump administration.
We really need to talk.
Whether you’re a 20-something fresh off the campaign trail, or a seasoned Washington insider serving in the Cabinet, by now you’re painfully aware that you’re not making America great again; you’re barely making it to the end of the daily news cycle before your verbally incontinent boss, the putative leader of the free world, once again steers the proverbial car into a ditch. On every front, you’re faced with legal, political and moral hazards. The president’s job, and yours, is a lot harder than it looked, and you know the problem originates in the Oval Office.
I know: Many of you serving in Cabinet, sub-Cabinet and White House roles joined Team Trump in good faith, believing you could help steady the ship, smooth the rough edges and, just maybe, put some conservative policy wins up on the board. You could see that President Trump’s undisciplined style was risky, but you hoped the big show playing over at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would provide you with cover to work steadily and enthusiastically on the administration’s legislative priorities. Some of you even bought into the ‘Merica First new nationalism. Many of you quietly assured friends in the Washington ecosystem that Trump would settle into his job . . . .
Sure, you knew you’d have to feed Trump’s ego and let him take a victory lap after every success, but you also thought you might claim a smidgen of credit for a popular infrastructure bill, a big tax cut, repeal of Obamacare or a host of other “easy” lifts. Because we’re all ambitious, right? It’s okay to admit it. . . . . Instead, your president botched Trumpcare 1.0 and contributed little as Speaker Paul Ryan managed to ram public-relations nightmare, Trumpcare 2.0, through the House at the cost of much political blood and treasure. Instead, Trump’s fumbles have left many members of Congress ducking town hall meetings like they’re in the witness protection program. The tax bill and the rest of Trump’s agenda are deader and more pungent than six-day-old fish.
Now, you see the daily train wreck; you see a White House in turmoil and a president drawing an ever-tighter circle of family and corporate vassals around himself. You worry that the scandals and legal troubles, which have been rumbling on the horizon like a summer thunderstorm, are drawing nearer. You should worry. . . . Soon (and by soon, I mean now) you’ll have to make a choice. You’ll have to decide whether I’m here to help has morphed into I’m helping this president dismantle the republic. In D.C., principle is as rare as hen’s teeth, but, GOP friends, I’m here to help you.
Sticking with Trump to the bitter end and pretending the unfolding chaos is just “fake news” won’t save your reputation as the walls close in. It won’t ease the judgment of history. It won’t do anything to polish up your future Wikipedia entry.
Cutting ties with a man who is destructive to our values, profoundly divisive, contemptuous of the rule of law and incontrovertibly unfit to serve in the highest office in the land just might. Do it now.
Vice President Mike Pence is standing by a March statement that he first learned of now-fired national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Turkey from media reports, despite renewed scrutiny and revelations President Donald Trump's transition team was made aware far earlier.
"The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn's ties to Turkey and fully supports the President's decision to ask for General Flynn's resignation," said an aide to Pence, who declined to be named. But questions about what Pence knew and when are swirling thanks to new media reports about what Flynn revealed to Trump's transition team, which Pence oversaw.
Flynn informed the Trump transition team more than two weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for his work as a lobbyist advocating for Turkish government interests, The New York Times reported Wednesday. But Pence didn't know, according to a senior administration official close to Pence. Despite reportedly informing the transition's chief lawyer Donald McGahn, now White House counsel, of the investigation's existence, Flynn still walked into the West Wing on January 20 as the President's top adviser on national security issues.
The question of what Pence knew and when first arose months earlier after reports surfaced that Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador to Washington despite Pence's public claim to the contrary. It's also one that was posed after Pence stood before news cameras and claimed that Trump had fired FBI director James Comey because of a memo written by the deputy attorney general -- only for Trump to later reveal he planned to fire Comey regardless.
A senior administration official rebuffed CNN's question about whether or not Pence knew of the investigation into Flynn during the transition with a simple, "No." But Pence should have known. . . . . Pence had also received a letter in November from the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings describing Flynn's foreign work.
In a November 18 letter to Pence "to raise questions about the apparent conflicts of interest of the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Transition Team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn," Cummings described Flynn's lobbying work and public advocacy aimed at benefiting the Turkish government as well as Flynn's RT-funded speech in Moscow in December 2015.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Donald Trump said in a recent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, "I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant — which I owned for quite a while — I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia."The reality, however, is that Trump couldn’t be more wrong. The President has deep Russian connections that far exceed what he admitted to Holt.
In a 2007 deposition that Trump gave as part of his unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against reporter Timothy O’Brien, he describes efforts to launch real estate ventures in Russia through Bayrock Associates, a shady Russian-connected outfit. Bayrock had partnered with Trump on at least four major but failed American projects: the Fort Lauderdale Trump Tower, the Trump Ocean Club in Fort Lauderdale, the SoHo condominium-hotel in New York, and a resort in Phoenix.
Bayrock had its office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, and its 2007 glossy brochure featured a photo of Trump and Tevfik Arif, a principal Bayrock partner, who served for 17 years in the Soviet government before emigrating to the United States. It called the Trump Organization a “strategic partner,” and listed Trump as their primary reference.
Felix Sater, the Russian-born managing director and majority shareholder in Bayrock, was convicted of assault in 1991. Then, in 1998, federal prosecutors convicted Sater of fraud, for running a $40 million penny stock fraud in collaboration with the New York and Russian Mafia. In return for a guilty plea, Sater reportedly agreed to work as a government informant.
The plaintiffs in a 2015 racketeering case against Bayrock, Sater, and Arif, among others, alleged in the civil lawsuit that: “for most of its existence it [Bayrock] was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated,” engaging “in a pattern of continuous, related crimes, including mail, wire, and bank fraud; tax evasion; money laundering; conspiracy; bribery; extortion; and embezzlement.” Although the lawsuit does not allege complicity by Trump, it claims that Bayrock exploited its joint ventures with Trump as a conduit for laundering money and evading taxes.
In September 2008, Donald Trump Jr. gave the following statement to the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan: “[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Trump’s many deals with Bayrock unravels Donald Jr’s comments.
Trump’s 2013 sojourn in Russia for the Miss Universe pageant was far less innocent that he would have us believe. According to the Washington Post, the deal to bring the pageant to Russia was “financed in part by the development company of a Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov.… a Putin ally who is sometimes called the ‘Trump of Russia’ because of his tendency to put his own name on his buildings.”
While in Moscow, Trump met with Russian oligarchs who were closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin, including Herman Gref, the chief executive officer of the state-controlled Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.
The Bayrock Group’s Felix Sater emerges again during the Trump campaign and presidency. Sater contributed the maximum $5,400 to Donald Trump’s campaign. Then on February 19, 2017, the New York Times reported that “A week before Trump fired Michael Flynn resigned as national security advisor, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.”
The Times said that three men were responsible for developing and delivering the plan: Andrew Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, and Andrii V. Artemenko, a pro-Russian member of the Ukrainian parliament.
If Trump's lips are moving, the safest assumption is that he is lying. The Time article can be found here.The third man was none other than Trump’s former business partner and convicted fraudster, Felix Sater. How and why Sater became involved with a key member of the Trump administration in the most sensitive of diplomatic transactions between the United States and Russia remains one of the many mysteries to be resolved by congressional and FBI investigators.
What last week’s Oval Office love fest with the Russians demonstrated was that the adults are not, in fact, in charge: a 70-year-old man-baby named Donald Trump is. There are just too many ways in which the president—any president, but especially this one—is beyond the restraints of those who serve him..
House Republicans facing tough reelection bids are running for cover from Donald Trump — an early sign that they believe the president’s deepening scandals could cost them their seats and even put the House in play.
More than 10 centrist Republicans over the past 48 hours have criticized Trump for reportedly sharing classified information with Russian officials or allegedly trying to quash an FBI investigation. Many joined Democrats in calling for a special prosecutor to take the reins of the Justice Department investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. (The DOJ named a special counsel on Wednesday.) Others want a select congressional committee to be appointed.
One swing-district lawmaker, Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, raised the possibility of impeaching Trump if it turns out to be true that he leaned on FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. But in case it wasn’t clear how Curbelo felt about the matter, his office called reporters to make sure they emphasized Curbelo was the first Republican lawmaker to utter the “I-word.” The break from Trump among centrist Republicans is especially notable because some of them had stuck by the president through the brutal fight over Obamacare repeal legislation two weeks ago, backing an unpopular bill despite great political risk at home. Case in point: Rep. Steve Knight of California, a top target for Democrats in 2018. Hillary Clinton carried his district by nearly 7 points, and Cook Political Report moved his reelection rating from “lean Republican” to “toss-up” after he voted for the health care bill.
But on Tuesday, after reports that Trump shared classified intelligence with Russia, Knight backed a special prosecutor to take over the ongoing FBI investigation, arguing that “there is so much conflicting information from many sources.”
[T]he most endangered GOP incumbents believe that loyalty to the White House could cost them their jobs.
“Any member of Congress who represents a marginal or swing district better develop their own brand very quickly,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who leads the moderate Tuesday Group. “It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the opposition’s attacks on them will be: They’re going to call everybody a rubber stamp” for Trump.
While polls suggest that Republican voters give Trump the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the Russia investigation, the issue has energized the Democratic base. That’s why moderates from districts with large Democratic or independent populations are most exposed as the scandals unfold.
Frankly, I hope these spineless Republicans go down with the Trump ship.
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.
Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”
Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.” The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.
The conversation provides a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders who now find themselves under mounting pressure over the conduct of President Trump. The exchange shows that the Republican leadership in the House privately discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s relationship to Putin, but wanted to keep their concerns secret. It is difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally.
Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.” McMullin ran for president last year as an independent and has been a vocal critic of Trump.
When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”
After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor.
Let’s begin with this proposition — there is a proper and defensible mechanism for disclosing classified information, even to a geopolitical rival. If the president determines that such disclosure advances the national interests of the United States, and if the president solicits the advice and counsel of the intelligence community and his national-security advisers to minimize the possibility of revealing sources and methods, betraying the trust of allies, or causing any other damage to national security, then it can even be prudent and proper to disclose secret information. In other words, disclosure should be the result of a deliberative process, not a momentary impulse.
Now, let’s contrast this appropriate process with the charges against President Trump and, crucially, with his defense.
The charge is serious. The Washington Post and numerous other media outlets reported that Trump impulsively shared highly classified information with visiting Russian officials — information that “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” According the Post, the information “had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.” The New York Times has identified the partner in question as Israel.
Trump’s disclosure was allegedly dangerous enough to trigger a scramble within the government to “contain the damage” by, among other measures, “placing calls to the CIA and National Security Agency.” Officials asked the Post not to publish the full details of the leak. Earlier today, The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson wrote that he knows one of the sources for the media’s stories and that the reality is even worse than the reports:
I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported. The President does not seem to realize or appreciate that his bragging can undermine relationships with our allies and with human intelligence sources. He also does not seem to appreciate that his loose lips can get valuable assets in the field killed.
It doesn’t take a 3,000-word explainer to describe how this allegation is alarming. But let’s note this — Hillary Clinton lost the presidency in part because her own mishandling of classified information meant that Russia could have had access to American secrets. According to this report, Trump gave Russia dangerous secrets, impulsively, perhaps as part of an effort to impress his guests.
And what is Trump’s defense? Yesterday one of the most respected members of his administration, national-security adviser H. R. McMaster, issued a terse statement claiming that the Washington Post story, “as reported,” was false. After denying that “sources and methods” were compromised, he said, “I was in the room. It didn’t happen.” The statement was carefully crafted to create the impression of a blanket denial while still giving the administration some wiggle room on the details. Then, this morning, Trump not only refused to deny giving Russia classified information but, in two tweets . . . . undercut the blanket denial.
McMaster is perhaps Trump’s best spokesperson, presenting Trump’s best case, and it’s still unsatisfactory. There is no such thing as “no harm, no foul” in this context. This is not the way we want presidents handling classified information — especially during conversations with a hostile foreign power. While I can imagine a context in which an experienced and knowledgeable president could make a disclosure decision on the fly, the key here is “knowledgeable.”
Disclosing information without knowing the source is a throw of the dice. And remember, this is the administration’s defense. The original allegations are still hanging out there, and the reporters are standing by their stories. Defenses and denials are not the same thing as refutations.
The allegations are too serious to be left to the realm of charges and countercharges. The White House should share available records of the conversation with the relevant congressional oversight committees, and those committees should do their job, examine the evidence, and issue a public report of their findings. The American people should be troubled by what we know. But until we know all the facts, we don’t yet know how troubled we should be.
|Special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III|
The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr. Trump’s 118-day-old presidency.
The decision, by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, came after a cascade of damaging developments for Mr. Trump in recent days, including his abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the subsequent disclosure that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.
Mr. Rosenstein, who wrote a memo that the White House initially cited as the rationale for Mr. Comey’s dismissal, had been under escalating pressure from Democrats, and even some Republicans, to appoint a special counsel.
By appointing Mr. Mueller, a former federal prosecutor with an unblemished reputation who once stood up to President George W. Bush on the legality of his domestic wiretapping program, Mr. Rosenstein could alleviate questions about the government’s capacity to investigate the swirl of questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement that he concluded that “it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.”
Mr. Rosenstein’s announcement came on a day when Republican lawmakers joined calls for Mr. Comey to testify publicly, with some committee chairmen requesting he appear before their panels and share more information about his encounters with Mr. Trump. Lawmakers also asked the F.B.I. to turn over the memo that Mr. Comey is said to have written that suggested the president asked him to quash the investigation into Mr. Flynn.
As a special counsel, Mr. Mueller can choose whether to consult with or inform the Justice Department about his investigation as it goes forward. He is authorized to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” according to Mr. Rosenstein’s order naming him to the post, as well as other matters that “may arise directly from the investigation.” He is also empowered to press criminal charges, and he can request additional resources subject to the review of an assistant attorney general.
Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were notified only after Mr. Rosenstein signed the order on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr. Mueller’s appointment was hailed by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who view him as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Mueller’s “record, character, and trustworthiness have been lauded for decades by Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland and the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the “choice of Robert Mueller was solid and shows the seriousness Mr. Rosenstein brought to this decision. Rather than ‘make this go away’, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has taken an important step toward restoring the credibility of the D.O.J. and F.B.I. in this most serious matter.”
The appointment is certain to soothe nerves at the F.B.I., where agents have felt under siege amid Mr. Comey’s firing and Mr. Trump’s repeated criticism of the Russia investigation.
Let's hope that this appointment marks the beginning of the end of the Trump/Pence regime.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
|Your's truly with Ralph Northam and his wife, Pam Northam|
I grew up in a family that was politically involved. For roughly 25 years I have been in the political trenches, first as a Republican where I was a city committee member for the Republican Party of Virginia Beach and a precinct captain, and then as an independent with strong Democrat leanings after the Republican Party became something akin to a reprehensible sectarian party. I even ran for Virginia Beach school board in 1994 only to be labeled "Christian Right" by the Virginia Beach Education Association. I guess I've had the last laugh on that fabricated story line.Through all my years of political involvement, one thing that I learned is that it is critical to research candidates and make sure that they are what they claim to be in campaign ads and to verify their claimed political positions on issues. Many are not what they claim and will change their supposed stances if they deem it politically expedient for their own benefit. Never mind that their past voting records and positions are readily available for those willing to take a few minutes to do some homework and/or check out campaign web pages. Too many people simply do not take the time. Indeed, many of my "friends" who voted for Donald Trump and who have since feigned shock over his anti-LGBT agenda as evidenced by rescission of many Obama era protections and his new and falsely named "religious freedom" executive order that allows tax-exempt anti-gay churches to engage in political activity, never took the requisite time to see who/what they were actually voting for. The "religious freedom" executive order makes every citizen, including LGBT individuals, indirectly underwrite churches that peddle hatred as they stock in trade. Now, these "friends" want me to "forgive and forget" - something that will not happen.While we cannot undo the results of the 2016 presidential election, we do have an opportunity to make sure that similar mistakes do not occur this November when Virginia will elect new statewide officials, including the governor and attorney general, and all of the members of the House of Delegates. With the Trump/Pence regime and a Republican controlled Congress posing an ongoing threat to Virginia's economy and the civil rights of all of its citizens - not just angry whites and or Christian extremists - electing a Democrat to Virginia's governor's mansion in November 2017, is more important than ever. Indeed, a Democrat in the governor's mansion may be one of the few firewalls available to guard against the worse agendas coming out of the White House and the GOP controlled Congress.For me, the man best suited for the position is Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, a man who I have known since he launched his first campaign for the Virginia Senate and who has held fast to his principles and ideals. Yet, seemingly out of nowhere a possible wrench has been thrown into Virginia Democrats' plan for an orderly, uncontested race to nominate Ralph Northam for the party's 2017 gubernatorial nomination. That wrench is one term Congressman Tom Perriello, who only served from 2009 to 2011 before losing to a right wing tea party candidate. Perriello has challenged Lt. Governor Ralph Northam for the party nomination and is parading himself around Virginia as the "progressive" candidate in the contest and holding himself out as the best choice for forward looking Virginians. Based on my research to date, Perriello's claims simply are not true.
Worse yet, in my view, Perriello's entrance into the contest is serving only three purposes: (i) to divide the party in Democrat Virginia - much as Bernie Sanders did in the 2016 presidential race, (ii) to divert funds that would be better spent on the general election against the eventual Republican opponent, and (ii) fan the vanities of Perriello and his out of state endorsers such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who seemingly have not done their homework when it comes to Perriello. What is most disturbing is that, if the Republicans should win the governor's mansion in November, 2017, the consequences for many Virginians will be horrific. LGBT rights, women's rights and minority rights will have no firewall to stop the ugliest efforts of the currently Republican controlled House of Delegates or to push back against the most egregious Trump/Pence initiatives. Look no farther than North Carolina to see what GOP control of the governor's mansion could mean. All so that Perriello, Sanders and Warren can satisfy their egos?I will be blunt. I do not believe that Perriello can win against someone like the heavily funded GOP gubernatorial front runner, Ed Gillespie and, if that happens, the outcome will harm Virginians and Virginia's economy for years to come. Tom Perriello claims that he has broad grassroots support, yet nearly 60% of Perriello's campaign funds raised to date has come from sources outside of Virginia as have all of his major endorsements.
In sharp contrast, virtually all of Virginia's major domestic Democrats have endorsed Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in the coming Democrat primary. Why? Several reasons, in my view. First, because Northam is a steady candidate with years of experience unlike Perriello, a two year flash in the pan, despite Warren's efforts to fluff his resume. Second, Northam has been in the trenches for years and has helped other Democrat candidates and worked with the party's grassroots, if you will. My husband and I have been in those trenches for years (I confess I've turned him into an activist), have been on host committees and given money over and over again. Perriello has been nowhere to be seen in Virginia or in Virginia politics. Third, Northam is right on the issues - including LGBT rights which Perriello barely mentions in passing on his campaign website - and brings the much needed perspective of a physician into play.Most disturbing, however, is the fact that Perriello is not being honest with primary voters about his actual record. While arguably progressive on a few economic issues, the rest of his stances and voting record are anything but progressive. Here's a sampling of what Slate.com had to say earlier in the year about Perriello's less than truthful storyline (emphasis mine):But this narrative isn’t quite right. Northam may have crafted a moderate image, but in reality he is a fierce advocate for liberal causes who hews closely to the Democratic platform. And Perriello, for all his progressive bona fides, has a voting record that clashes with the party’s current support for gun safety measures and, more importantly, reproductive rights. During his unsuccessful 2010 re-election campaign, Perriello boasted of his A rating from the National Rifle Association, which was a result of his opposition to an assault weapons ban.When then–Attorney General Eric Holder proposed reinstating the ban, Perriello wrote a letter to Obama asserting that “to even consider reinstating an ‘assault weapon’ ban is an affront to our Founding Fathers, who so clearly understood the importance of the ordinary citizens' right to keep and bear arms.”Perriello’s anti-abortion record will be harder to explain. In 2009, Perriello voted for the odious Stupak amendment, a dramatic extension of the infamous Hyde amendment. The Stupak amendment would’ve prohibited insurance companies that participate in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges from covering abortion.Five Thirty Eight blog hasn't been much kinder to Perriello and has looked at Perriello's recent gyrations to disavow - and distract voters from - his past positions:
This desire to win over activists might account for a number of position shifts Perriello has made of late. In January, he pilloried the NRA as “nut-job extremist organization” in the post-Sandy Hook era, but during his time in Congress, he received campaign funds and an “A” rating from the organization. In January, Virginia GOP chairman John Whitbeck made a sneering prediction about Perriello’s stance on offshore drilling, which he had supported while in Congress: “I look forward to yet another heart-felt, tear filled Jimmy Swaggart-style Facebook post in which Tom Perriello repents for his previous sins.On offshore drilling, Perriello also voted against increasing safety standards at offshore drilling rigs after the BP oil spill. On immigration, Perriello is equally duplicitous and must be channeling Donald Trump as his model. America Rising had this to say (emphasis mine):
During his short gubernatorial campaign, Perriello has already flip-flopped on off-shore drilling, government funding of abortions, and Second Amendment rights. Now Perriello has added immigration to that already voluminous list of flip-flops. According to Politico, Perriello now supports immigration reform and the DREAM Act, but when he ran for Congress Perriello was a supporter of undocumented immigrants “self-deporting.”Yes, you read that correctly. Perriello said immigrants should self-deport themselves. He is equally disingenuous when it comes to the issue of gay rights. In his 2008 congressional campaign, Perriello said that marriage should be defined between a man and a woman. In contrast Lt. Governor Northam supported marriage equality in his 2013 campaign. In addition, he cast a tiebreaking vote in 2015 to advance legislation barring discrimination in state hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Compare Northam's campaign web page with its entire section on LGBT rights and civil rights with Perriello's slim sentence on the entire issue of civil rights and the difference is glaring.
Suffice it to say, of the two, Ralph Northam - who as noted above I have known from the beginning of his state senate career - is the true progressive and the true LGBT ally and the right person to move Virginia forward as Governor of Virginia. I urge you to go to the polls on June 13, 2017 in the Democrat primary and vote for Ralph Northam. The 2016 presidential election should be a stark reminder of the consequences of staying home and not voting. Ralph Northam will not disappoint you.