Fascism Watch, March 4-5


Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones. This whole article is amazing. Here’s a small portion:

“It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Mr. Trump’s phone conversations. It would have meant that the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to persuade a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe he had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal investigation or a foreign intelligence one.

Former officials pointed to longstanding laws and procedures intended to ensure that presidents cannot wiretap a rival for political purposes.

“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Mr. Obama. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.”

But a senior White House official said that Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s chief counsel, was working on Saturday to secure access to what Mr. McGahn believed was an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.

The official offered no evidence to support the notion that such an order exists. If one does, it would be highly unusual for a White House to order the Justice Department to turn over such an investigative document, given the traditional independence of law enforcement matters.”

White House requests Congress investigate whether Obama administration abused power

Trump flashes anger over Sessions recusal, Russia stories in tense Oval Office meeting

The Conspiratorial Game of Telephone in Bannon’s Rag that Made Left, Right, and POTUS Go Crazy

Comey Asks Justice Dept. to Reject Trump’s Wiretapping Claim

Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment. Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment.

Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness.

It’s literally pay to play at Mar-a-Lago

It’s a nice setup for those who want some government favor and can afford a six-figure check. And it’s a nice setup for Donald Trump.

Jeff Sessions, who couldn’t possibly have anything better to do this weekend, was greeting guests at a gala.

Trump sons, planning expansion of family business, look to leverage campaign experience

The company says it has signed at least 17 letters of intent with potential developers. It is targeting an array of cities such as Austin, Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville and Seattle — and Trump Jr. said the campaign proved useful in forging relationships with potential new connections.

“I met people along the way that would be awesome partners,” he said.

Yet another person connected to Trump and Russia has died: Alex Oronov. Oronov was connected to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, whom you might remember from his colorful threats to the Daily Beast over their coverage of Ivana Trump’s abuse claims.

Last week I wrote about Michael Cohen and his extensive network of personal and business relationships in the Ukrainian-American emigre community. One of those was a man named Alex Oronov, who runs a major agribusiness concern in Ukraine. Oronov was a partner in the ethanol business Cohen and Cohen’s brother Bryan set up in Ukraine about a decade ago. Oronov is Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law. Today we learned that Oronov apparently organized that ‘peace plan’ meeting that brought together Ukrainian MP Artemenko, Cohen and Felix Sater. About four hours ago Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian who came to New York with that ‘peace plan’, went on Facebook to announce that Alex Oronov has died.

Oronov reportedly lived in one of Trump’s Florida condos.

Keystone pipeline won’t use US steel despite Trump pledge

Trump campaign applies to trademark ‘Keep America Great!’ as his 2020 campaign slogan

Trump’s long history of racism is well documented, but this moment from Don Cheadle is just… wow.


Trump to unveil new immigration ban on Monday. Here’s the weird part: “Employees at DHS were instructed to work from home on Monday morning.” Are we planning for a Reichstag fire, or do we just not want anyone at work to answer the phone?

Trump admin. plans expanded immigrant detention. We’ll have the best internment camps, big league, lots of federal contracts, with bonus slave labor.

ETA: The sign appears to be street art.

After Decades In The U.S., NY Immigrant With Years-Old Pot Conviction Faces Deportation

Deportation of grandmother leaves a San Diego military family reeling

Clarissa Arredondo, 43, is the mother of Adriana Aparicio, whose husband is a Navy veteran working as a contractor in Afghanistan. The couple has two daughters, 2 and 3, and Arredondo, who came to the U.S. more than 25 years ago, helped take care of them.


Some GOP lawmakers’ block-everything mentality could imperil big-picture plans

Across the Capitol, there’s a new generation of Republicans who have risen to power since the GOP last attempted to enact a sweeping agenda that would overhaul big pieces of the economy such as the health-care and tax systems. Quite simply, there aren’t many Republicans around with muscle memory of what it’s like to craft large pieces of legislation that rely almost entirely on votes from their side of the aisle.

The problem is particularly acute in the House, where just 60 Republicans — a quarter of their caucus — have ever served in the majority with a GOP president.

Moreover, more than 160 House Republicans are getting their first taste of working with a Republican president. Their entire legislative careers until now have been dedicated to stopping an administration’s actions.

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

Sessions Will Submit Amended Testimony, Address Senators’ Questions on Monday. Get your popcorn ready.

Home Alone in the Trump Administration

President Trump has appointed fewer than three dozen of the top 1,000 officials he needs to run the federal government. Worse, he doesn’t think that’s a problem.

The president seems to have lost interest in the nomination process after making his cabinet and Supreme Court picks, people involved in the transition say. Now, he’s trying to pass off his inattention as some kind of plan. “In many cases, we don’t want to fill those jobs,” he said on Fox News this week. “What do all these people do? You don’t need all those jobs.”

The Washington Post has a handy tracker for positions requiring Senate confirmation. Trump keeps complaining that Congress is dragging its feet on confirming his nominees, but there are currently 517 positions he hasn’t even nominated.

The Curious Case of Sebastian Gorka, Trump’s New Terrorism Guru. He’s advising on national security but doesn’t appear to have security clearance.

Even Scott Pruitt thinks the not-yet-public proposed EPA budget cuts are too much.

Under Trump, an Already Depleted I.R.S. Could Face Deep Cuts. It’s madness to cut the agency that’s in charge of bringing in money, unless perhaps Trump doesn’t like the fact that they expect money from him and his friends.

Trump’s budget proposal includes steep cuts to NOAA, surprising no one. Still, that’s depressing.

Trump’s neglect of the CDC while China is experiencing a bird flu epidemic has set up the US for a health crisis

This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World. ‘“The Camp of the Saints” tells a grotesque tale about a migrant invasion to destroy Western civilization.’ It really is stunning; steel yourself before reading this.

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, March 1

Me: Trump’s speech went over well, so the halo effect should last a couple of days, right?

Trump team: Hold my beer.

Let’s start with the part where Jeff Sessions perjured himself:

Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

… and now back to Russia.

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

It’s now political suicide for Republicans if they don’t call for a deeper investigations on Russia

Remember that dossier on Trump and Russia? Here are 16 reasons we now know it wasn’t “fake news.”

The State of Trump’s State Department

Officials: Still No Actionable Intel from Yemen SEAL Raid

DREAMer Daniela Vargas was detained by federal agents moments after leaving a news conference where she spoke about her fear of being deported.

Trump misled reporters on immigration to get good coverage pre-speech.

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 21-28

Sorry for the break, everyone. I spent the majority of the last week driving around the state, and what with the pinched nerve in my neck, that was even more exhausting and painful than usual. I’m attempting to catch up on the news, but I’m sure I’m missing things. I’ll pick up the threads over the next few days.

In Other News

In addition to What the Fuck Just Happened Today?, there’s a new daily site & email newsletter from Amanda Rivkin called the Trumpistan Watch. I highly recommend it for perspective on Russian and European events.


In the House, Leaders of Russia Inquiry Are Split on Whether It’s Needed

Minority Whip Dick Durbin returned from a trip to Ukraine and laid out the case for a special investigation into Russia’s influence on the election.

Durbin said U.S. allies are asking about Russian influence in the election, adding that one Polish leader in Warsaw told him, “If you don’t take Russia’s invasion into your election seriously, how will you take Putin’s invasion into Poland? Will you take that seriously?”

Also in that article, “Jeff Sessions said for the first time that he’ll recuse himself from the investigations if necessary.” About fucking time.


Trump’s budget calls for $54 billion more in military spending (seriously?!) and huge cuts to the EPA, education, and science programs. Retired U.S. military officers urge Congress to fully fund diplomacy and foreign aid.

Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. ‘Leakers’

Hours after the speech, as if to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s determination to punish reporters whose coverage he dislikes, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations from attending his daily briefing, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

And they finally benched Kellyanne Conway.

DHS Chief Says ‘No Use Of Military Force’ In Immigration Raids; Trump Calls Roundups ‘A Military Operation’

How Trump’s campaign staffers tried to keep him off Twitter. “The trick? Making sure his media diet included a healthy dose of praise.” Our White House staff are parenting the commander in chief.

Trump gives himself a ‘C or C+’ grade for communicating with the public: Needs improvement. Yes, dear. Everyone hates you because you’re just not very good at explaining how great you are, that’s all.

Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students

Op ed: I didn’t think I’d ever leave the CIA. But because of Trump, I quit.

Air Force can’t account for Trump’s claim of $1 billion in savings

Trump is performing the role of president, not doing the job. Pretty much.

Trump’s speech to Congress tonight was designed to make him sound like an adult, and it mostly succeeded, except maybe for the part where he threw his generals under the bus for the Yemen raid. On the other hand, 51 lies in 61 minutes would be astonishing from any other president.

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

White House accused of blocking information on Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross and his ties to Russia via the Bank of Cyprus via Putin ally Viktor Vekselberg (as previously discussed, Dec. 19)

Sessions Says DOJ to ‘Pull Back’ on Police Department Civil Rights Suits. Are we surprised.

NSA risks talent exodus amid morale slump, Trump fears. Also filed under “predictable results.”

Trio of military men gain growing influence with Trump

The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry

EPA braces for possible ‘devastating’ 25% budget cut

Trump’s pick for Navy secretary withdraws over conflict of interest rules


Here Comes The Police State

The camps of protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline have been cleared

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 15


Chaffetz and Goodlatte want to investigate the leaks that led to Flynn’s resignation–but not the actual Russian involvement

The Senate Intelligence Committee expects to begin hearing testimony later this month

Among those he would like to see testify are Flynn, Manafort and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired after she refused to defend Trump’s executive order on immigration.

“We’re going to do everything we can to be open and transparent,” Manchin said in an interview. “You need to clear it up.”

Congressman says constituents asking for a town hall are ‘enemies’ of democracy. What a time to be alive.

GOP super PAC linked to Paul Ryan used illegally hacked material against Democratic House candidates


It’s bigger than Flynn. New Russia revelations widen Trump’s credibility gap.

With Flynn gone, it would appear that Moscow had lost an ‘in’ to the Trump administration. But that would overstate the case. ‘They have other entrees,’ one senior State Department official told me. Flynn was just a messenger, in other words, and there are other people in the West Wing who are equally motivated to strike some kind of grand bargain with Putin.… And if Trump and Putin both want the deal done, it won’t be too hard to find another go-between.”

The Trump White House Is Screwed, Big League

Why did Trump reverse course on the One China policy? China finally awarded him the trademark he’s been after for ten years.

definition of emolument: the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisitesSome of Trump’s overseas business partners are also agents of foreign governments, according to intelligence gathered by our allies. Good thing they’re on it, since our government can’t be bothered. Highlights:

  • “the father of Trump’s Azerbaijani business partner is a government official who laundered money for the Iranian military”
  • a deal with the special representative from the Philippines “has already resulted in large payments to Trump’s business, with millions of dollars more on the way”
  • a Baltic nation is looking into Igor Sechin–head of Rosneft, former FSB officer, and personal friend of both Putin and Tillerson. “Yet, back in America, the name Sechin was not even mentioned during Tillerson’s confirmation hearings before the Senate.”

How Vladimir Putin Catfished A US Election With the Collusion of Team Trump

What if Vladimir Putin directed the entire attack – not via a “15 year old girl” from Gaston, North Carolina, but by a hardened group of adult hackers from that state who had penetrated the emails of Director Brennan of the CIA, and doxed and attacked hundreds of FBI and law enforcement personnel?

And what if, after making Carter Page’s recruiter Jeff Sessions Attorney General, Donald Trump repeated the trick by making the ‘prosecutor’ of those Carolina hackers Acting AG – then changing the order of succession at Justice to cement him as number two?

In this story I exclusively report the connections between the USSR-CWA hacker group of North Carolina ‘Crackas With Attitude’ and the “sexts with a 15 year old girl” from Gaston, North Carolina, that started the chain of events that led to James Comey’s forced letter to Congress, including the fact that the “15 year old girl”’s “email to Weiner” is in fact a series of plagiarized texts it is unlikely any 15 year old girl has read, including works by J.D. Salinger, David Foster Wallace, Charles Bukowski, and – yes – “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Group urges New York AG to put Trump out of business by revoking charter

Free Speech for People, one of the backers of a nascent campaign to try to impeach Trump, planned to deliver a 24-page letter Wednesday calling on Schneiderman to “investigate whether to bring proceeding to dissolve and revoke the charter of Trump Organization Inc.,” the New York-based company overseeing the president’s real estate, golf, hotel and other businesses that Trump founded and continues to own.

When asked about the rash of anti-Semitic hate crimes across the US, this was Trump’s response. Amazing.


Don’t Buy Mike Pence’s Innocent Act

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

Vice Admiral Robert Harward offered National Security Adviser job.

Harward, a 60-year-old former Navy SEAL, served as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command under now-Defense Secretary James Mattis. He previously served as deputy commanding general for operations of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III ensures Justice Department won’t investigate Russia connection

Andrew Puzder Withdraws From Consideration as Labor Secretary, reportedly because Oprah gave senators the tape in which his ex-wife appeared on her show to describe the abuse she suffered during their marriage.

Sean Spicer isn’t finished

Five of these sources think the person behind the leaks is Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s ever-visible White House counselor. Though they offer no hard evidence, they say Conway is trying to offload blame for administration setbacks on Spicer to prove she is the more effective public advocate and earn a lasting place in the President’s inner circle.


Russia charges four top intelligence officials with treason


Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 10-14

Me: Congress has pulled three all-nighters in a row and Trump is off to Florida for the weekend. I can take a break!

Trump staff: Hold my beer.


NY Times: Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence services, they said.

CNN: Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign

Trump turns Mar-a-Lago Club terrace into open-air situation room

“Someone opened up a laptop, and at the table . . . a group of Japanese people stood around the prime minister and Donald, and they were all looking at the laptop,” said Jay Weitzman, a member of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and founder of the Pennsylvania-based parking management company Park America. He was sitting three tables away from Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday evening.

“Whoa,” Weitzman remembered thinking. “What’s going on?”

“Turns out, it was a missile launch,” he said Monday.

Trump ran a campaign based on intelligence security. That’s not how he’s governing.

“Donald Trump for the longest time has been using a insecure Android phone that by all reports is so easy to compromise, it would not meet the security requirements of a teenager,” Weaver told NPR, and while he couldn’t say for sure, “we must assume that his phone has actively been compromised for a while, and an actively compromised phone is literally a listening device.”

That’s just one of the phones that may have been at the table for the conversation.

Russia ‘considering handing Edward Snowden to the US as a gift to Trump’

The Kremlin Is Starting to Worry About Trump

US investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier

A serving general is openly criticizing Trump. That’s extraordinary.

Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference on Tuesday. Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

Mike Flynn & the National Security Council

Mike Flynn flamed out spectacularly over the weekend and resigned on Monday.




K.T. McFarland Expected To Leave Current Position On NSC

McFarland brought some of Trump’s energy to national security council meetings, the Times reported Sunday. The paper reported that many “apolitical” members of the council were uncomfortable with her displays of partisanship, including at one recent meeting when she urged them to “make America great again.”

You know, I was watching The Hunt for Red October again over the weekend, and the presence of political officers on the Soviet submarines reminded me how very bizarre the Trump team’s political incursion into national security affairs would seem if we hadn’t been observing it in slow motion.

Why Flynn’s Resignation Matters. “A senior American official was compromised by his relationship with a foreign government. Who else has ties to the Russian state?”

Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller doubles down on claims of voter fraud and of ‘thousands’ of voters bused into New Hampshire.

Miller is so obviously promoting autocracy that even the Morning Joe crew are appalled:

Donald Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller appeared on the political talk shows and made a series of disturbingly despotic statements about the administration’s view of executive power, including the appalling declaration that “…our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned.”

The consistency of Miller’s statements across his appearances on various shows makes it extremely clear this message came from the administration itself and was not a one-off instance of overreach by a staff member.

The idea of the president having supreme power that cannot be questioned was so absurd that even Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski called it out as autocratic.

Shaun King profiles Stephen Miller’s ten pounds of bigotry in a five-pound sack

Reince Priebus

Trump friend says Priebus is ‘in way over his head’

Kellyanne Conway

Conway denies retweeting white nationalist. She says someone else used her phone to do it. That’s somehow better?!

In a remarkable interview, Kellyanne Conway’s spin about Mike Flynn crashes and burns

Pressed on that point, all Conway could do was respond that Flynn had been in on national security briefings and deliberations as late as yesterday, and then added that, “as time wore on, obviously the situation had become unsustainable.” But that’s an implicit concession that Flynn had been kept in this highly sensitive role despite the fact that his situation had become “unsustainable.”

Chaffetz, Cummings support ethics office opinion that Conway likely broke rules

Sean Spicer

Trump’s press secretary just called Justin Trudeau ‘Prime Minister Joe Trudeau of Canada’

Betsy DeVos

Education Department flunks spelling

Did Betsy DeVos Make You Want To Run For School Board?


Pence did not learn that Flynn misled him on Russia until last week. He’s throwing Trump under the bus.

With Pence gone, fellow Republicans undo his work in Indiana


Chaffetz says the House Oversight Committee won’t investigate Flynn. He also thinks the protesters at his town hall last week were paid and came from outside Utah. I don’t think there is a single person in Congress who is accurately reading the mood of the usually-complacent moderate voter right now. Maybe we should all send them postcards with Libba Bray’s fabulous poem.

While Trump scandals mount, Chaffetz decides to investigate… a cartoon character.

The chairman of the powerful panel — the main investigative committee in the House — sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demanding to know why, in an attempt to raise awareness of the Zika virus, “CDC appears poised to make a sole source award to the Jim Henson Company for $806,000 to feature Sid the Science Kid in an educational program about the virus.”

Republican senators call for investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia and want Flynn to testify, finally. Maybe they can goad Chaffetz into doing his job where his constituents’ screams failed.


Military veterans are returning to Standing Rock and pledging to shield indigenous activists from attacks by a militarized police force. “We’ve stood in the face of fire before. We feel a responsibility to use the skills we have.”

ACLU: It’s Time for Members of Congress to Show Up and Stand Up for Standing Rock

Immigration Ban

A US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone

DREAMer arrested in Seattle

Immigration Agents Arrest 600 People Across U.S. in One Week

Trump Says Refugees Are Flooding U.S. in Misleading Allusion


Russia Deploys Missile, Violating Treaty. But we have the greatest respect for and confidence in comrade Putin!

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 9: an entire administration compromised by Russia

(image by Sousa and Sam Machado)


Travel ban suspension upheld by 9th Circuit, unanimously . The ruling schools Trump on basic points of law.

[T]he Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The Government indeed asserts that it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.

There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. See Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 765 (2008) (rejecting the idea that, even by congressional statute, Congress and the Executive could eliminate federal court habeas jurisdiction over enemy combatants, because the “political branches” lack “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will”). Within our system, it is the role of the judiciary to interpret the law, a duty that will sometimes require the “[r]esolution of litigation challenging the constitutional authority of one of the three branches.” Zivotofsky ex rel. Zivotofsky v. Clinton, 566 U.S. 189, 196 (2012) (quoting INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 943 (1983)). We are called upon to perform that duty in this case.

Trump’s solicitor general candidate, who would argue the administration’s case before the Supreme Court, has dropped out

This morning: Whatever happened to the Trump-Russia story?

This evening: OH HERE IT IS. WaPo has nine sources who say Mike Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador during the campaign. Flynn has said he didn’t. Mike Pence said there had been no contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Trump’s latest call with Putin went well

When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said.

Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.

Democrat moves to force House debate on Trump’s alleged business conflicts and Russia ties. This is a possible first step toward impeachment.

Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics law by encouraging people to buy Ivanka Trump’s brands

Trump signs three new EOs giving police more authority despite drop in crime, rising violence by police against citizens. British journalists have no problem calling out Trump’s hypocrisy.

Remember all those pieces I’ve posted about how Trump admires Rodrigo Duterte’s handling of the war on drugs in the Philippines? HERE WE GO. Trump promises to ramp up the war on drugs in a speech to police chiefs. In other news, Amnesty International says Duterte may have committed crimes against humanity.

Jared Kushner is serving as a shadow State Department.

Kushner, 36, has no traditional foreign policy experience yet has become the primary point of contact for presidents, ministers and ambassadors from more than two dozen countries, helping lay the groundwork for deals. His influence extends throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

Trump administration prepares to execute “vicious” EO on deportations. In addition to last night’s deportation of a Phoenix mother, Twitter reports indicate ICE raids in Austin and LA. I’ll find better sources tomorrow.

California farmers who voted for Trump fear their field workers will be deported. This happened in Georgia and it was a disaster.

Border agents search WSJ reporter’s phone. The WSJ editor is holding a town hall meeting to discuss reporters’ frustration over his resistance to portraying Trump negatively.

WH cyber security chief leaves abruptly

Former DNI Clapper says Trump’s travel ban is “recruiting tool for extremists” 


Luther Strange to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate. This allows the Alabama governor to dodge an investigation.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has managed to sideline a key player in the ongoing effort to investigate — and potentially impeach or prosecute — him by appointing the state’s attorney general to succeed Sen. Jeff Sessions in the US Senate. … The governor, who denies doing anything illegal, now gets to name Strange’s replacement, an opportunity he could use to install an official less interested in pursuing a case against him.

Why did Democrat Joe Manchin vote to confirm Jeff Sessions?

A number of observers noted that Manchin’s daughter, Heather Bresch, was chief executive of the pharmaceutical company Mylan when it dramatically hiked the price of EpiPens. The matter is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice, which Sessions will now helm.

Senator Mike Lee says the GOP’s ACA replacement plan has to remain secret because it would be unpopular

Senate & House natural resource leaders denounce renewed DAPL construction. Trump, who shut down the White House comment line, says he hasn’t had one call about it and doesn’t think it was a controversial decision.

Jason Chaffetz had a town hall meeting in his Utah district tonight. He failed to answer questions and left 40 minutes early.

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

Unlike most Republicans, Tom Price has a detailed plan to replace the ACA.

Empowering Patients makes the individual market more advantageous for healthier people. It eliminates the essential health benefits package, which mandated that all insurers cover a set of 10 different types of care, including maternity services and pediatric care. Empowering Patients would allow insurers to cut whatever benefits they no longer want to cover — they could stop covering maternity benefits, for example, to make their plans less attractive to women who plan to become pregnant. This would likely benefit healthy people, who generally want less robust coverage at a cheaper price. But it’ll send the cost of more comprehensive plans — the plans sicker people need — skyrocketing. And it could leave someone who wants, say, health insurance to cover her maternity costs completely out of luck.

His confirmation vote has been scheduled for 2a.m. tonight. We see you, Mitch McConnell.

8 reasons Andy Puzder’s nomination is a mess

Steve Bannon lost $60 million of Goldman Sachs’s money on a World of Warcraft gold farming scheme

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 8


Sean Spicer references imaginary Atlanta terror attack to defend Trump’s travel ban

Canadian woman turned away from U.S. border after questions about religion, Trump

Muslim U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad says she was held by U.S. Customs

Longtime Phoenix resident in U.S. illegally detained in early display of Trump executive order’s reach

Sean Spicer just set an extraordinary standard for criticizing military operations under Trump

Spicer stood by his earlier assessment that the operation, in which Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed, was a success. And then he went further — much further.

“It’s absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens,” Spicer said at Wednesday’s daily briefing.

Trump launched Yemen raid after being told Obama wouldn’t have been ‘bold enough,’ report says

Trump’s Mix of Politics and Military Is Faulted

“When President Trump suggested that it was good to support him and said he was so thankful for the support of the military, it showed that he doesn’t understand what the military in a freely elected democracy is supposed to be doing,” said Mark Hertling, a retired Army lieutenant general.

“The military takes an oath to defend the Constitution, not certain politicians,” he added.

There’s a silver lining to Melania Trump’s libel suit against The Daily Mail.

“For students of good government, Melania’s lawsuit does have an upside: the discovery process.

Since she is seeking at least $150 million in damages stemming from missed business opportunities, the lawyers representing the Daily Mail should eventually avail themselves of their discovery powers to secure each and every e-mail, communique and document about White House business prospects that the Trump parents and children discussed. They should also subpoena the Trump family’s tax returns and banking records while they’re at it.”

Ivanka Trump oversaw Murdoch daughters’ trust. Role underscores close ties between US president’s family and Fox News.

Trump offers to ‘destroy’ Texas senator to help Rockwall sheriff

Trump administration seen as more truthful than news media: poll


Black Caucus Dems take to Senate to protest Sessions

House Republicans Chide NOAA Scientists Over Climate Data

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

Jeff Sessions is our Attorney General. Time travelers of the future, now would be a great time to show up and save us from this hell.

Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch says Trump’s attacks on judiciary are ‘demoralizing’

Trump labor nominee said 40% of his workers were once undocumented


Judges block North Carolina law limiting governor’s powers


Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 7


Yemen Withdraws Permission for U.S. Antiterror Ground Missions

WH official: We’ll say ‘fake news’ until media realizes attitude of attacking the President is wrong

Leaks Suggest Trump’s Own Team Is Alarmed By His Conduct He called Mike Flynn at 3a.m. to ask whether a strong dollar or a weak one is good for the economy. BUT HE’S A GREAT BUSINESSMAN.

“There are already plenty of grounds to impeach Trump. The question is when Republicans will decide that he’s more of a liability than an asset.”

Anderson Cooper Shuts Down The White House’s Terrorism List In Just 45 Seconds by showing clips of his own coverage of the “underreported” attacks. “The total number of media hits for the 78 terrorist attacks that the White House released Monday is 80,878, or about an average of slightly more than 1,000 mentions per incident.”

Trump falsely claims US murder rate is ‘highest’ in 47 years


Senate votes to silence Warren after speech against Sessions. By reading Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter against his confirmation as a federal judge, she was insulting a fellow Senator, Mitch McConnell decided.

The Senate voted, 49 to 43, strictly on party lines, to uphold the ruling that Warren violated rules of debate. Warren is now forbidden from speaking during the remainder of the debate on the nomination of Sessions.

“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said after McConnell’s motion.

Republican congressman says white terrorists are different

Mitch McConnell won’t spend federal money to investigate Trump’s claims of voter fraud

Congress has the power to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns

Immediately after confirming DeVos, GOP lawmaker proposes abolishing Department of Education

House moves to eliminate commission overseeing voting system security

The danger isn’t that Trump will build an autocracy. It’s that congressional Republicans will let him.

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

As expected, Mike Pence broke the tie to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

EPA employees put their jobs on the line to protest Scott Pruitt

What Steve Bannon really wants

CNN invited Kellyanne Conway back. It was a train wreck.


Army Approves Dakota Access Pipeline Route, Paving Way For The Project’s Completion “In doing so, the Army cut short its environmental impact assessment and the public comment period associated with it.”

Other Fascist Nonsense

FBI axes FOIA requests by email, so dust off your fax machine

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 6

(image by Steve Sack)


Ron Rosenbaum, world-class expert on the rise of Hitler, refused to write about Trump for months. Until now.

Cut to the current election. We had heard allegations that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, but somehow we normalized that. We didn’t take him seriously because of all the outrageous, clownish acts and gaffes we thought would cause him to drop out of the race. Except these gaffes were designed to distract. This was his secret strategy, the essence of his success — you can’t take a stand against Trump because you don’t know where Trump is standing. You can’t find him guilty of evil, you can’t find him at all.

Government by White Nationalism Is Upon Us

President Trump is now speculating that the media is covering up terrorist attacks

Speaking to the U.S. Central Command on Monday, President Trump went off his prepared remarks to make a truly stunning claim: The media was intentionally covering up reports of terrorist attacks.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening,” he said to the assembled military leaders. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

John Yoo op-ed: Executive Power Run Amok

As an official in the Justice Department, I followed in Hamilton’s footsteps, advising that President George W. Bush could take vigorous, perhaps extreme, measures to protect the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks, including invading Afghanistan, opening the Guantánamo detention center and conducting military trials and enhanced interrogation of terrorist leaders. Likewise, I supported President Barack Obama when he drew on this source of constitutional power for drone attacks and foreign electronic surveillance.

But even I have grave concerns about Mr. Trump’s uses of presidential power.

Yoo is the author of the Bush-era Torture Memos.

A Der Spiegel op-ed has called for a German-led international alliance against Trump.

The United States president is becoming a danger to the world. It is time for Germany and Europe to prepare their political and economic defenses.

Donald Trump will not be allowed to address Parliament on UK state visit

“However, as far as this place is concerned I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”

“Any negative polls are fake news”: President Trump encourages his 24M Twitter followers to ignore accurate polls

Over a dozen state AGs support lawsuit against Trump ban

Bipartisan NatSec officials to court: “In our professional opinion, the Order was ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained.”

Mike Huckabee to Fox Business: I don’t understand the role of the judiciary, and I’ll frame my ignorance in toxic masculinity!

I think in the past we have had an executive branch that has emasculated itself by surrendering constantly to the idea that once the court says something, that’s it. It’s the law of the land, and when I hear that phrase, it’s the law of the land cause the court said it, I think did you guys pass ninth grade civics for gosh sake? The court can’t make law. They cannot legislate.

Last week’s Yemen raid should warrant as much investigation as Benghazi did

But by Republican standards, this should be a major, impeachment-worthy scandal. Unless there’s some arbitrary minimum number of U.S. casualties (greater than one but less than four) above which administrative heads should roll, there’s no standard by which Benghazi should have become the subject of a vast, conspiratorial inquest, but the botched raid in Yemen should not.

Melania Trump’s lawyers admit she hoped to cash in on being First Lady by selling clothes and fragrances


Kremlin says it wants apology from Fox News over Putin comments


The craziest politician in Washington last week was not Donald Trump. Let’s talk about the amazeballs letter Patrick McHenry sent to Janet Yellen.

Congressman Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC.), a vice-chairman on the House Financial Services Committee, has sent a blistering letter to Federal Reserve Chair Yellen telling her in no uncertain terms to stop cooperating with other central banks and insurance supervisors over global rules of conduct, at least until the new administration has given her a clear political line to follow.

Oversight chairman seeking copy of Trump hotel lease  Jason Chaffetz makes a vague gesture toward doing his job! Stop the presses!

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

NPR lists the status of all the Cabinet nominees’ confirmations!

CNN has finally refused to book Kellyanne Conway, which more news outlets should do when WH representatives stand up and lie to the public. Her claim that the “Bowling Green Massacre” was a slip is belied by earlier instances of the same nonexistent incident. Mika Brzezinski says MSNBC has also passed on having Conway on Morning Joe.

Scott Pruitt, EPA pick, perjured himself. No one cares.

The Ethics Case Against Betsy DeVos

As former ethics counsels to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, we’ve reviewed more than our share of ethics filings for cabinet nominees. Seldom have we seen a worse cabinet-level ethics mess than that presented by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary.

Her extensive financial holdings present significant—and unresolved—conflict of interest issues. She also failed to provide the Senate with accurate information about her involvement with outside organizations. We have regretfully come to the conclusion that these concerns disqualify DeVos for that cabinet position.

Nearly 250 education and civil rights groups say they oppose Betsy DeVos. Kellyanne Conway says the opposition to DeVos isn’t from “real people.

Democrats are holding the Senate floor all night to rally opposition to DeVos.

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.


Fascism Watch, February 4-5


Trump Clashes Early With Courts, Portending Years of Legal Battles

Late in the day, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to pre-emptively blame the judge and the judiciary for what the president suggested would be a future terrorist attack.

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” Mr. Trump wrote, a day after referring to the “so-called judge” in the case. “If something happens blame him and court system.”

Appeals Court Rejects DOJ Request to Immediately Restore Travel Ban

Inside the White House-Cabinet battle over Trump’s immigration order

The disagreement between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Two administration officials gave the following account of their exchange: Respectfully but firmly, the retired general told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with President Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.

Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles

But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.

He does not read the orders he signs.

Trump tells Fox News California is ‘out of control’ and he may strip its federal funding

Pence suggests a path to end Russian sanctions

Trump is targeting up to 8 million people for deportation

Cabinet & Federal Appointees

Trump’s F.D.A. pick “has argued that companies should not have to prove that their drugs work in clinical trials before selling them to consumers.”

Jeff Sessions, vile human being, blamed disabled children for ‘decline in civility’ in schools

Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch Has a Troubling History When Ruling on Disability Rights Cases

Vincent Viola has dropped out of the running for Army Secretary because he could not divest himself of his business interests to the Pentagon’s standards.

How The Fast-Food Chain Led By Trump’s Labor Nominee Stiffed Workers Again And Again “Hardee’s workers in Pennsylvania were required to pay 10 cents per hour for the privilege of wearing a Hardee’s uniform.”

What You Can Do

Keep calling your representatives (and only your representatives), even if you have phone anxiety. Check It’s Time to Fight or for your call list and scripts.

Originally published at Stephanie Leary. You can comment here or there.