Friday, August 31, 2018

Trump the pariah to sit and sulk as Washington pays its respects to McCain - Trump approval numbers crater, half favor Impeachment

Mod: The strangest man to have ever occupied the White House will be spending the weekend alone.

Trump the pariah to sit and sulk as Washington pays its respects to McCain (The Guardian link): “The lion of the US Senate,” said Barack Obama during a stirring eulogy at the funeral mass for Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009. Listening at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston were George W Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain. Death came to McCain nine years to the day after Kennedy, and by the same cause: brain cancer. Tributes are being paid this week, including a memorial service at the National Cathedral on Saturday where Washington high society will gather. This time, however, the president will be nowhere to be seen.

Donald Trump’s absence – perhaps at the White House, maybe even on the golf course – will not only underscore the antipathy between him and McCain, who made clear he did not want Trump at his funeral. It is also a sign of how the celebrity businessman has embraced the power of the presidency but shunned the responsibilities of a head of state.

Last Saturday, Trump gave a grudging response to McCain’s death. Past presidents, senators and various organisations unfurled lyrical tributes. Trump resorted to Twitter to offer his “deepest sympathies and respect” to McCain’s family. He added, complete with jarring exclamation mark: “Our hearts and prayers are with you!

According to the Washington Post, which dubbed Trump “president non grata”, White House aides had written a statement that honored McCain’s service as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and his long career on Capitol Hill and described him as a “hero” – only for Trump to veto it in favour of the 21-word tweet.

Then came a flag farce. The stars and stripes flew at half-mast at the White House, as is protocol, yet on Monday morning it was back at full mast, prompting widespread criticism – especially as flags remained lowered on other federal buildings. General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, tweeted a photo of the flag flying high above the executive mansion with the comment: “Remember this image the next time this president talks about disrespecting veterans.”

By afternoon the blunder had been corrected. Trump, who seldom backs down, issued a statement that began with a negative: “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.”

But the damage had been done. Former president Jimmy Carter told Fox News Trump “made a mistake” with the tweet that made no mention of McCain’s military and political service, adding on the MSNBC that the subsequent official statement was “still not as enthusiastic as it should be”.

Trump acknowledged McCain in public remarks that night. But he will play no part in the senator’s lying in state in the US Capitol rotunda on Friday, where Vice-President Mike Pence will deliver remarks and present a wreath; nor at the national memorial service on Saturday where Bush, Obama and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger will be among those delivering tributes; nor at his burial at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis on Sunday, where Senator Lindsey Graham and General David Petraeus will speak.

Once again, Trump has defied the conventions of the capital and found himself an outcast.

Sally Quinn, an author, contributor to the Washington Post and celebrated Washington host, said: “He has absolutely no respect for any kind of tradition in Washington. It is such bad form.

“There is now this level where nothing he does is shocking any more. All week people have been saying can you believe the flag was up and then down and then up again, but then there’s a shrug. That’s who he is. He’s a man without honour.”

In April, there was a glaringly obvious, Trump-shaped hole at former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral in Houston, where his wife Melania Trump was photographed alongside past presidents and first ladies, looking curiously happy.

Quinn commented: “This is going to be much worse. McCain is a national hero in the national cathedral and Trump will be sitting fuming in the White House. Saturday is going to be a very bad day for Donald Trump.”

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, suggested Trump has failed to understand the ceremonial power of the presidency to bring people together and promote his own causes.

“Sure,” he said, “the guy is coarse, but that’s not the main issue here. The flag going up and down is a metaphor for his lack of realpolitik qualifications. Machiavelli would be blushing at the sheer ineptitude.”

Saturday will be a moment of “national humiliation”, Jacobs said. “It’s part of a big pattern. In so many ways, Donald Trump has marooned himself on a faraway island. His boat is now wrecked on the shore and he’s sitting sulking.”

Along with the Bush funeral, Trump was not invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and American actor Meghan Markle.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior adviser to Bill Clinton and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, said: “He’s a designated non-mourner. From Windsor to Washington, he is beyond the pale. I can’t think of another president who is beyond the pale.”

In Washington itself, the president remains something of a pariah, apparently dining only at the White House or his nearby luxury hotel.

“He lives in his own little kingdom, his own kleptocratic state which has the physical manifestation of his hotel, which should have a moat around it,” Blumenthal said. “He just doesn’t mix at all.”

Trouble for Trump: Disapproval at a high, 63% back Mueller, half favor impeachment (ABC News link): Disapproval of Donald Trump is at a new high, support for the Mueller investigation is broad and half of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll favor Congress initiating impeachment proceedings against the president.

Sixty percent in the national survey disapprove of Trump’s performance in office, numerically the highest of his presidency, albeit by a single point; that includes 53 percent who disapprove strongly, more than half for the first time. Thirty-six percent approve, matching his low.

The results come a week after Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of fraud, and his former longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including illegal campaign finance actions that he said Trump directed.

Trump’s average approval rating since taking office is the lowest for any president in modern polling since the 1940s. One factor: Contrary to his “drain the swamp” rhetoric, 45 percent say corruption in Washington has increased under Trump, while just 13 percent say it’s declined.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Are Trumpism and Racism Synonymous? Andrew Gillum Responds To Desantis's 'Monkey This Up' Comments, Says He's Not Going Into Gutter with Trump and His Opponent

Andrew Gillum
Mod: It didn't take long. It's just one very short day into the final lap and Trump's candidate for Governor of Florida lays down the race card.

Florida’s high-stakes race for governor quickly turns nasty (AP News link): In a sign that the next 10 weeks could eclipse past campaigns in the nation’s largest political battleground, Florida’s race for governor swiftly became heated and personal after the surprising primary victories of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Gillum, a left leaning Democrat seeking to become the state’s first black governor, and DeSantis, a Trump-endorsed Republican, are political opposites. DeSantis assailed Gillum in a Wednesday television appearance that critics denounced as racist after the Republican called Gillum an “articulate” candidate, but said “the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting this state.” President Donald Trump, also weighed in on the race by calling Gillum a “failed socialist mayor” on Twitter.

Gillum responded by decrying what he called the “gutter politics” of DeSantis that he said echoes the influence of Trump on American politics.

“I think the Florida electorate is going to reject the politics of division,” Gillum said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re going to try to compel and appeal to the higher values of the people of the state of Florida.”

A liberal Florida Democrat pulled off an upset victory in the state’s primary for governor while President Trump’s favored candidate cruised to victory for the GOP. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will face congressman Ron DeSantis in November.

The exchange between the two campaigns came less than a day after a primary outcome that appeared unthinkable a few months ago. DeSantis came from behind in the GOP primary with the help of Trump to beat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who campaigned longer, raised more money and built party establishment support.

Gillum upset a field of five that included former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who was hoping to become the state’s first female governor and win the office once held by her father, Bob Graham. Gillum spent the least of the major candidates, but won the hearts of those who consider themselves progressives, and got a late boost from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

DeSantis, who has been a frequent guest on Fox News, took to the network to blast his general election opponent as someone who would hurt the state. But his interview came quickly came under fire by Democrats and quickly raged across social media.

“That was more than a dog-whistle,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “That was absolutely a racist, disgusting statement. I don’t think there’s any other way to interpret it.”

Andrew Gillum Responds To Desantis's 'Monkey This Up' Comments, Says He's Not Going Into Gutter with Trump and His Opponent (Newsweek link): Tallahassee, Florida, Mayor Andrew Gillum—the Democratic nominee in the race to become Florida's next governor—responded to comments on Wednesday from his opponent warning voters not "monkey this up" and elect Gillum

Gillum—who ran on a progressive agenda and was endorsed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders—made history by becoming the first black nominee for governor in Florida with his surprising election win on Tuesday. The Tallahassee mayor was interviewed by Fox NewsShepard Smith on Wednesday, just hours after his opponent, Representative Ron DeSantis, made the comments on the same network. 

"It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump, but I think he’s got another thing coming to him if he thinks that in today’s day in age Florida voters are going to respond to that level of derision and division—they’re sick of it," Gillum said. "What we’re trying to offer in this race is a north star for where we want to go as a state." 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Donald Trump Warns Of Violence If Democrats Win In November

Mod: Here is a question. Is it just me, or is Trump starting to sound even more nuts than usual lately? Here is an example of his "deep end" politics.

Trump warns of ‘violence’ if GOP loses midterms in private talk with clergy (The Guardian link): In a private meeting with Christian ministers, Donald Trump warned of “violence” if Republicans do not maintain control of Congress in the midterm elections, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the New York Times.

At a state dinner for evangelical Christian ministers on Monday night at the White House, Trump urged religious leaders to use the power of their pulpits to make sure that “all of your people vote” in November, the New York Times reported.

“You’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got,” Trump reportedly told them.

If Republicans lose Congress, “they will end everything immediately”, the president said, seemingly referring to Congressional Democrats.

He went on: “They will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently. And violently. There’s violence. When you look at antifa, and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.”

The Times reported that these additional remarks did not make clear “whom he was talking about”.


A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether the president was referring to congressional Democrats as “violent people”, or to comment on what connection the president was alleging between establishment Democratic lawmakers and young anti-fascist protesters.

Trump’s comments appear to echo the rhetoric of political advertisements from the rightwing National Rifle Association. In a much-criticized video advertisement last year, the gun rights group used footage from street protests to paint the entire American left, and all Americans who oppose president Trump, as violent thugs who “bully and terrorize the law-abiding”. The ad’s incendiary rhetoric was sharply criticized, with one critic calling it “a whisper shy of a call for full civil war”.

Over the past two years, as emboldened neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have staged public rallies and marches across the United States, black-clad anti-fascist protesters, or “antifa”, have shown up to demonstrate against them. Anti-fascist protesters argue that the best way to prevent American neo-Nazis from growing more powerful is to make them afraid to meet or demonstrate in public.

Many of the rightwing groups that “antifa” demonstrators show up to protest are self-described fascists. But the tactics of direct street protest and physical confrontation remain controversial among many Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Trump forced to take a knee when the American Legion stood up for John McCain

Mod: The flag on top of the White House told quite a story yesterday, yet for many people what went down remains a mystery. Here is what really happened.

Trump retreated when the American Legion stood up for McCain (NBC News link): There was no way President Donald Trump could sustain a fight for long with the American Legion over Old Glory and Sen. John McCain.

He's hung his hat — politically and on policy — on being a champion for veterans. So while Trump could ignore the pleas of many Americans to honor the former prisoner of war, onetime Republican presidential nominee and 35-year veteran of Congress by ordering U.S. flags to fly at half-staff, he couldn't turn a deaf ear to the nation's most prominent veterans organizations.

It wasn't just the American Legion, which called on him to reverse his decision to keep the flag at its full position about an hour before he reversed course. Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told NBC News that the group made a similar request to the White House via email Monday morning.

"We have not received a response back yet, but hope they are in agreement," he said in a phone interview just before Trump relented. As it turned out — after many hours — the president had found his way to their side.

The pressure from the veterans groups had to make clear to Trump that it wasn't just a political loser for him to snub McCain but a threat to the brand he's tried to build by tying himself to America's passion for the military, its veterans and its flag.

Trump can't afford to have the nation's veterans turn their backs on him the way he turned his back — or held his flag at full-staff — to spite McCain. He needs to avoid angering them, both to protect his veterans agenda in Washington and for his re-election hopes.

McCain is not universally popular among veterans — and insulting McCain's service during the 2016 campaign didn't cost Trump the Republican nomination or the presidency — but turning the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars into enemies would have been politically toxic.

, who received educational and medical deferments from serving in the war that put McCain in a Vietnamese prison camp for five-and-a-half years, wants to throw himself a military parade in Washington in the midst of two wars that the U.S. has been engaged in for nearly two decades.

He's benefited politically from the support he's pledged to the military and the nation's veterans community — including his work on a spate of bipartisan laws designed to improve conditions at veterans medical facilities — as well as from the fact that many current and former service members agree with him on a wide range of other issues.

His retreat in the face of pressure from veterans groups demonstrates that he understands there's a limit to how much he can insult a high-profile veteran without damaging his own standing. And while the pushback from the American Legion and VFW didn't rise to the level of harsh criticism — they simply asked him to honor McCain when he wasn't doing it — their willingness to take on a commander in chief obsessed with loyalty suggests that they have a certain influence with him that neither his critics nor most of his allies do.

And in a show of just how urgent it was for Trump to reverse course, the flags at the White House were lowered back to half-staff — where they had stood on Sunday before being returned to the tops of their poles Monday morning — before he issued the official order to federal agencies to honor McCain.

Trump doesn't like to back down from any fight. Yet he had no choice but to retreat when the leaders of millions of vets came knocking.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Donald Trump is watching people praise John McCain and he can't take it

Russia Today video clip of Trump smearing McCain's military service (link)

Mod: I'm not sure it gets any more pathetic than this. Has there ever been so small-minded, vindictive, and sad a human being in the White House? Great quote: "The Trump-right is mocking and trolling McCain's death. Smite them if you wish, but know one thing with perfect clarity. History will record John McCain as a hero, a legend and a man in full. Donald Trump will go down as a coward, cheat, weakling, failure, and traitor." - Rick Wilson

White House drafted a statement on John McCain, but never released it (CNN link): White House aides drafted a fulsome statement for President Donald Trump on the death of Sen. John McCain, but it was never sent out, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN.

Several staff members believed the official White House statement, which went through an internal approval process, would be released at the time of the Arizona Republican's death, which occurred on Saturday. But as the President spent Sunday at his Virginia golf course, the statement never went out, the source said.

White House aides did not make plans for a televised statement on McCain's passing, which would have been routine under similar circumstances in other recent presidencies.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump went against the advice of senior aides to issue an official White House statement praising McCain for his heroism and decades of service, telling aides he instead wanted to post a brief tweet.

Trump's tweet Saturday night did not mention his military or Senate service or include any praise for the late Arizona Republican.

Another source familiar with the matter also confirmed to CNN that there had been plans to go further than just the Twitter post released by the President.

The Post, which cited current and former White House aides who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations, said White House chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders and other staff urged the release of an official statement calling McCain a "hero" and praising him for his extensive service to the country. Trump and McCain had a tense relationship, and McCain was one of the administration's most outspoken Republican critics.

After Trump's joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, in which Trump did not endorse US intelligence findings on Russian election meddling over Putin's denial, McCain said: "The damage inflicted by President Trump's naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake."

As a presidential candidate, Trump -- who did not serve in the military himself and avoided the draft through a series of deferments -- attacked McCain's record of service and said the Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war is "not a war hero" because he was captured.

"I like people that weren't captured," Trump said. Trump later acknowledged that McCain was a hero, but refused to apologize in subsequent interviews. In May, CNN reported McCain did not want Trump at his funeral.

Tributes to McCain continued to pour in from former US presidents, members of Congress and foreign leaders while Trump golfed on Sunday. His Twitter feed was largely silent except for retweets of his own posts criticizing the investigation into Russian election interference and boasting about the growing economy.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Donald Trump does NOT pay tribute to John McCain's personal achievements and only offers sympathy to his family, as its claimed the president 'will NOT be invited to the senator's funeral'

Mod: An article from The Daily Mail that discusses John McCain's request that former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deliver the eulogies at his funeral, and that Donald Trump not be in attendance.

Donald Trump does NOT pay tribute to John McCain's personal achievements and only offers sympathy to his family, as its claimed the president 'will NOT be invited to the senator's funeral' (The Daily Mail link): As the nation mourns the loss of Senator John McCain, preparations for the war hero's funeral are underway - but one face sure to be missing from the crowd is president Donald Trump.

McCain had been locked in a war of words with Trump dating back to 2015 and specified months ago that he did not want the president to attend his funeral.

Those close to the Republican Arizona senator reportedly started making arrangements for McCain's funeral in May, nearly a year after he announced that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of brain cancer.

He died on Saturday at his Arizona home surrounded by his family at the age of 81.

According to a report by the New York Times, McCain's inner circle said vice president Mike Pence was invited to the services but not Trump.

The Times cited McCain's 'rocky relationship' with the president as the reason Trump was not on the invite list.

McCain reportedly spent the last year of his life planning his own funeral, CNN reported Saturday night. Friends of the senator said he wanted the service held at three locations: Arizona, the National Cathedral in Washington and Annapolis, Maryland.

Sources said that McCain had requested that George W Bush and Barack Obama deliver the eulogies at his funeral. Two family members reiterated to CNN on Saturday that Trump won’t be present at the service.

Trump has not commented on McCain’s wishes that he stay away from the funeral, but did offer a short message on the senator’s passing.

‘My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,’ he wrote. ‘Our hearts and prayers are with you!’

Trump’s statement comes a little over a week after he failed to recognize McCain during a signing of the John S McCain National Defense Authorization Act, which lawmakers implemented to honor McCain’s leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee and his years of service in the Senate.

Mod: A 2015 article that ran in The Washington Post. Trump famously dodged the draft during the Viet Nam era, and because of this has often been ridiculed as "Cadet Bone Spurs." 

What Donald Trump was up to while John McCain was a prisoner of war (The Washington Post link): It was the spring of 1968, and Donald Trump had it good.

He was 21 years old and handsome with a full head of hair. He avoided the Vietnam War draft on his way to earning an Ivy League degree. He was fond of fancy dinners, beautiful women and outrageous clubs. Most important, he had a job in his father’s real estate company and a brain bursting with money-making ideas that would make him a billionaire.

“When I graduated from college, I had a net worth of perhaps $200,000,” he said in his 1987 autobiography “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” written with Tony Schwartz. (That’s about $1.4 million in 2015 dollars.) “I had my eye on Manhattan.”

More than 8,000 miles away, John McCain sat in a tiny, squalid North Vietnamese prison cell. The Navy pilot’s body was broken from a plane crash, starvation, botched operations and months of torture.

As Trump was preparing to take Manhattan, McCain was trying to relearn how to walk.

The stark contrast in their fortunes was thrown into sharp relief Saturday when Trump belittled McCain during a campaign speech in Iowa.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain.

“He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said sarcastically. “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Vox: Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, gets immunity deal

Mod: Everybody is deserting Donny. The guy who claims to value personal loyalty more than anything else, has now been sold out by practically everyone he has ever worked with in the past, including both his personal attorney and his Chief Financial Officer. Who's next, Melania?

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, gets immunity deal ( link): Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg has been granted immunity in exchange for giving prosecutors information for the investigation into Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen and the hush money payments Cohen made to women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Trump Organization CFO’s cooperation is the latest twist in the Manhattan US attorney’s office’s prosecution of Cohen, which began with an FBI raid in April. This week, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, implicating the president of the United States in those crimes.

Weisselberg is perhaps not as visible a figure in Trumpworld as Cohen, but he might be even more important. He’s served as the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer since 2000 — so if anyone knows about the company’s financials, it’s him.

Weisselberg was subpoenaed in the investigation into Cohen, though it hasn’t been confirmed that he has actually appeared before a grand jury, according to the Wall Street Journal. He has met with prosecutors, but the information he’s provided — including whether Trump knew about the payments to the women — is still a question.

The raid on Cohen was often seen as the biggest legal threat to Trump, but Weisselberg talking might be an even bigger problem for the president. As the New Yorker’s Adam Davidson, who has covered the Trump Organization extensively, predicted: “Get ready for the Autumn of Allen Weisselberg.”

Weisselberg “knows where all the bodies are buried”

Weisselberg has worked for the Trumps for decades; before joining the company, he worked for Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump. When Trump became president, he handed over the day-to-day control of the business to his two elder sons and Weisselberg.

The CFO had previously been linked to the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006. The charging papers in Cohen’s appear to confirm the connection.

Donald Trump’s Mafia Mind-Set (The Atlantic link): Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, the former underboss of the Gambino organized-crime family, is a mass murderer (19 bodies, maybe more, across his distinguished career), and also the most consequential turncoat in the history of organized crime. Gravano, whom I came to know while covering the Mob in the 1990s, had many thoughts about respect and loyalty, which he shared with me in a number of conversations. Like most mobsters—including, and especially, those who became known for their “ratting”—he was preoccupied with matters of honor.

At the time of those conversations, Gravano, whose testimony led directly to the downfall of his former boss, John Gotti, was participating in the federal witness-security program, and we met at a number of locations in the Southwest. I did not know it at the time, but while under federal protection Gravano was leading Arizona’s largest Ecstasy-distribution ring. He was also in the pool-building business.

I have not seen Gravano in a very long time—he has spent most of the past two decades in prison, after having failed to hide his drug-distribution business from his federal monitors—but my thoughts turned to him yesterday, when I read President Donald Trump’s tweet on the subject of loyalty and respect.

The president, who is obviously perturbed by the felony conviction of his former campaign chair Paul Manafort and the plea deal taken by his former attorney Michael Cohen, wrote the following:

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’”—a cutting reference to the Justice Department, which he oversees as the leader of the executive branch—“took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ - make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

What we see in this astonishing tweet is an implicit endorsement by the president of the United States of omertà, the Mafia code of silence, which has been honored, especially over the past 30 years or so, more in theory than in practice.

In these statements, Trump displays contempt for the rule of law, and honors criminals who refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. He’s doing nothing less than elevating gangster ideology to the status of high principle. He’s also evincing a gauzy and archaic understanding of the nature of gangsterism. I heard, in his statements, echoes of many conversations I had while trying to understand the culture of organized crime.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Peckergate: Another Trump Crony Takes A Legal Knee

Mod: Another day, yet another Trump crony goes running to Robert Mueller and cops a plea. The Marmalade Madman gets no loyalty either, even from those he thought were his besties. As we often note here on The Tattler, nobody ever keeps the secrets of a fool. Take a knee, Donald.

National Enquirer boss and longtime Trump friend David Pecker gets federal immunity in Michael Cohen case (CNBC link): The chairman of the company that publishes the National Enquirer was granted immunity by federal prosecutors as part of an investigation into President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, NBC News reported Thursday. The immunity deal was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair.

Details of the agreement were not immediately known. But the Journal reported earlier Thursday that American Media Inc. Chairman David Pecker had given prosecutors details about the president's knowledge of payments Cohen made to women alleging affairs with Trump.

The immunity deal could hold significant consequences for Trump, as Pecker could have as much damaging information about the president as anyone in Trump's orbit. He and Pecker have been friends since the 1990s, and have appeared to remain so after Trump became president — the media mogul even visited the White House last year, according to The New York Times.

Pecker has also reportedly used his media holdings to shield Trump when the president was a New York real estate developer and reality television star. Pecker's publications have defended Trump as a presidential candidate, as well, including a reported effort during the 2016 election to stifle ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal's allegations of an affair with Trump.

Trump has been a public advocate for Pecker, too. In 2013, he tweeted several times urging Time Magazine to hire Pecker as its top executive. "Nobody could bring [the magazine] back like David!" Trump wrote in one of the tweets.

Pecker was subpoenaed by federal investigators in April, as were his company and the Trump Organization. The Journal said the subpoenas were served at the same time the FBI raided Cohen's office and residences, seizing electronics, recordings and thousands of documents.

Though they only named Cohen explicitly, the Justice Department said Tuesday that the "chairman" of "a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine" put Cohen in touch with one of the women, who in October 2016 was paid $130,000 in exchange for her silence about the alleged affair.

That woman, porn star Stormy Daniels, is suing Trump and Cohen in California to void the hush-money agreement and speak freely about the alleged tryst.

National Enquirer hid damaging Trump stories in a safe (MarketWatch link): The National Enquirer kept documents relating to President Donald Trump’s hush money payments to women in a safe leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The safe also contained documents from other “catch-and-kill” stories about celebrities and was revealed on Thursday as the tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc., has received immunity by federal prosecutors, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The safe was removed from its location when a story about Trump’s hush money payment to Playboy playmate Karen McDougal was published in the Wall Street Journal in 2016, the AP said.

It was unclear where the safe — which could contain embarrassing information about Trump and others — was taken.

Sources exposed the information to the AP days after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.

One of the pleas alleged that Cohen, Trump, and the tabloid were involved in buying the silence of McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels, who alleged affairs with Trump.

Pecker flips on Trump in exchange for legal immunity, corroborates Cohen's accusations (Vanity Fair link): According to two sources briefed on the Cohen investigation, prosecutors granted immunity to David Pecker, chairman of The National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., and A.M.I.’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, so they would describe Trump’s involvement in Cohen’s payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Pecker’s cooperation on Wednesday night. (Pecker and Howard did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.)

Pecker’s apparent decision to corroborate Cohen’s account, and implicate Trump in a federal crime, is another vivid example of how isolated Trump is becoming as the walls close in and his former friends look for ways out.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fox News Poll: Mueller approval rating jumps 11 points

Mod: When a Fox News poll shows Mueller this popular you know the citizenry must really love the sight of people like Manafort and Cohen getting what they deserve.

Poll: Mueller approval rating jumps 11 points (The Hill link): A majority of registered voters approve of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and possible obstruction of justice charges against President Trump and members of his administration, according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday.

The poll revealed that 59 percent of registered voters approve of Mueller’s investigation, marking an 11-point jump from respondents who said the same in a July Fox News poll. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they disapprove of Mueller's probe.

It is unclear whether some people were polled after news broke Tuesday that Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud and after the president's former longtime attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges, including one of campaign finance violations.

The Cohen and Manafort developments marked a significant breakthrough for Mueller's investigation, putting Trump and his allies on the defensive. The conviction and guilty plea do not rule out the possibility of either former Trump associate cooperating with Mueller's probe in order to reduce potential jail sentences.

Manafort faces a second trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia next month on separate charges that include conspiracy, money laundering, failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, and making false and misleading statements to federal agents.

Though Manafort’s convictions focused almost exclusively on his personal finances, Cohen implicated the president in his guilty plea of campaign finance violations. Cohen said Trump directed him to make payments before the 2016 presidential election to women with whom he allegedly had affairs in order to buy their silence.

Manafort juror: One juror prevented jury from convicting Manafort on all 18 counts (The Hill link): A juror who sat on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's case said on Fox News Wednesday night that only one juror prevented a ruling on all 18 counts against Manafort.

Paula Duncan, who said she is a Trump supporter and that she had hoped Manafort would not be found guilty, said one juror could not come to a guilty verdict on 10 charges, ultimately leading T.S. Ellis III to declare a mistrial on 10 of Manafort's 18 counts.

Duncan said the deliberations were heated, evening bringing some jurors to tears.

A jury convicted Manafort on Tuesday of eight counts of tax and bank fraud.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Manafort/Cohen Go Down: The Day America Struck Back

Mod: When they write the history of our troubled times, yesterday will go down as a major turning point. The Trumplers can howl about "witch hunts" all that they want, but the first verdicts are now in, and Robt. Mueller has won a crushing victory for us all. 

Paul Manafort Found Guilty In First Trial Test Of Mueller Probe (Huffington Post link): Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty on Tuesday on eight counts including five tax fraud charges he faced at trial here. However, the judge declared a mistrial on 10 other charges that Manafort, 69, faced in connection with allegations of tax and bank fraud after jurors could not reach a consensus on them.

Jurors heard extensive testimony about Manafort’s tax-free spending on luxury goods and efforts to defraud banks. The verdict came after the jury had indicated earlier in the day that they were deadlocked on at least one count.

In addition to the guilty verdict on five tax fraud charges, the jury found Manafort responsible for two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts.

Manafort faces a maximum of 80 years in prison from the eight charges he was found guilty of Tuesday. The verdict marked yet another victory for the special counsel team being led by Robert Mueller, which faced its first trial after securing a string of guilty pleas from Trump campaign associates.

Michael Cohen pleads guilty, implicates Trump (CNN link): Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts, admitting that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he acted to keep information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.

The charges against Cohen, an attorney for Trump until earlier this year and a member of his inner circle throughout his presidential campaign, bring an end to a months-long investigation by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. And they expose, through the criminal information filed against Cohen in court, that he acted with Trump and his allies, including David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer's publisher, American Media Inc., to suppress potentially damaging claims against the now-President.

Though Trump himself isn't named, the court filing refers to an Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.

The counts against Cohen included tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump, including payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were designed to silence women who claimed affairs with the then-candidate.

Though not named in the plea deal filed in court, the women whom Cohen helped silence were two who have since gone public with their claims of sexual encounters or affairs with Trump: a porn star named Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, and a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the claims.

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control (CNN Politics link): President Donald Trump may no longer control his fate, a plight that helps explain his increasingly volcanic Twitter eruptions. Trump's persona -- in politics, business and life -- relies on his self-image as the guy who calls the shots, closes deals and forces others to react to the shock moves of a master narrative weaver.

But as a legal web closes around the President, he's in a far weaker position than he would like, a situation especially underlined by the bombshell revelations that White House counsel Donald McGahn has spent 30 hours in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump reacted to a media frenzy over the McGahn revelations in characteristic fashion: by launching a new Twitter assault on Mueller, taking new shots at his new nemesis John Brennan and diverting attention with newsy comments on the Federal Reserve.

But sources told CNN on Monday that the President was unsettled that he didn't know the full extent of McGahn's testimony and had remained agitated through the weekend, believing the latest developments made him look weak.

Trump's company approved $420,000 in payments to Cohen, relying on 'sham' invoices, prosecutors say (MSN link): President Trump’s real estate company authorized paying $420,000 to lawyer Michael Cohen in his effort to silence women during the presidential campaign and then relied on “sham” invoices from Cohen that concealed the nature of the payments, according to legal filings released Tuesday. The payments began flowing in February 2017, soon after Trump took office, when Cohen approached Trump Organization executives seeking to be reimbursed for “election-related” expenses, prosecutors said.

That included a $130,000 payment Cohen had made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels so she would remain silent about an alleged affair with Trump, according to the court documents. Trump executives decided Cohen should be paid more than he sought — an additional $360,000 for expenses and other fees and taxes, plus a $60,000 bonus, prosecutors said.

The involvement of Trump’s company in the hush-money payments has been previously reported, but Tuesday’s documents, released as part of Cohen’s plea deal with federal prosecutors, offered the most detailed accounting yet of the payments and the machinations inside the president’s company over how they were made.

Omarosa Says Trump Asked Cohen To Protect Him From Melania (Politicus USA link): Trump’s bad day gets even worse as Omarosa dropped a new tape and told Chris Matthews that Trump asked Michael Cohen to protect him from his wife.

 After playing the tape of Cohen aboard Trump’s campaign plane in September 2016, Chris Matthews asked Omarosa, “Do you know the president told him to lie for the purpose of paying off those women that it was really a campaign contribution?” Omarosa answered, “I can’t say if he asked him to lie, but he certainly asked him to protect Donald Trump, to protect him from his wife and the country and help him get elected.”

Omarosa brought up an interesting point. Trump wasn’t just using Cohen to win an election. He was also trying to protect himself from his wife finding out about his affairs. Trump likes to pretend like he is a strong man, but a real strong man would never cheat on his wife. Only a truly weak and insecure man would cheat like Trump has and then go to the lengths that he did to cover it up.

Michael Cohen is going to jail in part because Donald Trump is afraid of his wife and too immature to face the consequences of his own actions. Trump tried to hide his affairs from his wife and the entire country, and resulting criminal conspiracy could run him out of office and send him to prison.

Donald Trump Impeachment Odds Surge Following Michael Cohen Plea Deal, Paul Manafort Verdict (Newsweek link): Betting enthusiasts jumped into action Tuesday following an extraordinary afternoon in which President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney pleaded guilty to eight charges, including campaign finance violations, and his former campaign chairman was found guilty on eight fraud charges. In the immediate aftermath of the simultaneous legal blockbusters, the odds on Trump being impeached before his first terms is over saw a significant surge.

On political prediction market PredictIt, the price on Trump being impeached rose five points, to 45 cents. The site allows users to buy “shares” and if the outcome comes true, all those who brought yes shares will get $1 back per share. The shares on Trump’s impeachment have not closed at a price that high in at least three months.

It was not only that Cohen, who described himself as operating as a “fixer” for Trump over more than a decade, pleaded guilty. Cohen directly implicated the president when stating in court that Trump directed him to make a payment to Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence about an alleged affair shortly before the 2016 election.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was paid $130,000 for the purpose, Cohen said, of influencing the election. While Trump originally denied that he knew about the payment, it later emerged that he reimbursed Cohen. The charges against Cohen also included arranging a payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who similarly claims she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier.

All the President’s Crooks (The New York Times link): From the start of the Russia investigation, President Trump has been working to discredit the work and the integrity of the special counsel, Robert Mueller; praising men who are blatant grifters, cons and crooks; insisting that he’s personally done nothing wrong; and reminding us that he hires only the best people.

On Tuesday afternoon, the American public was treated to an astonishing split-screen moment involving two of those people, as Mr. Trump’s former campaign chief was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia of multiple crimes carrying years in prison at the same time that his longtime personal lawyer pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to his own lengthy trail of criminality, and confessed that he had committed at least some of the crimes “at the direction of” Mr. Trump himself.

Let that sink in: Mr. Trump’s own lawyer has now accused him, under oath, of committing a felony.

Only a complete fantasist — that is, only President Trump and his cult — could continue to claim that this investigation of foreign subversion of an American election, which has already yielded dozens of other indictments and several guilty pleas, is a “hoax” or “scam” or “rigged witch hunt.”

Mod: One more. So who was it that chose Mike Pence to be Trump's Vice President?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Melania Trump Speaks Out Against Cyberbullying While Her Husband Is Busy At The White House Cyberbullying

Mod: Here is how Dana Milbank put it. "It was as though Nancy Reagan had given a "Just Say No" speech while her husband honored the occasion at the White House by snorting cocaine during a live news conference." So is Melania trolling her husband?

Video link here.

Melania decries 'destructive' social media amid Trump Twitter attacks (The Guardian link): Melania Trump has issued a warning over the destructive power of social media on the same day her husband used Twitter to attack John Brennan as “the worst CIA director in our country’s history” and a political “hack”.

The US first lady was speaking at a federal conference on cyberbullying in Maryland.

Opening the Federal Partners on Bullying Prevention summit, Melania Trump said: “Let’s face it: Most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults.”

“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives," she said. "It can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.”

Her comments come as the US president continued to fire salvos against his perceived enemies on Twitter, writing that Robert Mueller, the man leading the investigation into Russian interference in the election, was “disgraced and discredited”.

Melania Trump did not directly mention the president and his aggressive use of Twitter to berate his foes and call them names.

As Trump Goes on a Twitter Rampage, Melania Trump Announces a Solo Trip to Africa (The New York Times link): Under the banner of her “Be Best” campaign, Melania Trump, the first lady, told a group of cyberbullying prevention experts on Monday that social media “can be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.”

Just after she spoke, President Trump unleashed a barrage of tweets in which he called the former director of the C.I.A. a “hack” and mocked the effectiveness of the Justice Department, among other digital insults. Later on Monday, Mrs. Trump added to a day of dissonant messaging from the Trump White House when her office announced a solo trip for the first lady this fall to Africa — a continent whose countries and citizens her husband has disparaged with coarse language.

Mrs. Trump, whose policy director left the White House a few weeks ago, has kept a light public schedule in promoting her child-focused campaign since she launched it in May. Her visit to the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention session, held at the Health Resources and Services Administration in a Washington suburb, was one of the more visible efforts that Mrs. Trump has made on behalf of the campaign.

“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives,” Mrs. Trump said, reading from prepared remarks. “It can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.”

The first lady has stuck with cyberbullying prevention as a signature issue despite Mr. Trump’s combative posture on Twitter — he has attacked at least 487 people, companies or institutions since declaring his candidacy for the presidency. His targets have ranged from the department store Macy’s to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Shortly before Mrs. Trump departed the White House for the meeting in Maryland, Mr. Trump attacked the “disgraced and discredited” Mr. Mueller and "his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs” for extensively interviewing Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Ex-Fox News contributor lays bare ‘amoral’ Fox employees for being Trump’s army of ‘prostitutes’

Mod: My favorite line in this story. "According to Peters, Trump’s supporters are 'couch-potato anarchists.'” You got to like a guy who knows how to use the language.

Ex-Fox News contributor lays bare ‘amoral’ Fox employees for being Trump’s army of ‘prostitutes’ (Raw Story link): Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, a former Fox News analyst, on Sunday suggested that his one-time colleagues at the conservative network are “prostitutes” for allowing President Donald Trump to set their agenda.

During an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Peters lamented that Trump has created an “enemies list” of former intelligence officials, who could have their security clearances revoked.

“He is not interested in understanding our government,” Peters explained. “He believes the Constitution is a menu from which he can choose only the most electable items.”

“The evil twin of that, I believe as a former Russia analyst for most of my career… I’m convinced that the president of the United States is enthralled to Vladimir Putin,” the retired officer continued. “There’s no other way to explain his behavior. And he perfectly fits the profile of the kind of people the Russians target.”

“This is a distinctly un-American president who doesn’t seem to like America very much,” Peters added. “I never could have foreseen this Orwellian a situation.”

Peters told CNN host Brian Stelter that he refused to curb his dire warnings to please the president’s supporters.

“What we need is people who will speak honestly,” he insisted. “And not worry about who it offends. I’m just sick and tired of people hedging and hemming and hawing. This is a president of the United States who is a danger to the Republic… We all need to do our parts.”

“How much to you blame your former network, Fox News?” Stelter asked. “You have called it a destructive propaganda machine when you resigned earlier this year. Are they partly at fault for propping up Trump?”

“Of course,” Peters agreed. “I left Fox because as a former military officer who took an oath to the Constitution, I could not be part of a channel that, to me, was assaulting the Constitution, the constitutional order, the rule of law.”

Fox isn’t immoral, it’s amoral,” he pointed out. “It was opportunistic. Trump was just a gift to Fox and Fox, in turn, is a gift to Trump. It’s a closed loop. And so people that only listen to Fox have an utterly skewed view reality.”

According to Peters, Trump’s supporters are “couch-potato anarchists.” “They want vengeance and Trump is brilliant at that,” Peters said. “He’s told his core supporters, ‘You’re not to blame for the mistakes you made. You’re not to blame for your failures. It’s them. It’s the minorities. It’s immigrants. It’s fake news. It’s the deep state.'”

“Do you think your former colleagues at Fox are proud of their performance?” Stelter wondered.

“The polite word is ‘prostitutes’,” Peters said after taking a breath. “So, we’ll just leave it at that. I don’t want to be the go-to guy for Fox bashing forever. But what Fox is doing is causing real harm to our country right now.”

Move over, 'alternative facts.' 'Truth isn't truth,' says Giuliani (The Times Picayune link): Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's lead attorney in the ongoing Russia probe, said Sunday that he will not allow special counsel Robert Mueller III to rush Trump into an interview because investigators could try to catch the president in a lie based on their version of the facts.

"I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury," Giuliani said on NBC News's "Meet the Press."

Giuliani's exchange with host Chuck Todd produced an odd back-and-forth on the meaning of truth in the context of the Russia investigation.

"When you tell me that (Trump) should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, that's so silly - because it's somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth," Giuliani said.

Todd responded, "Truth is truth."

"No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth," Giuliani said.

Mod: We're deep in Orwell country now.