Lights Out.

Lights Out.

Lights Out.

Yesterday, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as America’s 114th Supreme Court Justice. This took place despite all of the following:

  • A confirmation process that appeared rushed by Republicans at every step
  • President Trump declaring 90% of Kavanaugh’s legal writings  to be covered by “executive privilege” and therefore unviewable by the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Five women expressing a willingness to testify under oath that Kavanaugh had behaved in a sexually inappropriate way toward them – including accusations of gang rape
  • Only one of those women, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testifying to the Senate under oath, despite death threats against her and her family
  • Fox News and President Trump declaring immediately after Ford’s testimony that she was very credible
  • Republicans forcing Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony to be merely a “he said/she said” by refusing to allow a thorough FBI investigation before they testified: such an investigation could have added valuable facts to help corroborate one side or the other
  • Kavanaugh telling the Senate Judiciary Committee numerous lies under oath, according to many who knew him during the era in question, including former roommate James Roche, and former classmates Charles “Chad” LudingtonLynn Brookes and Liz Swisher. Such false statements under oath before the U.S. Senate constitute perjury – a prosecutable federal crime that should absolutely be a disqualifier for a Supreme Court seat. Most notably, Kavanaugh denied ever having had so much to drink that he couldn’t remember his actions, and gave clearly misleading testimony about the meanings of terms that he had used in his high school yearbook around the time of Ford’s assault
  • Kavanaugh’s proclamation that he was a victim of a smear campaign to avenge Hillary Clinton – a highly partisan statement that raises questions about his ability to be an impartial Supreme Court Justice
  • Republicans trying to avoid any FBI investigation into these allegations until they were forced by a reluctant Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to allow one
  • An FBI investigation that:
    • Was limited in subject matter by the White House solely to the Ford assault and allegations by one other woman, Deborah Ramirez – not any of the other women who had come public
    • Was limited in scope by the White House to a handful of pre-specified witnesses: numerous individuals were not allowed to be interviewed, despite having relevant information, and despite the fact that many were making every effort to provide the FBI with their testimonies
    • Did not include FBI interviews with the key individuals, Kavanaugh and Ford: their Senate testimonies had to be considered their interviews
    • Could not look at Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, information about which might have helped corroborate part of Ford’s story and uncover additional evidence, and which would also have likely proven that Kavanaugh had perjured himself before the Senate
    • Was limited by the White House to no more than a week – apparently an unnecessary constraint because, with so few witnesses allowed to be interviewed, the FBI completed their report more than a day early
  • Republicans proclaimed this to a legitimate and sufficient investigation, despite its clear deficiencies and despite protests by Democrats

Senators who voted for Kavanaugh conceded that “something” happened to Dr. Ford, but placated themselves and their constituents with the pathetic and insulting claim that she must have just been confused, because it could not possibly have been Brett Kavanaugh. After all, he sounded genuinely upset during his testimony, and he went to Yale.

Yesterday was a dark, dark day for women, a dark day for justice, a dark day for America, and a dark signal for what the future holds. Kavanaugh’s nomination was a grotesque slap in the face to the legitimacy of our political process and to basic decency and morality. Admittedly this is one of hundreds by the Trump Administration and its Republican enablers, but this one somehow seems much uglier. Perhaps it is compounded by the President’s mocking of Christine Blasey Ford at a recent rally, to the gleeful cheers of his supporters. This is where we are at as a nation.

I’ve concluded – perhaps late in the game – that social media posts, participating in protests, and writing this blog are in large part a waste of time and energy. For those who oppose Trump, these activities are merely comforting self-reinforcement. For those who support Trump, these actions do not convince, but rather provide inspiration and a fresh supply of kindling, reassuring them that they are getting under the skin of the weak and overly sensitive “snowflakes” that they blame for their hardships. And for those who might be swayed, these actions are all little more that annoying background noise.

My political energy therefore will now be spent door knocking, phone banking, and doing other activities to help Democratic candidates for the House and Senate – particularly those who are in tough races – between now and November. I intend to keep my emotions in check, be polite and respectful to all whom I encounter, and disengage quickly and cordially from those who clearly cannot be convinced so that my time is not wasted. I hope to see you out there too. Time to leave the screen.

Lights out.

– rob rünt

Trump Will Provide Classified Intelligence to Kremlin

Trump Will Provide Classified Intelligence to Kremlin

Trump Will Provide Classified Intelligence to Kremlin

This is what today’s headlines should read, because it conveys what will actually happen when the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of National Intelligence are forced to comply with the President’s reckless order to declassify and publicly release numerous classified documents in the name of “transparency.” According to a September 17, 2018 press release from the White House, the documents to be declassified will include:

  • Pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page
  • All FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation
  • All FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications
  • All text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction [blacking out portions of text], of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

WhiteHousePressRelease-Declassification


 

The backgrounds of the people in question are:

  • Carter Page:
    • American citizen who regularly does business in Russia
    • Lost a large amount of money if Russian investments
    • Came to the attention of the FBI in 2013 when the FBI believed that he was being actively recruited by Russian operatives
    • Became Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser in March 2016
    • Gave pro-Russia speech in Moscow in July 2016
    • Went to Moscow again in December 2016
  • Bruce Ohr
    • High-ranking Department of Justice official with expertise in Russian organized crime
    • Long-time friend of highly regarded Russia expert/former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele; Steele had been contracted to begin investigating Trump’s activities in Russia in mid 2016 by research firm Fusion GPS (the company paid indirectly by the Clinton Campaign to do opposition research into Trump); Steele’s interviews with his trusted sources in Russia resulted in the “Steele dossier”
    • Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele apparently had conversations after and possibly during the campaign about the information that Steele was uncovering
    • Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS on the different aspects of the same Trump project that Steele was hired to work on (see article of this coincidence)
  • James Comey
    • FBI Director during the 2016 Campaign and for the early months of the Trump Administration
    • Fired by President Trump in May 2017, triggering special counsel investigation into Trump for obstruction of justice
  • Andrew McCabe
    • Deputy Director of the FBI during the 2016 Campaign
    • Temporary acting Director of the FBI after James Comey was fired
    • Was found by the DOJ Inspector General’s office to have made unauthorized releases to the media and to have “lacked candor” when asked about it
  • Peter Strzok
    • Former FBI Chief of Counterespionage
    • Led FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server
    • Worked for first two months of Mueller investigation into Russian interference in 2016 election
    • Removed from Mueller investigation after Mueller learned of anti-Trump text messages between Strzok and an extramarital mistress, Lisa Page, sent between August 2015 and December 2016
    • Discussed a “media strategy” in texts with Page
  • Lisa Page
    • Former FBI lawyer
    • Briefly served on Mueller investigative team
    • Had affair with FBI officer Peter Strzok

 

There may be validity to initiating a deeper investigation into the actions of some of these individuals and determining whether their personal political biases crept into their professional activities. However, declassifying and releasing these documents to the public is not the appropriate way to do that. The information should instead be evaluated by a special counsel and/or by the courts. Releasing the information publicly will contribute to the legitimacy of an obstruction of justice case against the President and will jeopardize our national security.

When we hear that a government document is being released to the public, we typically envision the public as the average American citizen. In American culture, such transparency with the public is generally considered a good thing. Yet when the government assigns a “classified” label to certain information, there is a reason for that. That reason for classifying the information is usually important and should be bypassed only with thorough consideration of the unintended consequences.

The President’s public release of classified information about an active investigation into himself can provide otherwise unobtainable insights that enable witnesses and accomplices to shape their stories to match the known facts while concealing vital, still undiscovered information. This would be tantamount to obstruction of justice, similar to providing inside police information to a criminal about that criminal’s own case.

Far more alarmingly, however, are the national security implications of the President’s decision. Successful intelligence and law enforcement operations depend on the security of “sources and methods.” This is shorthand for maintaining confidentiality of how information was obtained (disclosure of which would tip off guilty parties and foreign adversaries about, for example, what modes of communication to avoid) and who the information was obtained from (disclosure of which could at best result in those informants and spies no longer being useful sources of information, or could at worst result in those individuals and their families being killed).

In Russia, the mafia and the Kremlin have a symbiotic relationship. What benefit can Russia gain from knowing about the communications between Russian organized crime expert Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele, who relied on numerous individuals inside Russia to compile his dossier? Which of Steele’s sources might be revealed in the declassified documents? How valuable would the Kremlin find information about how Russia’s election interference activities were first uncovered and how the investigation proceeded from there?

Even if names are redacted, the descriptions of dates and locations can enable a foreign adversary to determine how their activities became compromised, and who compromised them. By rendering certain intelligence sources and methods less useful or even useless, the President is jeopardizing our national security, making it that much harder for our intelligence community to determine what hostile adversaries are up to. He also may be intentionally or unintentionally tipping off Putin on how to cover tracks of Russian election interference activities being investigated by Mueller.

Trump’s decision to publicize valuable, unredacted, classified information is not only a disclosure to the average American: it is a prized treasure trove of information for the Kremlin.

– rob rünt

Trump was a More Stealth 9/11

Trump was a More Stealth 9/11

Trump was a More Stealth 9/11

Most Americans over the age of 22 can remember where they were on September 11, 2001 when the planes hit the Twin Towers. It was a memorable spectacle, and was intended to be so.

I was getting ready for work, watching with mild fascination as one of the network morning shows reported the oddity of a small plane or a commercial airline – they were unsure – that had accidentally flown into the Twin Towers. As the TV cameras focused on the smoke pouring out of the building, the second airline hit, prompting news anchors to speculate that there might a problem with the air traffic control at JFK. It was still largely unthinkable that this might be an intentional, coordinated act.

Few of us can say where we were when we first experienced Russia’s 2016 cyber-attack on the United States. It was an attack that was not intended to be seen, and it was just as successful as 9/11. Indeed, there are those to this day who deny that the attack even happened.

The 9/11 attack killed over 3,000 people and left a smoldering hole in the ground in downtown Manhattan.

The Russian cyber-attack – still in progress – has killed our civility to one another and left a smoldering hole in our democracy. Many of us can still see the black smoke rising daily from the Oval Office, ignored by a Republican-led Congress that nervously whistles and looks the other way.

But we often fail to notice the smoke emanating from each of us.

Putin’s attack was meant to divide America, to sow chaos, and ultimately bring down the nation that he holds most responsible for the humiliating collapse of his own then-much-larger nation – the USSR – in 1991. To the degree that we turn on each other, shun friends, demonize and belittle those on the “other side” of the Trump divide, we are doing exactly what Putin would like to see.

For a brief time after 9/11, an America that had been in deep disagreement over Bush Administration policies came together against a common foe. Today, many of us see a portion of our fellow Americans as the common foe. Trump supporters view “snowflakes” as naïve, blissfully or willfully unaware of the hardships of many, and too brainwashed to see how the Deep State is trying to bring down one of the greatest Presidents in history. Those who oppose Trump view his supporters as ignorant, racist, and/or uninformed, and too brainwashed to see the imminent threat to our nation posed by a corrupt, lying, divisive, mentally unstable, and woefully incompetent President.

These views are solidified daily by our choices of news, social media, and interpersonal interactions, all of which reinforce one of two widespread but wildly different realities. Ongoing reinforcement of these realities, seen as essential at a time when democracy is under attack (either by the President or the Deep State) makes mending the divide nearly impossible.

Today as we reflect on 9/11, we can honor those lost by reminding ourselves that we are all Americans, that our new attacker’s main goal is to see us divided and to watch our nation devour itself from the inside. A reconciliation between the two sides of our nation may not be realistic at the moment.

However, we can each commit to learning more about each other’s perspectives and “facts,” and trying to understand them – not agree with them, just understand them. This is a decision as personal and intimate as the Russia cyber-attack was. We can counter the effects of that ongoing attack by occasionally tuning in to news sources that we consider bogus and trying to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who believes what is being said there. Again, the goal is not to agree, but to understand. Wee can also commit to learning more about our common adversary, Vladimir Putin.

At some point, the Trump Presidency will be over. Then we will be left with ourselves.

– rob rünt

Yet Another Reason to Impeach

Yet Another Reason to Impeach

Yet Another Reason to Impeach

The September 5th New York Times Op-Ed by an anonymous senior White House Official confirms what many have long believed about the President and his leadership capabilities. President Trump is described by the senior staffer as amoral, anti-democratic, ill-informed, erratic, reckless, “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” While these character traits are about as undesirable as one can imagine in a President, it is the response that they inspire from his staff that gives a very clear reason to seriously consider impeachment.

The senior staffer describes efforts by those around the President to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” and “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” It is hard to find precedent for this, particularly as a long-term daily dynamic within the White House.

That things have come to this point is evidence of how truly broken our government system has become, particularly under Donald Trump. The staffer and his/her allies within the White House apparently (and rightly) have little faith in the Trump-intimidated, Republican-led Congress to respond appropriately to protect the nation from an unstable President. This particular staffer has thus instead chosen to go to the media, and the others have resigned themselves to grimly serving as an internal “resistance” to the Commander in Chief.

This is a risky situation under normal global conditions, which thankfully is all that our nation has thus far been confronted with during the Trump Presidency. But what happens in a crisis – particularly a military crisis? We have seen nations like Russia and China taking note of the global leadership vacuum left by Trump’s erratic and isolating approach. Such a void of steady, trusted leadership – which the United States and its western allies have imperfectly provided since World War II – can cause unscrupulous and power-hungry adversaries to test the boundaries, to try to fill the void.

So what happens if a foreign adversary were to launch a nuclear missile at the United States? In a normal White House, the President would have a scant few minutes to verify that the threat is real and decide how to respond. After that decision, it is imperative that the system operates smoothly, and that smooth operation is dependent on trust in the President’s judgment.

But what happens with this President under such a scenario? Do his staff respond by immediately rallying to his side, or do they reasonably write off his commands as the latest delusion or impulse? They have only minutes to choose the right path through their justifiable uncertainty.

If the pictures painted in the Op-Ed and the upcoming Bob Woodward book are accurate, we have a President who is incapable of leading his staff, and who, in his ineffectiveness, poses a danger to the country. There are two remedies for this.

One is to view the senior staff as the problem. In this case, the solution is to weed out these disobedient bad apples and replace them with senior staff who are more comfortably aligned with amoral, anti-democratic, ill-informed, erratic, reckless leadership. It is hard to see how this would benefit our nation.

The other is to use the impeachment process to remove the President and replace him with a leader whose judgment can be trusted by White House staff and the military. In general (Trump excepted), this would be anyone who has risen to the level of being elected to high-level national public office. In this case, of course, that replacement would be Mike Pence.

I personally disagree with Mike Pence on virtually every issue. I have disagreed with the policies of many Presidents. However, Mike Pence fits the bill as someone who can be trusted (as much as most Presidents in our nation’s history) by his White House staff and the military to show judgment that is within the spectrum of “reasonable,” and to make decisions accordingly – particularly on military issues. In short, he can lead. Trump cannot.

The New York Times Op-Ed on its own may not be sufficient justification to impeach Donald Trump. However, it absolutely warrants confidential, closed-committee House and Senate hearings to determine how widespread the apparent chaos and “resistance” within the White House actually is, and to learn what some of the President’s thwarted impulses have been. If what is revealed matches the White House described in the anonymous New York Times Op-Ed, impeachment is appropriate and necessary for the security of the nation.

– rob rünt

Why Do They Hate Us?

Why Do They Hate Us?

You’re driving along the freeway, listening to some great music or peacefully chatting on your cell phone with a friend. Suddenly, a dusty, beaten up old car pulls up alongside you, the driver’s eyes wild, his face contorted with hellish fury. He appears to be swearing at you, he’s flipping you off, he swerves his car slightly into yours. You react defensively by swerving to avoid him, and you hear the fender of your previously undamaged car scrape along the center divider. Your anger at him immediately matches his toward you, and the battle is on. In truth, that man had already had a lot to be upset about that day, but he had actually been outwardly quite calm just a few seconds earlier. Then you had cut him off when you changed lanes without noticing him, and he had almost crashed. You were completely unaware of that: you were busy enjoying your music or talking with your friend. The fact that you weren’t paying attention now has both of you locked in a potentially deadly conflict.

The election of President Trump is like a road rage incident. Mainstream Democrats had been going along peacefully, thinking that they understood the correct focus-tested messaging and statistical analysis of the issues to run a successful Presidential campaign. Then a group of people that they hadn’t been paying attention to came out of nowhere and started ramming into them with a bizarre orange egomaniacal authoritarian in populist’s clothing (clothing purchased and custom-tailored for him at the priciest stores in Manhattan). Bewilderment turned to rage as this erratic new ruler pushed forward racist and xenophobic policies and began dismantling every institution of government necessary to the continued functioning of American civil society. Trump’s supporters defended his every move or at most shrugged, immune to all arguments that Democrats put forth, every scandal that the President created, every hypocritical act, every idiotic or offensive or even dangerous tweet. The worse it got, the more strange the non-reaction  of the Trump voters seemed, and the angrier Democrats became.

Just underneath anger often lies other emotions: fear, envy, pride, sadness, a sense of injustice. The anger of the man in the road rage incident was sparked by fear: you had nearly killed him when you cut him off and almost caused him to crash. Your lack of awareness of what you had done as you drove blissfully along in your relatively nice car prompted further outrage: he had recently been laid off and was two months behind on his rent, facing eviction, and on top of it all, someone like you was so unaware of people like him that you had almost killed him without even noticing. The fact that the current conflict could now result in his death (fear of which had ironically started the incident moments before) is of little importance to him: all he wants now is to see you punished.

Likewise, your anger at him was provoked when he threatened your life by swerving at you. It was intensified when you realized that his bizarre actions had needlessly resulted in your car being damaged. Not only had his behavior endangered you: he had also cost you money in car repairs or potentially higher insurance rates. The fact that your car could possibly get totaled and you could get killed as you engage with him on the freeway is now of little importance to you: all you want is revenge.

Similarly, the anger on both sides of the Trump divide has other emotions underneath. For many on the left, like you in the road rage incident, those who elected Donald Trump have needlessly endangered your life in profound and ongoing ways. You have been thrust into living with a scandal-ridden President who seems mentally unstable, who has made the possibility of nuclear war seem real and imminent for the first time in decades, who seems bent on the destruction of essential institutions of government, who is undoing key relationships with our allies abroad, and many of whose decisions seem particularly mean-spirited toward the least fortunate among us.

For Trump supporters, like the guy in the other car, the anger was simmering decades before the election. The grievances have varied – small towns being hollowed out and brought to their knees by unemployment and addiction, hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to undeserving “others,” a long-standing cultural and economic structure upended by progressive causes like civil rights and immigration, a soft stance on the mortal danger of terrorism, or just outrage over a reakingly corrupt government. But in the end, the enemy is the same: “the system” and those in the mainstream who have been keeping it in place – both Democrats and Republicans. For almost all Trump voters, Hillary Clinton was the quintessential embodiment of the out-of-touch, cosmopolitan system of corrupt career politicians.

Just as you had been driving along peacefully in your car without noticing the havoc that you had created for other driver, you had not noticed how some significant systemic issues were (in reality or in their imaginations) endangering the lives of Trump voters. As small towns silently buckled, you instead encouraged government to help the equally needy and deserving inner cities. As people in rural America had to drive long distances to their jobs and to get groceries, you advocated paying for infrastructure repairs with a gas tax increase that would hit rural people disproportionately hard. As terrorists (whom many Trump supporters equate with “all Muslims”) waged deadly attacks against our country, you asserted reasonably that not all Muslims were terrorists, which in the minds of some Trump voters made you not only woefully naïve, but putting American lives in danger with your idiotic “tolerance.”

The guy who swerved into you on the freeway didn’t see his action as a way for him to get a new job or a way to pay his rent, but his act was partly an expression of his rage and despair over those problems. Similarly, Trump voters did not necessarily see their vote as a solution to their festering problems, but rather as an expression of long-standing anger and despair over those festering problems, and over the system that inflicted them. Going at least as far back as Timothy McVeigh, it was a kick in the nuts to the guy with the boot on their neck. The goal was simply to impose some sort of damage to the system, to hurt it. The fact that Trump supporters will likely experience even greater hardship under Trump than they would have under Clinton, the fact that the other driver could get killed antagonizing you on the freeway – it all has little relevance. What’s important to them is that punishment is inflicted, that you feel some of what you have unwittingly inflicted on them, and that you are not able to continue ignoring them and their pain. Your outrage, fear, confusion, or despair is all just an indication that the punishment is having the desired effect. Regardless of the impact on their own lives, there is satisfaction among some Trump voters in what they see as the justice of you having to lament the collapse of your democracy (they haven’t felt like it was theirs for a long time), your damaged fender.

In the road rage incident, if you and the other driver were to pull over and get out of your cars, the ensuing conversation would almost certainly be unproductive at best. You would yell about your fender, which the other driver couldn’t care less about: he would see it as just desserts for your endangering his life. He would yell at you about cutting him off, which would seem disproportionate compared to his overblown reaction and the bill that you are now facing for body work on your car. You would essentially be talking past each other, having two different conversations at the same time in which neither person could hear the other.

Most attempts at dialog between Trump supporters and those on the left are similarly unproductive. Many on the left consider Trump’s election to be primarily about racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and ignorance. Many of Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, consider his election to be about geographic and economic unfairness, political corruption, over-involvement abroad, strength toward foreign enemies, religious issues, and working class dignity. When Trump supporters and those who oppose Trump debate each other, they are therefore often having two different conversations at the same time. They shout past one another, neither hearing the other. It is why Steve Bannon says that he’s happy to debate “identity issues” all day long, because he knows that as long as polarization remains, he wins.

There is no easy way to heal our political divide. Many news outlets, social media trolls and craven political opportunists have found it profitable to feed division rather than seek to resolve it. A constant flow of information or misinformation supporting whatever reality each American wants to believe is certainly an obstacle too. But one thing is for certain: giving each other the simple courtesy of listening cannot hurt. When an angry person knows that they have been listened to and genuinely understood, the intensity of their anger diminishes dramatically, and they can begin to hear the other person.

Listening does not mean agreeing with the “other side,” letting go of principles, or stopping the important work to further deeply held values. It merely means hearing a different perspective and trying to put onesself in someone else’s shoes. At this point, the goal of listening is not some kumbaya moment where everyone hugs it out and moves on in harmony. The goal is to lower the intensity enough that we don’t total the car.

– rob rünt

GOP Backing Roy Moore is About Keeping the Presidency, Not Just a Senate Seat

GOP Backing Roy Moore is About Keeping the Presidency, Not Just a Senate Seat

How low can Republicans go, some may ask. After months of looking the other way as Donald Trump toys with nuclear war, alienates our international allies, reaps millions in profits from his Presidency, and tweets falsehoods on a regular basis, many thought that the Republican Party had hit rock bottom. Until they endorsed accused pedophile Roy Moore for the US Senate.

Multiple women have alleged that Roy Moore dated them or engaged in sexual activity with them when they were teens. At the time, Moore was a District Attorney in his 30s in Alabama. In his defense, Moore recently asserted on Fox’s Sean Hannity’s show that he had never dated any girl without first getting “permission of her mother.”

Signature-Nelson

Signature-Gibson
Alleged messages written by Alabama District Attorney Roy Moore to Debbie Gibson and Beverly Nelson when they were teenagers.

How can the Republican Party, which for years had sanctimoniously proclaimed itself the party of God and morality, throw its endorsement behind someone who appears to have sexually preyed on children? Is keeping one Senate seat really so important to them that they are willing to throw aside all pretense of integrity? Yes and no.

Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the Senate, and they would no doubt like to maintain that majority. But there is an office that is far more important to them to hang onto: the Presidency.

The tie-in here requires a look at the immediate circumstances of the President, the Mueller investigation, and what kind of political process could prematurely end that investigation.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has recently subpoenaed and received Donald Trump’s financial records from Germany’s Deutsche Bank. Aside from being one of the few financial institutions willing to lend money to Mr. Trump after one of his bankruptcies, Deutsche Bank was also fined $630 million by the US government in January of this year for laundering over $10 billion for wealthy Russians in a stock fraud scheme. (Money laundering means running illegally obtained money through some process to make it appear legitimate). My personal suspicion is that, prior to his life as a political figure, Donald Trump engaged in real estate transactions that assisted others, including wealthy Russians like oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, to launder or hide their money. Such assertions have been made in the infamous “dossier” compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

Vladimir Putin would no doubt be aware of such illegal activity, and could use that knowledge to blackmail President Trump, which would explain the President’s baffling reluctance to criticize Putin while attacking virtually everyone else, including the US intelligence community.

As Mueller ”follows the money” and gets closer to areas that can bear fruit in his investigation, many Republicans, who initially supported the selection of Robert Mueller (a Republican with an excellent reputation within the legal community for his dogged investigative practices and impeccable integrity) have suddenly begun turning on the Special Prosecutor, now calling him “corrupt” and “the head of the snake.” The President has made no secret of his dislike of the Mueller probe, calling it a “witch hunt.”

Yet if Trump were seen as directly trying to remove Robert Mueller after already having fired FBI Director James Comey, it would be viewed as a blatant obstruction of justice. Republicans have discovered another way to get rid of Mueller, and it requires the election of Roy Moore to the Senate.

The Special Prosecutor would ordinarily be appointed by the US Attorney General. However, in the current situation, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (former Alabama Senator) had recused himself from the Russia investigation, due to his potentially being considered a witness in that case. So instead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was given the responsibility to appoint a Special Counsel. He chose former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Rosenstein would be the most appropriate person to remove Mueller from the case, but seems unlikely to do so, and Sessions cannot do so, because he has recused himself.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has been encouraging Alabamans to write in Jeff Sessions when they vote. He has also said that if Roy Moore is elected, the Senate will immediately begin an ethics investigation into the allegations of the various women against Moore. Such an investigation will likely find that these women are in fact telling the truth about their teenage encounters with Roy Moore, and such findings will likely result in the Senate expelling Moore or demanding his resignation.

When a Senator leaves office prematurely, that state’s Governor is empowered to appoint a replacement. Some Republican political operatives have advocated for Moore to be replaced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, essentially putting Sessions back in his old job as one of Alabama’s two Senators. It would seem a natural choice.

Yet the resulting absence in the US Attorney General’s office would allow the President a “mulligan” on appointing an Attorney General – enabling him to select a new Attorney General who would not need to recuse himself/herself from the Russia investigation and who would therefore have the authority to remove Robert Mueller and either replace him with a new Special Prosecutor or declare the investigation over.

MooreMeansEndingMuellerProbe

Currently, Roy Moore is ahead of his Democratic opponent Doug Jones in the Alabama polls. If Moore wins, the wheels can easily be put in motion for a premature end to the Russia probe, or for an investigation that avoids looking in the most meaningful and damning areas.

– rob rünt

July 9 – 31, 2017


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Scaramucci


Scaramucci on Leaks: ‘I’m Going to Fire Everybody’
(New York Times – 7/25/17)

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon
(The New Yorker – 7/27/17)

Scaramucci: ‘If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that’
(Washington Post – 7/27/17)

“The fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the president.”

– Anthony Scaramucci, White House Press Secretary

Is it a felony to leak a financial disclosure form, as Anthony Scaramucci said?
(Politifact – 7/27/17)

Reince Priebus Is Ousted Amid Stormy Days for White House
(New York Times – 7/28/17)

Anthony Scaramucci’s wife files for divorce
(Page Six – 7/28/17)


“There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. OK, that is not their job. Their job is to inject this president into America.”

– Anthony Scaramucci, White House Press Secretary
(CNN – 7/27/17)

Anthony Scaramucci removed as White House communications director
(Washington Post – 7/31/17)


Trump and Putin


Trump suggested a cybersecurity pact with Russia. Lawmakers say they were ‘dumbfounded.’
(Washington Post – 7/9/17)

Week-0027-170708-010

“This is like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary.”

– Ash Carter, Former US Secretary of Defense
(Telegraph UK – 7/9/17)

 

Trump and Putin Held a Second, Undisclosed, Private Conversation
(New York Times – 7/18/17)

Trump Spins Putin Dinner Conversation
(FactCheck.org – 7/19/17)


Trump and Russia


All The Dots, Connected
(The American Interest – 7/25/17)

A Timeline: Russia and President Trump
(Moyers & Company – 7/17/17)

Bill Browder’s Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee
(The Atlantic – 7/25/17)

Russian mob money helped build Trump business empire
(MSNBC – 7/17/17)

Paul Manafort Reportedly Owed Millions to Russian Oligarch Before Joining trump Campaign
(Vanity Fair – 7/20/17)

Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow
(Washington Post – 7/19/17)

Mueller has broader authority in his Russia investigation than Trump may realize
(Business Insider – 7/21/17)

This Is How the Russian Kleptocracy Operates
(Esquire – 7/27/17)

Russia Seizes 2 U.S. Properties and Orders Embassy to Cut Staff
(New York Times – 7/28/17)

Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer
(Washington Post – 7/31/17)

Maybe What Russia Wants From Trump Is Permission to Launder Its Dirty Money
(Slate – 7/20/17)


Congressional Testimonies


Manafort testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee, turns over notes from Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer
(Washington Post – 7/25/17)

How Jared Kushner Helped the Russians Get Inside Access to the Trump Campaign
(New Yorker – 7/25/16)

‘I Did Not Collude,’ Kushner Says After Meeting Senate Investigators
(New York Times – 7/24/17)


Mueller Investigation


Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
(Bloomberg – 7/20/17)

Trump Trains His Sights on Mueller’s Investigation
The president’s lawyers are looking at multiple ways to undermine or curtail the Russia inquiry, including his issuing pardons
(The Atlantic – 7/20/17)

As Team Trump Lawyers Up, Who’s Paying The Attorney Fees?
(National Public Radio – 7/19/17)

Deutsche Bank is Turning Over Information on Trump
(Vanity Fair – 7/20/17)

Does Trump Have a Case Against Mueller?
(Politico – 7/21/17)


Trump Pardoning … Himself?!


Trump pushes his ‘complete power’ to pardon
(Politic – 7/22/17)

President Trump is considering pardoning himself. I asked 15 experts if that’s legal.
(Vox – 7/21/17)

Jared Kushner sealed real estate deal with oligarch’s firm cited in money-laundering case
(The Guardian – 7/24/17)


“He isn’t smart enough to do the job and isn’t man enough to own up to the fact.”

– Kevin Williamson, National Review – 7/30/17


Healthcare Reform


Frustrated in defeat, Trump threatens healthcare of voters — and lawmakers
(Los Angeles Times – 7/29/17)

Dems pivot to offering ObamaCare improvements
(The Hill – 7/29/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Interview with Donald Trump – Partial Transcript
(New York Times – 7/19/17)

Jeb Bush calls out Republicans silent on Trump’s Russia probe
(The Hill – 7/21/17)

My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump
(Senator Jeff Flake, Politico – 7/31/17)

Jared Kushner Discloses Dozens More Assets in Revised Financial Filing
(Wall Street Journal – 7/21/17)

Trump tells police not to worry about injuring suspects during arrests
(Washington Post – 7/28/17)

House Approves Spending Package, Border Wall and All
(New York Times – 7/27/17)

House Republicans call for a second special counsel — to investigate Clinton, Comey and Lynch
(CNBC – 7/27/17)

New poll offers deeper insight into what ails rural America
(Daily KOS –7/9/17)


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Liberals can win again if they stop being so annoying and fix their ‘hamburger problem’
(Business Insider – 7/17/17)

Trump’s breathtaking surrender to Russia
(Washington Post – 7/20/17)
Note: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recommends that every American read this piece written by a former Senior Policy Advisor for George W. Bush

The Democrats’ New Agenda Is Everything That’s Wrong With the Party
(In These Times – 7/27/17)

No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so.
(Washington Post – 7/21/17)

Trump’s Mistake at the Boy Scout Jamboree
(The Atlantic – 7/24/17)

Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor
(Peggy Noonan – Wall Street Journal – 7/27/17)

The Triumph of the Idiocracy: How Narcissism, Stupidity and the Internet Got Us Donald Trump, an Accidental President
(Alternet – 7/31/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.


Posted on Facebook by An0maly, reposted here because it’s important to understand Trump supporters’ different perspectives so that we don’t have to go through this again.


Cartoons, Images & Videos


A video tweeted by Donald Trump about the G20 Summit – remarkably similar to the kind of video that one might expect the leader of North Korea to broadcast:

Posted on Facebook by “Union Thugs:”

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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Cartoon by Nate Beeler, Columbia Dispatch:

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Cartoon by Steve Sack, Star Tribune:

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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This Week’s Blog Entry


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The Mueller Investigation:
Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia


Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


“People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.”

President Donald Trump speaking about French President Emmanuel Macron
(New York Times interview – 7/19/17)